Hidden Hatchford, 8 May 2011


This spring visit to Hatchford was primarily a tree walk, but there was more to enjoy along the way.  Leaving from Pond car park, we crossed the edge of Ockham Common, where a large plantation of conifers has recently been removed.  Only a few old Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) have been left standing.

After viewing a large sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) in a wood edge, we followed the wide track down to Hatchford End, passing some fine hornbeams (Carpinus betulus) and a once hidden, now exposed pond.  Richard Jewell pointed out some trackside stems of betony (Stachys officinalis), and some broad-leaved helleborines (Epipactis helleborine).

From Surrey Cottage we took a narrow, winding path through the overgown chestnut coppice of Hatchford Wood.  This wood is part of the land given to Surrey County Council in compensation for the area lost to the M25, and was taken from the old Hatchford Park estate.  Some remarkable features were gained in this transaction, however sad the losses.  One, now entered, is the hilltop grove of coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), an unusual landmark feature, easily seen from the M25.  There are over 20 trees, some over 100ft tall, and 15 feet in girth.  They are remnants of an arboretum begun in 1845 by Lord Ellesmere, and probably planted not long after that date.

On the edge of this grove is another oddity, the plundered mausoleum of Bernhard Samuelson, father of an Edwardian owner of Hatchford Park.  It is an impressive yellow sandstone temple, but its one-ton sculpted metal tomb was (somehow) stolen in 1961!  The mausoleum now looks sinister in its shady corner of the wood, ringed by yew trees (Taxus baccata).

The bank which marks the southern boundary of Hatchford Wood is lined with grand old oaks (Quercus robur), and others are visible in the parkland beyond.

At the eastern end, we paused to view a Lucombe oak (Quercus x hispanica), the cross between turkey oak and cork oak.  On an old common lime (Tilia x europaea) was a spectacular tier of ‘dryad’s saddle’ fungus (Polyporus squamosus).  On it was a distinctive red and black beetle, Diaperis boleti, only recently discovered in Surrey.  Scotty Dodd, Surrey Wildlife Trust entomologist, says that he recorded it in almost the same spot last year.

The walk ended at Chatley Semaphore Tower, which was open at the time, but it seemed that nobody had the time or energy to make the climb.  But it is very worthwhile if you have!