The Reserve

Aerial shot of the reserve

Unstead Wetland Nature Reserve is a 25.7 acre (10.4 hectare) site located in a rural setting in the River Wey valley. The site is adjacent to the Godalming Sewage Treatment Works on Trunley Heath Road Bramley (grid reference SU994 455). Location map.

Latitude/Longitude: 51:20006, -0.57844, Easting/Northing: 499418, 145498.

The reserve is located close to the River Wey and almost immediately borders onto The Wey Valley Meadows SSSI site.

The reserve, at first sight, may not appear to be in the most idyllic location but in the recent past it was a rich haven for birds and other wildlife.

The historic bird records show an impressive sightings list in excess of 200 species, making Unstead Wetland Nature Reserve one of the best small birding sites in Surrey in its heyday.

Management

Volunteers on South Meadow

The reserve is being restored by the Unstead Nature Community Group, formed in September 2020 and a registered charity since November 2021, in conjunction with Thames Water Biodiversity team. Link to Trustees bios.

We are working hard to develop a rich mosaic of habitats to encourage a growing list of species and in the past 3 years have cleared large sections of Alder and Willow in the North Meadow, the Dry Lagoon and East Lagoon allowing reflooding of these sections to encourage the return of many wetland species. We have planted over 3,000 native trees including around 500 metres of hedgerow and a Miyawaki Forest.

Habitats

The reserve is a mixture of mixed woodland, wet woodland, reed bed, open areas of water and both wet and dry meadows.

Our most recent project (2023) has been development of the 6.5 acre South Meadow to create around 3.5 acres of new wetland and are working to establish a wildflower meadow in remaining 3 acres. We have already seen many birds using the new wetland including Dunlin (first time in over 10 years at Unstead) and a Caspian Gull (only the second recorded sighting in Surrey) as well as many regulars such as Canada, Egyptian and Greylag geese, Coots, Mallards, Shovellers and our signature bird, the Water Rail.

While doing this we also connected with a local farmer who manages over 100 acres of SSSI close to the site. He is supporting us with harrowing and mowing the meadow and is keen to work with us on creating more joined up nature corridors

Restored hide over North Meadow.
New South Meadow viewing platform

Access to view the reserve is by a public footpath running along the Southern boundary of the reserve. There is another permissive footpath which leads to the viewing hide overlooking the North meadow (see site map).

We have recently opened the members only access to the new viewing platform overlooking the South Meadow and the viewing screens overlooking the Dry Lagoon (which is wet!)

Unstead Nature Community Group has been a registered charity since Nov 2021, with a written constitution outlining our aims and objectives. For more details click here.