Voles let loose on the Hogsmill

A water vole

In August of 2022, years of hard work with the help of hundreds of volunteers came to fruition with the release of 101 voles back onto our local Epsom and Ewell river, the Hogsmill. On Saturday the 25th of February Citizen Zoo will be celebrating this landmark achievement and the river more broadly at the CornherHOUSE Theatre.

Link to the website to purchase tickets.

This celebratory event will feature a talk from Dr Amy-Jane Beer, a biologist, nature writer and campaigner. She is the author of over 30 books on natural history, a Country Diarist for The Guardian, a columnist for British Wildlife and a regular contributor to BBC Wildlife and Countryfile magazines, among others. Her recent book, The Flow, a beautiful and fascinating book that explores the UK’s rivers, includes a trip to the Hogsmill and features our water vole project!

Letting voles into the Hogsmill
Volunteers bringing voles back to the Hogsmill River

The event will also premier a short film about the Hogsmill Water Vole project, directed and filmed by aspiring wildlife filmmaker Molly McNamara-Langton. There will also be a short talk about water voles by Elliot Newton and Ben Stockwell.

This family-friendly event will include Water Vole-themed crafted-making activities for children and a book signing session with Amy where you can purchase her book at a discounted price that will also contribute to the water vole project.

Top snow dog gallery heats up

Harvey a Goldenpoodle in snow in Nonsuch Park December 2022

Dog ownership in Epsom and Ewell saw a big rise during the pandemic, especially among young families. Poodle mixtures being evidently the most popular varieties purchased. And sometimes for £1000 or more. The Epsom and Ewell Times invites you to submit photos of your dog of any type in any of the open spaces we and our canine friends enjoy in the Borough. Please send in new photos taken outdoors during the Christmas period.

Image: Harvey, a two and a half year old male Goldenpoodle photographed by Claire Beim in Nonsuch Park on 13th December.

Send your photo with your name (let us know if you want anonymity or not), name, type, age and sex of dog and where and when the photo was taken.

Email to


Related story:

Dogs in Frost and Snow

We will publish a gallery in the early New Year.

Thank you

Giraffes adapt from Serengeti to Surrey vegetation

Chessington giraffe

Surrey County Council has partnered with Chessington World of Adventures Resort to help provide additional food for the Giraffes over the winter months. Surrey’s countryside estates team regularly coppice the council’s woodlands as part of essential habitat management on Surrey’s countryside sites. Chessington have been working with them to coppice hazel, chestnut and other local tree species within Norbury Park near Dorking to feed their herd of Giraffes. 

During the autumn and early winter, the hoofstock team at Chessington made regular visits to Norbury Park where they cut back browse (leaves, shoots and branches). The team transport the browse back to the Zoo where they chop into smaller pieces and store in airtight containers which are then placed in freezer storage. This enables an ongoing stock of fresh food to feed the giraffes throughout the winter months.

The 1,340-acre Norbury Park is part of a European Special Area of Conservation (SAC) within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and forms part of Surrey County Council’s countryside estate which comprises over 10,000 acres open for public access.

Marisa Heath, Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for the Environment comments: “We are delighted to partner with Chessington to benefit not only the endangered Giraffes, but also the wildlife in Surrey. Coppicing areas of land on Norbury Park helps to improve the health and biodiversity of the woodland by opening it up to the sunlight, which allows a wider range of plants to flourish. We hope to extend this partnership with Chessington to benefit other parts of Surrey’s countryside estate.” 

Rebecca Apperley-Gawn, Senior Hoofstock Keeper comments: “It’s been great to partner up with the countryside estates team at Surrey County Council. Norbury Park is closely located to our Zoo so it’s great to keep food miles down and the browse fresh for our herd. The Giraffe spend up to 75% of their day eating and it is vital for their diet that we include fresh food particularly during the long winter months. We look forward to continuing with this partnership over the coming years”.

As well as providing feed for the Giraffes, the Chessington team also took back to the Zoo the stems of coppiced material to make additions to animal enclosures and entertain the Rhinos who love to push them around their enclosures!

