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.
My family have walked along the footpaths in this area for more than twenty years and were shocked at the recent destruction of these local hedgerows.
The many varieties of wild flowers, bushes and trees seem to have been hacked down and uprooted without any regard for the loss of habitats for birds and wildlife, cover for deer and wanton destruction of a natural environment. The result is an unsightly mess; with fences and bare earth replacing the long established field boundaries.
There was uproar some years ago when ‘travelling people’ took over the Warbury Lane Field and vandalised it. It seems to me that the actions of the owner of the upper fields have been of equal vandalism in spoiling the countryside around Knaphill.
I’ve just come back from having walked in the fields mentioned, someone had told me that there had been some trees cut down and a fence put in place. Nothing prepared me for the devastation I found. Hedgerows ripped out on every side of the fields, elder trees gone where I picked elderflower in May, blackberry bushes gone, rosehips gone, oak trees lopped, even the stream by the kissing gate has been disrupted and all that is left of the footpath is a narrow strip of mud between barbed wire and wood. This is just appalling. And as for the huge open hollow further along the green lane towards the Fox end, just gone. All those years of playing there with my kids, of standing watching the sun come through the canopy, the times I sat by the big oaks in the middle of the field. My main concern is not what they have already done, but what they plan to do. Why would anyone do this if they didn’t have a greater plan. This surely needs broadcasting far and wide! I think the fields are owned by the Priory, I will be writing to them this evening asking if they are theirs. I was so sad, so very sad, thinking of all that hedgerow and everything that lived in it and depended on it….
Residents have the right to be concerned. Woking Borough Council have been instructed to bring forward their review of the Green Belt with the intention of identifying sites suitable for development and therefore having their protected status removed and sold for housing development companies. Also the draft Council development plan stated that it would be the Green Belt to the south of the town where the review would concentrate but that has been changed to include all Green Belt land.
WBC have shown little interest in what the owner of land around The Priory has been doing and therefore one must ask the question, what is the long term intention of the land owner and do WBC intend to inflict more housing development on Knaphill?
Those residents who use the drive to The Priory, the drive is a public footpath, as the start of a walk around the local fields will have been saddened to see the construction of a temporary road across the fields on your left as you head to wards The Priory. We are pleased to announce that prompt action by Woking Council meant that a temporary stop notice has been issued by Surrey County Council to the dumping of waste in those fields.
We now await for the results of the examination of that waste. The examination will include trying to identify where the waste came from, what is the make up of the waste and what action has to be taken in removal from what is agricultural land.
We will continue to monitor the situation and welcome any comments from residents who walk around this part of the Borough.
Back in July I commended this clearance work. New fencing replaced old boundary lines that had been engulfed by undergrowth. My initial reaction in the first 2/3 weeks was of a positive nature. As we all now know, it sadly didn’t stop at boundary re-definition.
With such an outcry and so much pressure having been brought about locally I would hope that the landowner now deeply regrets his actions.
I will continue to walk my dogs there and wait to see what happens next.
I would agree that the brambles along the side of the footpath had got out of hand but now as you go over the stile to get to the fenced in footpath you have barbed wire, footpath and then a deep ditch.
On the clearing of the hedgerow my main disappointment is the removal of the hedgerow along the side of Kiln Lane. Over 500 metres of mature hedgerow removed, for what reason? If the landowner plans to graze animals in the fields then place the new fencing behind the hedgerow not replace the hedgerow.
I did report that there were owls nesting in some of the trees and when they were removed the owls were flying around homeless. I reported this to Surrey Wildlife but had not reply from them. Very Sad
This issue seems to have gone very quiet. I am still saddened walking this path. Did anyone find out the land-owners intentions?
As far as we know the tenant plans to lease the fields to a farmer, however the issue about the waste material that was dumped on the land has to be resolved. I will try and find out where the County Council are on that issue.