The National Trust and the Hindhead Tunnel. Making it work for everyone

Alitex National Trust

Matt Cussack has been a Ranger with the National Trust for twenty years and as Head Ranger has overseen the transition from A3 back to countryside, complete with tunnel. He recently attended our Open Morning  to deliver a talk about what has been happening in our locality.

In a nutshell, the old A3 road was dug up and reverted to countryside whilst at they same time they dug a tunnel to accomodate the vehicles which use this busy part of the local road network. Matt said he was horrified at one point to realise that so many trees were being felled in order to dig the tunnel but by the end of the project more than ten times that amount had been replanted (220,000 trees).

Three diggers were employed rather than a bore, one working from either end, with a spare digger  for back-up, as no time could be lost if one broke. The teeth on the digging part got worn down so quickly that they had to be replaced every 3 ½ hours. On the sandstone rock only 2-3 metres were gained each day; when the digger initially hit free-running sand they thought it might move a bit quicker – but it certainly didn’t.

The Devil’s Punch Bowl and Hindhead Common have 750 acres of grazing with no commoners rights. Cows and ponies graze there, rather than sheep, as they look after themselves. The terrain is made up of birch and heather so the cows are good at “browsing”, the land, stripping leaves from the trees and the horses graze the grass. Chestnut woodlands and bluebells scatter the landscape.

Birds  found on the area include the woodlark which loves the cleared woodland and seems to favour  “disturbed”, land, the nightjar  whilst quite rare, seems to like the area to the north and Hindhead Common. The Dartford warbler is a much more secretive bird and resides far away from the sound of traffic. Butterflies can be found across the heathland but the challenge for Matt and his team has been to encourage the butterflies to fly onto the areas beyond the trees. Matt likened it to going to the white cliffs of Dover and not knowing that France was just over the water. They are hoping to thin the trees in places to “invite”, the wildlife through.

Matt told us how over the weekend (before the tunnel opened) when all the work had been finished he was walking down the old A3, now part of the park, and noticed something different. Pausing to consider what that was he realised all the old signage and even the old cat’s eyes had been taken (stolen?). The other thing that struck him during the dig was how deep the tarmac had been on the road – over the years it had just been laid down, over and over again, so that when it was dug out it revealed years and levels of tarmac. The re-profiled area had top soil put on it then grass seed was sprayed onto the heathland in a substance like cotton wool which stuck it to the mesh already lain down. 

The whole area is now thriving says Matt and he is looking forward to seeing the wildlife and human visitors make full use of it.

To go and see for yourself what has been going on click here. for visitor information.

For our next Open Day come and visit us on Saturday 29th June 10 am - 2 pm here at Torberry.

Tags: alitex, alitex events, national trust, hindhead tunnel, conservation