For information on Surrey County Council’s countryside sites, visit the website.

Dogs in frost and snow

Fred labradoodle Epsom common in snow

Dog ownership in Epsom and Ewell saw a big rise during the pandemic, especially among young families. Poodle mixtures being evidently the most popular varieties purchased. And sometimes for £1000 or more. The Epsom and Ewell Times invites you to submit photos of your dog in any of the open spaces we and our canine friends enjoy in the Borough. Please send in new photos taken outdoors during the cold spell.

Image: Freddie, a 9 year old male Labradoodle on Epsom Common on Sunday 11th December.

Send your photo with your name (let us know if you want anonymity or not), name, type, age and sex of dog and where and when the photo was taken.

Email to


We will publish a gallery in the early New Year.

Thank you.

Mole Patrol captures pollution

Stepping Stones over River Mole Box Hill

River Wey and River Mole fail to meet acceptable criteria for four out of five pollutants monitored in new report.

In one of the largest national people-powered scientific studies of its kind six different pollutants – nitrate, nitrite, phosphate, total coliform, pH, heavy metals – have been monitored across 48 sites in England and Scotland. At a national level, all sites but one (98%) failed to meet acceptable criteria for at least one of five pollutants monitored, while over half, 52%, of sites failed on three or more parameters, according to Planet Patrol’s What Lies Beneath Report 2022. 

Image: River Mole near Box Hill Dorking. Credit: Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel

River Wey near Sutton Green and River Mole near Dorking were amongst the worst for water quality, both failing to meet acceptable levels of nitrate, phosphate, total coliform and pH levels. River Dart in Devon is the only site tested to pass across five parameters. 

The report highlights the devastating outlook of the state of UK waterways and urgently warns the Government and polluting industries to take transformative action to reverse the destruction of our freshwater environments. 

The What Lies Beneath Report 2022 is one of the biggest datasets yet, with 57 citizen volunteers having conducted 1,229 water quality readings and 1,178 metal concentration readings. 

Additional insights from the report include:

  • Nearly half, 46%, of sites showed unacceptable levels of nitrates
  • 69% of sites failed to meet acceptable concentration of phosphate 
  • Over 90% of sites tested positive for total coliform bacteria 
  • Over a quarter, 26%, of sites failed to meet recommended PH range due to high levels of acidity.

The causes of these pollutants are many and go beyond sewage contamination. From growing urban development to farming practices, increased diversity of chemicals and pharmaceuticals used by society, and pollution pressure from transport, addressing the UK’s invisible water quality crisis needs a whole systems approach. 

The launch of this report follows the latest data from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which shows that no progress has been made on a key water pollution pledge made four years ago to ensure that 75% of rivers and other bodies of water achieve a “good” ecological status by 2027. The figure remained at 16% in 2021, unchanged since 2017. In response to the Environment Agency’s plans to ‘amend’ this target, Planet Patrol has launched a petition calling on the Rt Hon Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Thérèse Coffey, to reject plans to weaken the legislation.

Lizzie Carr MBE, founder of Planet Patrol, says: “Through our growing community of citizen scientists we’ve started to uncover what lies beneath to highlight a stark reality: the widespread, poor condition of our freshwater environments. The results have been disturbing and distressing but only by building evidence to illustrate the true scale and extent of a problem, can it be accurately understood, communicated and acted upon. 

“We urge the Government to honour its pledge to ensure that 75% of rivers and other bodies of water achieve a good ecological status by 2027. This target is both a major driver of public and private investment into cleaning up our waterways and a vital tool to hold industries with permits to pollute – which include much more than just water companies – to account over water pollution.”

As well as rejecting plans to amend this pledge, Planet Patrol, the environmental non-profit, is highlighting four other key policy recommendations: 

  • DEFRA to bring forward the enforcement date for the increase in Variable Monetary Penalties for polluting water companies to 1st February 2023
  • DEFRA to strengthen the effectiveness of the Storm Overflows Discharge Reduction Plan (SODRP) – specifically, reduce the maximum achievement date on all SODRP targets to 2035 versus 2050, and prohibit water companies from increasing water bills to fund the critical infrastructure investment required
  • The Environmental Agency to accelerate the speed at which citizen science is integrated into formal data collection activities for developing evidenced-based policies
  • Use funds raised from the increase in Variable Monetary Penalties for polluting water companies to increase the criminal prosecution rates of those who damage water quality. 

