There is an important piece of green belt that separates urban Knaphill from Bisley and a favourite walk for local people. Over the past few weeks the landscape in this part of Knaphill has gone through major change, change that in our opinion has destroyed the pleasing landscape. Although all the land is privately owned it has been enjoyed by generations of families from both Knaphill and Bisley and now their access has been limited and the views destroyed. Iain Wakeford, local historian published a guide entitled ‘KNAPHILL, A SELF-GUIDED HERITAGE WALK’ This walk takes in footpath 11 which joins Chobham Road with Kiln Lane. The following is a quote from Iain’s book:
‘Cross Chobham Road at the junction with Warbury Lane and walk along the lane to the point where it becomes a one-way road. On your left, beside the entrance to Ringstone Farm, is a footpath. Take this path, up the hill, until you see a stile on your right. Cross the stile (or walk around the side, by the tree) and enter the filed. Walk along the side of the field with the hedge on your right, until you reach the bottom corner where you find one of the worst stiles on the walk! It might not look too difficult from this angle, but wait until you try to get down the other side! Continue along the path at the bottom of the field until you reach the gate and stile that takes you into Kiln Lane.’
This section of the walk can also be started at the Priory Hospital where if you walk down the main drive the footpath is on your right at the rear of the main building. The footpath between the Priory Hospital and Warbury Lane had tall hedges either side which met over your head giving the image, in the summer, of walking through a green tunnel. The section from the Priory to the footpath into the field has seen that green tunnel destroyed. On crossing the stile into the first field (behind Ringstone Farm) you can only walk in a straight line along the official footpath. The two fields through which footpath 11 goes have had their hedgerows removed and a number of mature trees felled. The two field have been opened up into one large field and the hedgerows replaced by barbed wire fencing.
We accept that the land is privately owned and was/is agricultural land but surely the owner should have some respect for the landscape and beauty of this part of the green belt brings to the area. There is legislation to protect hedgerows but officials argue that the hedgerows are not of sufficient importance to be protected. One important point argued by Council Officials is that the hedgerow has to have been in place for at least thirty years to be considered as being important. We do know that the tenant sought permission to fence in the public footpath and that this was granted but did he have to remove so much plant life from around the whole site? The whole site being the four fields that go around three sides of The Priory. Footpath 11 comes to an end at Kiln Lane, an historic route for people walking to and from Bisley Church. If you walk down Kin Lane towards Bagshot Road you will find the hedgerow on your left as been replaced by a mound of earth.
Woking Borough Council, especially the Ward Councillors, have shown little interest in the destruction of so many mature tree and yards of hedgerow, this on its own is disappointing. The damage has been done and it is down to Council officials to decide if the landowner has operated within the law or not. What is important is that the trees and hedgerows left are protected especially areas like ‘The Mound’ and Hangmoor Copse.