Kingston’s nature reserves
Kingston is lucky to have twelve nature reserves in the borough that are all owned by the council. They are:
Tolworth Court Farm
Tolworth Court Farm Fields is Kingston’s largest nature reserve and is situated near the Hogsmill River which means it plays an important role in the green corridor that runs through the borough.The site is rectangular in shape and extends over an area of approximately 52 hectares.
The site lies to the southwest of Kingston Road forming one side of a broad shallow valley along the course of the Hogsmill River. There are two Public Rights of Way (RoW), the first footpath is an old route that runs down the centre of the site and divides the valley of the Hogsmill/Bonsegate from the more level ground running parallel to Jubilee Way. A second footpath (RoW) runs across the site at its southwestern boundary and leads out across the Bonesgate Stream.
Hogsmill Valley River Park
The Hogsmill Valley River Park is the collective name for a cluster of nature reserves found along the Hogsmill river corridor from Berrylands railway station south to Malden Lane on the edge of the borough, spanning an area of approximately 32.91 hectares. The area is a vital component of Kingston’s ecological network supporting a complex mosaic of habitats centred around the Hogsmill river.
Habitats represented here include woodland, grasslands, alluvial flood meadow and riverine communities.
The Hogsmill Wood Local Nature Reserve
The Hogsmill Wood Nature Reserve is a small area of woodland situated immediately to the north of the A3 Kingston Bypass, adjacent to the Hogsmill River. Lying within the wider area of the Hogsmill River Open Space, the site attracts a range of woodland and wildlife.
Between the period of 1998 - 2002 the site was managed by the London Wildlife Trust. In 2023 the council are looking to work with the Lower Mole Project to reestablish proactive management of the site.
The Wood and Richard Jefferies Bird Sanctuary
The Wood and Richard Jefferies Bird Sanctuary is a nature reserve in the heart of Surbiton. The area boasts tree species that were planted during the Victorian period and provides a thriving habitat for various woodland birds and is home to six different species of bats.
Serving as a haven for wildlife in a bustling residential area, this enclosed space plays a vital ecological role. It offers refuge to numerous species, particularly benefiting from the abundance of standing deadwood, which serves as a valuable habitat for many organisms. Efforts will be made to establish a Friends group for the site in collaboration with the Surbiton Wildlife Group. This partnership aims to actively manage the area, prioritising tasks such as the removal of invasive species. The Environment Trust has historically been responsible for managing the site.
Raeburn Open Space Local Nature Reserve
The Berrylands Nature Reserve, a five-hectare sanctuary situated in the heart of Berrylands. It offers a diverse range of habitats that make it a beloved natural haven. Nestled along the banks of the Tolworth Brook, the reserve boasts a rich tapestry of ecosystems. The presence of the brook nurtures habitats, and a small wildlife pond further enhances the area's biodiversity and is home to a wide array of wildlife species.
In 2017, the reserve underwent an extensive restoration project led by the Environment Trust and funded by Thames Water. This transformative endeavour involved the removal of hundreds of tonnes of concrete from a culverted channel and instream weir, thereby restoring the natural banks of the stream. The banks were reshaped, incorporating berms and deflectors, and native marginal aquatic plants were introduced. Additionally, a bridge was constructed to enhance public accessibility and woodland management initiatives commenced, and the wildlife pond was established.
Edith Gardens, spanning 0.4 hectares, is a nature reserve located in Surbiton. In 1992, the site was rightfully designated a Local Nature Reserve, providing it with essential protections. Situated along the Tolworth Brook, which eventually flows into the Hogsmill River. Citizen Zoo took charge of a revitalization project in 2019. Their primary goals were to enhance the wildlife corridor and create a secure haven for people to relish the wonders of nature. Kingston Council and local volunteers supported the project, with additional funding provided by the Ministry of Housing.
Under the dedicated efforts of Citizen Zoo, the reserve underwent an astonishing transformation. Rubbish was diligently removed, and to improve accessibility, a wheelchair-friendly path was installed. Several noteworthy additions were made, including a wildlife pond, a dead-hedge, and the planting of live hedges. Furthermore, woodland management practices were implemented, ensuring the long-term vitality of the area.