Dr Thomas Stanton, a freshwater scientist from Loughborough University who analysed the data, says: “UK waterways are vulnerable to a number of societal pressures, including pollution, water abstraction, and modifications to river courses. But they are also compromised by weak policy and legislation. Despite its political greenwashing, the environment continues to be an issue that the UK government does not take seriously. Nature is in crisis, but current efforts to fully understand the extent of this are shackled by politicians whose short-sighted priorities lie elsewhere, and who fail to recognise the significance of environmental action today for the lives of those who will outlive their political tenure.”

Read the full report here: https://planetpatrol.co/water-quality-report/

Any more trees please?

Children and trees

The Woodland Trust is urging schools and community groups across the south east of England to get their free tree-pack applications in quickly with just over a month left until the spring delivery closes.

Applications for spring, for delivery in March 2023, are currently open, but only until 11 January.

The last round of the ever-popular free tree-packs scheme was the Woodland Trust’s biggest-ever single send-out, with 4,625 organisations across the UK taking advantage of the scheme.

A total of 643 schools and community groups in London, Greater London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex took delivery of their trees from the end of October to 11 November.

In the south east of England, 88,155 trees were sent out to 643 organisations:

  • 16,380 Trees to 168 organisations in London
  • 9,690 trees to 87 organisations in Greater London
  • 26,535 trees to 157 organisations Kent
  • 14,070 trees to 101 organisations in Surrey
  • 21,480 trees to 130 organisations in Sussex

The figures for the south east of England were part of a bumper autumn delivery which saw 740,970 saplings finding homes the length and breadth of the UK, bringing the annual total to a record-breaking 1.3m trees for 2022.

Woodland Trust senior project lead Vicki Baddeley said there is no time like the present to sign up and take advantage of the scheme.

“With Christmas looming and National Tree Week upon us, now really is a good time to get those applications in and ensure you don’t miss out,” she added.

“We still have lots of trees available but with schools breaking up before you know it, and the hectic holiday period around the corner, it makes sense to get organised nice and early and avoid a last-minute rush in early January.

“Planting trees is such a simple action, but the collective impact can make a huge difference. It’s a great way for schoolchildren and community groups to learn about nature and the environment and, at the same time, embrace a “Green Christmas”.

“Planting trees has so many benefits, from combatting the effects of climate change, helping support wildlife, to greening up local spaces and boosting well-being.

“The desire to plant trees is growing all the time and I fully expect demand to reflect that in the coming weeks, so I would advise any interested groups to apply sooner rather than later.

“The application process to secure your saplings is quite straightforward, just visit https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/schools-and-communities/ to get started.”

The Trust’s tree packs have been generously funded by lead partners: Sainsbury’s, Lloyds Bank, OVO Energy, Bank of Scotland and Sofology.

Baddeley added: “As ever, the support and generosity of our funders is invaluable and we simply couldn’t do this without them.

“The help each and every one of them provides is hugely appreciated and helps to ensure we can provide and deliver our saplings in such huge numbers.”

The Woodland Trust’s autumn delivery:

  • England: 615,720 trees to 3,982 schools and community groups
  • Scotland: 77,940 trees to 428 schools and community groups
  • Wales: 47,310 trees to 215 schools and community groups


For more information please contact the Woodland Trust press office on 01476 602993, Owen Phillips on 07958 066 766, or email media@woodlandtrust.org.uk or owenphillips@woodlandtrust.org.uk

The Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK with more than 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims:

  1. protect ancient woodland, which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. establish native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering approximately 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free so everyone can benefit from woods and trees.


