You may remember the devastating wildfire of May 2020 which burnt through one third of the nature reserve, destroying the homes of many rare insects, animals and plants.
Friends of Thursley Common was set up by local people who felt they wanted to do their bit to protect the common. They now have a system of volunteer fire wardens who patrol the reserve in pairs, particularly at weekends when we know that there will be a high footfall. The scheme is supported by Elstead and Thursley Parish councils, and by Natural England, who provided them with the necessary training before they started their patrols in April 2021. Last year they completed about 70 two-hour shifts, mainly at weekends in the spring and summer.
Although their main function is to prevent and report fires, they’ve found that they have become recognised by visitors (they have a distinctive blue ‘uniform’) who will, for example, ask them for advice on where to see specific wildlife, such as the rare Dartford Warbler or Colin the cuckoo. As the main boardwalk through the lowland bog, where it would normally be possible to view many of our rare dragonflies, has been out of action since the fire (in fact many parts were completely destroyed), new visitors to the reserve often need help finding alternative routes. They are also developing a relationship with the various groups who regularly use the Common to raise awareness of the importance of the site from a nature conservation perspective, and how they can help protect the rare wildlife that lives here.
Natural England have supported them in several ways. Not only have they provided the initial training, but the wardens (James Giles and Tom Hawkins) have been out with them on guided walks. Nightjars, curlews and emperor dragonflies have all been spotted. The wardens have all been pleasantly surprised by how much they’ve learnt about this very special nature reserve. Not only are they protecting the wildlife, it’s also a real pleasure to be out and about on Thursley Common, with even the occasional visit to the Three Horse Shoes pub in Thursley village!
There is good news on the boardwalk front – the reconstruction will start in earnest in the autumn and should be finished by the spring, so it will be possible to admire the gorgeous dragonflies next summer.
As with many voluntary groups, they would love to recruit more members so that they can extend the number of shifts on the Common, particularly during the busy summer months. If you’re interested, please contact the chairman, Alan Froggatt email@example.com
Becoming a fire warden may not be right for you, but everyone can help – if you see a fire on the common, however small (including BBQs and campfires), please phone 999 immediately. The fire service are more than happy to deal with it.
If you are able to install the What3words app on your phone, you will be able to give the exact location of any fire to the emergency services. It’s also reassuring to have, should you find yourself in trouble or wish to share a location accurately.
Friends of Thursley Common