Rose Walk Local Nature Reserve
Rose Walk is a small nature reserve at the northern tip of the Hogsmill Valley. The site supports areas of scrub with small areas of grassland and scattered yellow meadow ant mounds. The bank side habitat supports an array of marginal aquatic floral species including flag isis, marsh marigold, pendulous sedge, meadow sweet, purple loosestrife and hard rush. Water vole signs have been spotted on this nature reserve following the 2022 reintroduction led by Citizen Zoo. At the northern end of the site there are some hops that are the larval host plant of red admiral and comma butterflies. The blackthorn is also known to support brown hairstreak butterflies.
Other species which are regularly observed in this nature reserve include buzzard, kingfisher, moorhen, great spotted woodpecker, house sparrow and a range of tit species.
Elmbridge Open Space Local Nature Reserve
The Elmbridge Open Space Local Nature Reserve dominates the western parcel of land to the west of the Hogsmill. The area supports a diversity of habitats including secondary woodland, with species such as mature willows, oaks, aspen and sycamore and an understory of elder and hazel, which in winter periods can support woodland characteristics. To the north of the site there are areas of amenity grassland which are well used for recreational purposes. Through the reserve there are areas of scrubland with a good amount of dead wood. The entirety of the site also supports bankside habitat along the Hogsmill. The site also supports alluvial flood meadow and neutral grassland, which is speckled with yellow meadow ant mounds. Other species which are regularly observed in this nature reserve include buzzard, little egret, kingfisher, moorhen, great spotted woodpecker, house sparrow and a range of tit species.
To ensure the long term sustainability of this project, a Friends Group will look to be established to complement the management of the site, as well as the securement of a new Countryside Stewardship Agreement with Natural England.
The Southwood Open Space Local Nature Reserve (Six Acre Meadow)
The Southwood Open Space Local Nature Reserve follows the Hogsmill River on the Southern Side of the A3. It supports a number of woodland copses with a range of mature willow species. Across the reserve there are areas of scrub dominated by blackthorn and large areas of grassland.
Kestrels can be regularly spotted hovering above the grassland. Roe deer use the site frequently and their tracks can be easily spotted when the ground conditions are soft. Jays can be seen carrying and planting acorns.
The reserve leads to Six Acre Meadow. The meadow is one of the oldest meadows in the borough and supports a range of floral species. The site has historically been managed as part of the Higher Level Stewardship agreement with Natural England, which has included an annual hay cut of the grassland as well as woodland management which has been conducted by Red Kite and Lower Mole Project. The site supports a nature trail, which was designed and implemented with the support of Sustrans and the local community.
Bonesgate Open Space Local Nature Reserve
The Bonesgate Open Space Local Nature Reserve is located along the Bonesgate tributary, to the west of Tolworth Court Farm and directly east of the Castle Hill Nature Reserve, and serves as a green corridor. The western side of the Bonesgate is wooded with mature blackthorn and hawthorn scrub and mature oak trees, providing habitat for a range of woodland bird species.
The area has seen volunteer work parties coordinated by both the Lower Moles and Habitats & Heritage.
Castle Hill Local Nature Reserve
This is an area of mature oak woodland and hazel coppice, with scrub and grassland. It is located on the banks of the Bonesgate which combine to make a varied wildlife site. There is an ancient track running along the eastern side which used to be known as Chessington Park Lane.
The site is in the active management of the Lower Mole Project who are based in the neighbouring Horton Country Park.
Coombe Wood Local Nature Reserve
Coombe Wood was once an extensive woodland which is depicted in the Milne’s Land Map of London published in 1800. The woodland is dominated by mature oak trees, with sporadic ash and silver birch. In areas there is a dense understory of hazel, hawthorn, dog rose, bramble and elder. In recent years the woodland was managed as part of the Lower Moles Living Woodland project.
The woodland supports an array of woodland birds, and badgers are known to forage amongst the undergrowth.
Jubilee Wood Local Nature Reserve
Located in the South of Borough, adjoining Sixty Acre Wood, Jubilee Wood was planted in 1887.
Much of the woodland is wet year-round exhibiting wet woodland characteristics. The woodland area has a remnant pillbox which was converted to a bat roost by volunteers. An owl box has also been installed on one of the pedunculate oaks. The site supports two ponds which have recorded populations of great crested newt. Plans are currently being drawn up by Kingston Council and the Lower Moles to restore these ponds to a good condition.