Free trees for schools and communities

The Woodland Trust is giving away hundreds of thousands of trees to schools and communities to make sure everybody in the UK has the chance to plant a tree. To apply, or see terms and conditions, visit: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/freetrees

National Tree Week

National Tree Week takes place from 26 November to December 2022. It is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration. Each year, the country’s conservation sector, volunteer groups and tree-lovers come together to plant thousands of trees to mark the start of the annual tree planting season.

Courtesy: The Woodland Trust

Images:  The Woodland Trust | Flickr People Planting | Flickr

Winter walks in the Surrey wilds


The darker mornings have closed in, and the clocks have gone back, so it’s fair to say summer is officially over, and the cold season has begun. While the cosy evenings are one of the best bits about the colder months, staying in all day, every day – when a lot of people are working from home – can be a little bit draining.A brisk winter walk can be the perfect respite from the day-to-day routine, and it’s great for both mental and physical health as well. In fact, cold weather can help the body fight infections, and it is really good for skin health as it tightens cuticles and pores!

With all that in mind, it’s time to pop on the walking boots, pull on those winter woollies, and explore the stunning beauty of Surrey in all its frosty delight. There is no shortage of trails to discover, but to help any intrepid nature walkers get started, Berkeley Group has compiled their top 5 winter walks across the county.

  1. Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl

To be genuinely amazed by the creations that nature can produce, you must visit the Devil’s Punch Bowl at Hindhead Commons. The almost 700-acre natural amphitheatre is the biggest spring-formed feature in Britain; walk the 4.5-mile surrounding trail to be calmed by the streams and heather-covered slopes.Thanks to the Hindhead Tunnel, the road that was once the A3 is now covered with 200,000 trees and shrubs, providing perfect terrain for grazing cattle and wild ponies. Children will love exploring the wood for mini-beasts, while adults will be stunned by the incredible views from the top of Gibbet’s Hill, the second-highest point in Surrey. On a clear day, the views even stretch all the way to Canary Wharf!

Winkworth arboretum

2. Winkworth Arboretum

Created by a local doctor whose goal was to preserve the nearby wooded hillside, Winkworth Arboretum has become one of Surrey’s most stunning natural beauty spots. Located in Godalming, the area is now home to over 1,000 varieties of trees and shrubs and is celebrated for its changeable seasonal landscape.The Winter Garden boasts dazzling yellow mahonia’s and vivid camellias during colder months to brighten up the day. Take the path down to the boathouse to find a peaceful sanctuary overlooking the magnificent lake or explore the woodland and take the Winkworth to Oakhurst 4km trail to try and catch sight of rare wildlife.

Hatchlands Park

3. Hatchlands Park

Only 45 minutes from Greater London, Hatchlands Park offers those who live in the city a convenient winter escape. Open 363 days a year, this park is the ideal place for a snowy stroll, whether it be with your family, four-legged friend or simply for some much needed ‘you’ time.Set in 400 acres of magical woodland and glistening leaf-lined paths, choose from a number of trails to spot a range of birds and insects. When visiting with children, make sure to say hello to the recently fostered donkeys Callum and Morris or pop over to the Wizard Wix’s Willow Warren, where kids can climb the treehouse or make their own den!

Reigate Hill
  1. Reigate Hill

Reigate Hill, one of Surrey’s most popular natural beauty spots, is not to be missed in winter. For incredible frost-laced views, take the 3-mile walk through crunchy grass and shimmering woodland to admire the extensive landscape of the Weald and South Downs.For a longer trail, take the 7-mile Reigate and Gatton Park walk for more stunning scenery and the chance to pop into a pub on the way. Alternatively, for the history buffs, pay a visit to the Inglis Memorial and Reigate Fort, once a 72-mile defence scheme to protect London from invasion.

Newlands Corner
  1. Newland’s Corner

Only four miles east of Guildford, Newlands Corner opens a wealth of walking and cycling trails and some of the best views of Surrey Hills. Also made famous as the place Agatha Christie memorably staged her short-lived disappearance in 1926, Newlands Corner offers a delightful place for a wintry escape in nature. Newland’s Corner has something for everyone: empty fields for a pup to run around in, a challenging hike for the adventurous types, or even a scenic cycle ride for the next Sir Bradley Wiggins. There’s even the perfect pit-stop to enjoy a tipple at either the Silent Pool distillery or Albury Organic Vineyard. If you are considering relocating to this magnificent part of South East England to enjoy some of the most beautiful landscapes, browse Berkeley Group’s developments in Surrey for the latest opportunities.

