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The Bourne Conservation Group

The Bourne Conservation Group (BCG) is a voluntary organisation working for the benefit of the natural environment and residents of South Farnham. Founded in 2002, BCG’s work is focussed on the enhancement of biodiversity throughout the local area, spread over a number of sites. Its work also assists local authorities in the maintenance and improvement of public open areas and rights-of-way, a need that has increased as public sector resources steadily reduce.

The Bourne is a relatively ‘green’ and attractive area with some distinctive features that make it a popular place to live. Part of this is the network of small woods and over 10 miles of footpaths and bridleways. At the start of BCG’s work the woods were overgrown with an under-storey of laurel and holly, and some of the rights-of-way were virtually impassable. This situation has now greatly improved and a Footpath Warden Scheme provides a quick response to problems as they occur. Many of the paths run along the valley of The Bourne Stream and a successful project, launched at the initiative of the group, has been to rid this watercourse of Himalayan Balsam. This has helped to give an understanding of the problems of invasive, exotic species more generally.

As the group has grown, increasingly ambitious projects have been tackled, for each of which funds have been raised with the generous help of excellent organisations such as the Community Foundation of Surrey. The first independent project consisted of clearing an overgrown and litter-strewn embankment near the Bourne Crossroads and planting it with shrubs and wildflowers. Included in the design for this prominent site was the creation of a raised flower bed, which has recently been replaced and enhanced in partnership with Surrey Highways.

Each project has been approached in a similar way, using the Surrey Biodiversity Action Plan as a guide and drawing upon advice from colleagues in the Surrey Wildlife Trust and other professional organisations as required. In this way the group’s own expertise in local wildlife and habitat creation has increased considerably. This has allowed responsibility to be assumed for two larger sites: the Middle Bourne Lane Community Wildlife Garden and the Old Bourne Churchyard. After a lot of hard work, both are now much more attractive places both for people and wildlife.

In 2008 the Old Churchyard had become sadly neglected, overgrown and gloomy. The serious consequences of allowing this decline to continue were recognised and, in conjunction with the Vicar of St Thomas-on-The Bourne, a project plan was agreed to develop the biodiversity of the site and restore its heritage aspects. The theme was to preserve the existing atmosphere of ‘pleasing decay’ while fostering wildlife and safeguarding the monuments. This has been achieved by letting in more light across the whole churchyard, by removing overgrown and invasive plants, and creating a small wildlife pond, just as was done in the Middle Bourne Lane garden.

There is a close association between environmental conservation and the heritage of the area, so a historical project has been launched to trace and record information about the 700 or so people buried in the Old Churchyard and how they contributed to the evolution of the local community. This information and much more about all the project work is available on the BCG website at www.bourneconservation.org.uk.

For the future, the group intends to continue enhancing the open spaces already being worked upon, and to extend its involvement as resources allow: for example, work is now being undertaken in the woodland in Langham’s Recreation Ground. All of these activities make a contribution to the Farnham in Bloom competition and BCG is proud to have shared in the town’s recent successes. If you are interested in working outside with a friendly group in some of the most attractive places in the area, please consider joining us as a volunteer member. Our main sessions are on Sunday mornings once a month, and for those with the time we have some smaller mid-week activities. You can also support our work as a Friend of BCG.

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