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Chobham Common has been identified as a valuable ecological/environmental resource this essay looks at the balance between this and the use of the common for leisure ativities.

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Introduction Chobham Common has been identified as a valuable ecological/environmental resource under a number of different government schemes: * Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) * National Nature Reserve (NNR) * Special Area of Conservation (EU Habitats Directive) * Special Protection Area for Birds (EU Bird Directive) As a publicly accessible area, however, it is not only used for environmental protection schemes, but for leisure activities too. These include: * Dog Walking * Walking/jogging * Horse riding * Cycling * Bird watching and other nature activities * Fishing * Model aircraft flying The potential for conflict between the environmental importance of the Common and its value for leisure activities is clear. In order to accommodate the two identities of the Common, the Surrey Wildlife Trust have to manage it very carefully. There is a risk that the leisure activities carried out on the Common could cause lasting environmental damage if not carefully controlled. On the other hand, limiting public access to protect the site would mean losing a valued public amenity. This project will look at the balance struck between the two. Geographical Background Chobham Common is a large area of lowland heath, covering approximately 590 hectares (1460 acres). It is located in northern Surrey, south-east England, between Chobham, Virginia Water, Sunningdale and Windlesham. The Common has large areas of wet and dry heath, acid grassland and woodland, which supports a rich and varied ecosystem. Over three hundred and fifty species of plants have been recorded. Standard heather, purple moor grass, bracken, silver birch, and European gorse are particularly common. As well as a wide range of plants, the Common also supports many animal species. Twenty-two species of mammal have been recorded on the Common, including deer, foxes, bats and rabbits. One hundred and twelve species of birds have been identified, including nightjar, Dartford warbler, wood lark and hobby. Reptiles and amphibians such as adders, grass snakes, frogs and newts all breed on the Common. ...read more.


In Site A the most common age range was quite obviously 31-40yrs, as it was also with Site C. At Site B, the most common age range was 41-50yrs. However, there was still a high frequency of people in the 31-40yr age range. Therefore, the most common age range of visitors to the common at all three sites was 31-50yrs. Sphere of influence There was a wide spread of visitors from all the surrounding towns and villages, as well as some from further away. Overall, 16% of the visitors to the Common came from Chobham, and 14% from Ascot, making these the areas on the questionnaire that most visitors came from. However, 23% of the visitors I questioned ticked the 'other' box on the questionnaire, with their areas ranging from the nearby town of Woking to Ireland. Means of access the Common would not have been a problem. I was interested to see that 21% of all visitors to Site B rode to the Common, while of all visitors to Site A, only 5% came by horse. The Common is bisected by the M3 motorway, and therefore already is continually affected by fumes given off by cars. With 74% of all visitors coming to the Common by car, the amount of chemicals and gases is increased. High levels of nitrogen deposits have been found within 200m on either side of the M3, and it is safe to assume that with large numbers of cars coming and going to and from the Common that these deposits will be found on plants around the car parks. However, it is unlikely that the Common is affected as much as a site away from any background pollution (such as the M3) would be. Another issue raised by 'means of access' is, again, footpath erosion. 12% of visitors come to the Common on horseback and 13% on a bicycle. ...read more.


Trampling of the plants and heather off the paths will not be a problem for the Common We can see from my results that 57% of all the visitors to the Common walk over the plants on their visits. The ranger also confirmed that delicate flora is damaged by trampling, and so I can conclude that this hypothesis was in fact wrong. I did not expect many people to leave the paths, and so there would not be a lot of trampling. The widest range of activities will come from the visitors at Site C This hypothesis was incorrect. The widest range of activities actually came from Site B, which had at least one visitor fitting into each category. However, this was only because of one person who visited Site B to bird-watch. This is likely to be because it is a sheltered area with a small car park. Fewer people know about it than the big car park, and this makes it quieter than Site C, so they were less likely to be disturbed. Although the environmental value of the Common is affected by public access, it is not so bad as I imagined before researching it. Places like National Parks have serious problems and have to resort to methods of public control such as zoning to protect the ecology of the site. However, at Chobham Common the public do not seem to have such a big effect. With only four main ways in which the public damage the site, it is relatively easy to keep their effects to a minimum. In total, �17850 is spent keeping the Common's ecology and habitats as intact as possible, and in the future if dog bins are installed, this figure could rise to �32250. Overall, the Common seems to have a good balance between maintaining its ecological value and being a publicly accessible area. Contents Heading Page Contents 1 Introduction 2 Geographical Background (+ maps) 3 Hypotheses 4 Data Collection Sites 5 Data Collection 7 Example of questionnaire 9 Results 11 Interview Results 31 Conclusion 32 ...read more.

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