Image Credits: 1. Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl: @Martingarnett_photography 2. Winkworth Arboretum: @Wakinguphere 3. Hatchlands Park: @sarahinsurrey 4. Reigate Hill: @Ilovereigate 5. Newland’s Corner: @ordnancesurvey

July find of rare May fly in Surrey

caenis-beskidensis Mayfly

The River Thames Scheme (RTS) has discovered a nationally rare mayfly (Caenis beskidensis), which hadn’t been spotted in the UK for 49 years and has never been seen in the River Thames.  

The invertebrate, which was last seen in Herefordshire in 1973, was discovered near Walton Bridge as part of the project’s routine survey work. Historically, they have been found in small and medium-sized streams, but have not been seen since 1973, when last spotted in Herefordshire.

This is an incredibly exciting find for the scheme and demonstrates just how important the survey work that the scheme’s ecologists do is. By establishing the value of the existing habitats living around the Thames the scheme will be able to put plans in place to protect them during the work and help them thrive for the future.

Speaking on the discovery RTS ecologist Jenny Stephenson said: “It is such an exciting discovery to identify something that hasn’t been seen in British water since the 1970’s. Now that we have discovered the Caenis beskidensis in the River Thames we will be able to monitor it and ensure the colony continues to thrive.

“The discovery of the mayfly, which was found in its nymph stage and part of its aquatic life cycle, represents a major expansion in both the distribution and habitat type the species has historically inhabited. We are confident that with the new habitats that the scheme will create we will encourage these may flies to breed further in the future.”

Image of a generic mayfly in its adult form. Please note this is not Caenis beskidensis as due to its rarity no image is available.

Mayflies form an important part of the river eco-system and are an important food source for fish and, once transformed into its adult form, insectivorous birds. Although the may flies have historically been found in small and medium sized streams they are also found in the upper areas of lowland rivers where they live in slow flowing shallow water. The RTS will create more of these river habitats so the team are hopeful new colonies will thrive. 

As part of its work to understand the existing environment the RTS carries out hundreds of ecological and environmental surveys every year. A range of species have been targeted in these surveys, including bats (and their roosts), water voles, breeding birds, great crested newts, fish, invertebrates and species of reptiles.

Hannah Packwood, RTS environmental surveys project manager said: “It’s so important that we understand the existing environment so we can continue to protect and where possible enhance it through the RTS. Finding rare and unexpected species is exciting, and we will continue to monitor the environment in our survey work throughout construction and the operation of the scheme”.

A team of ecologists undertake the surveys by observing, measuring, taking notes and photographs, as well as soil and water samples. These surveys don’t cause any significant disturbance to the environment or to land or property.

The RTS is currently holding a six-week public consultation for people to have their say on plans which includes a new flood channel whilst also providing habitat for wildlife and a new feature in the landscape for recreation. The consultation will run until Tuesday 20 December 2022. Full details of the consultation events, how to get involved, and to discover all venues that have brochures available to pick up please visit the website at www.riverthamesscheme.org.uk or call the Environment Agency National Customer Contact Centre on: 03708 506 506.

Thames plan
  • The River Thames Scheme is being delivered in partnership between the Environment Agency and Surrey County Council.  
  • The scheme’s wider partners are Elmbridge Borough Council, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, Runnymede Borough Council, Spelthorne Borough Council, Thames Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, Thames Water, Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
  • The River Thames Scheme is an integrated scheme which responds to the challenges of flooding, creating more access to green open spaces and sustainable travel, in addition to encouraging inclusive economic growth, increasing biodiversity and responding to the dual challenges of climate change and nature recovery.     
  • The project aims to deliver many benefits for local communities and businesses. The new flood channel will reduce the risk of flooding to homes, businesses, and infrastructure, while also providing habitat for wildlife and a new feature in the landscape for recreation.  
  • The River Thames Scheme will include:
    • a new river channel built in two sections – one section through Runnymede (between Egham Hythe and Chertsey) and one through Spelthorne (between Littleton North lake and the Desborough Cut)    
    • capacity increases around the Desborough Cut and at the weirs at Sunbury, Molesey and Teddington    
    • improved access to quality green open space and connections with wildlife, in addition to supporting a more sustainable travel network    
    • a network of high-quality habitat to achieve a biodiversity net gain   
  • The River Thames Scheme will reduce flood risk to people living and working near the Thames, enhance the resilience of nationally important infrastructure, contribute to a vibrant local economy and maximise the social and environmental value of the river.
  • There have been serious floods in this area over the past 100 years, namely in 1947, 1968, 2003 and most recently between 2013/2014.
  • The new flood channel will reduce flood risk to over 11,000 properties and 1,600 businesses in Hythe End, Egham, Staines, Chertsey, Shepperton, Weybridge, Sunbury, Molesey, Thames Ditton, Kingston and Teddington.
  • There will be increased capacity of the Desborough Cut and weirs at Sunbury, Molesey and Teddington by installing additional weir gates.
  • Detailed planning and design are under way. The large scale of the project means the government has directed that it be treated as a project of national Significance. This requires a type of consent known as a ‘development consent order’ (DCO). A DCO removes the need to obtain several separate consents, including planning permission and is designed to be a quicker process than applying for these separately.

Surrey County Council News

Epsom Common Bird Walk Poem

collage of birds on Epsom Common

It’s an early start, binoculars in hand,
we follow the winding path through the trees;
all shades of green surround us as we stand
dawn chorus resounds, distant bird calls tease.
On the pond, moorhen chicks scoot by
like wind-up bath toys, black pompoms of fluff,
Mandarin watches with her exotic eye
her dainty brood will follow soon enough.
Whitethroat, blackcap, greenfinch all sing,
a galaxy of colours – different notes hard to hear;
cuckoo calls abound, their voices herald spring
we look skyward and see one fly near.
All this the buzzard sees, soaring overhead,
every inch of the common easily heard and read.

K. Wiseman – local resident “who loves the Common”.

Do you have a poem you would like Epsom and Ewell Times to publish? Send it in!

Other stories on Epsom Common:

Flagging Up Epsom Common

Storm Eunice

Princess Anne’s Epsom visit kept a bit secret

Princess Anne

Epsom and Ewell Times exclusive: 21st June 2022 HRH The Princess Royal entered the Borough of Epsom and Ewell. The Court Circular states: Her Royal Highness this afternoon opened the First World War Centenary Woods’ “Regiment of Trees”, Langley Vale Wood, Langley Vale Road, Epsom, and was received by Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey (Mr. Michael More-Molyneux).

Plaque unveiled by Princess Anne Centenary Wood Epsom 21st June 2022

The Epsom and Ewell Times requested The Woodland Trust to explain activity at the Headley Road Car Park entrance that day. The owners of the Centenary Wood fell silent. Our investigation reveals that no “song-and-dance” has been made of the Royal event as the car park cannot open until electric vehicle charging points are working.

Map showing part of the Centenary Wood and where the Princess Royal was on 21st June 2022

As today’s photos show, they are nearly ready but the car park remains closed. Walking is the best way to get to the Wood at the moment. The narrow country roads that surround the wood have no safe places to park.

Car Park closed during normal hours at the Centenary Wood
Line of Electric vehicle charging stations at langley Vale centenary WQood car park
Line of electric vehicle charging points waiting for power.

The 650 acre Centenary Wood at Langley Vale is the English site of the four for the four nations of the United Kingdom. Epsom and Ewell is very privileged to have this extraordinary amenity at our doorstep.

Stone with inscription regarding the Regiment of Trees at Langley Vale's Centenary Wood

Ed: This story was ready to break just before Queen Elizabeth II died. Out of respect for the Royal Family we put a hold on publication until after the State Funeral. The car park remains closed as of today.