Mole Valley’s Natural History
Welcome to Mole Valley’s Natural History. Mole Valley has stunning landscapes with a natural history that is internationally and nationally important. We hope this site will help you appreciate the value of the district’s natural phenomena, and encourage greater care and appreciation of this very special place. The natural beauty of Mole Valley’s landscape has influenced and inspired many artists, writers and poets including John Keats and Jane Austen.
The rich landscape of Mole Valley is comprised of four distinct landscape types or character areas formed by the underlying geology; Thames Basin Lowlands, North Downs, Wealden Greensand and the Low Weald. Perhaps most dominant and significant is the chalk escarpment of the North Downs, home to Boxhill, which crosses the District and can be viewed from as far away as the South Downs. The North Downs are paralleled to the South by an undulating and heavily wooded greensand ridge rising to Leith Hill in the west of the District. South of this is the gently undulating Weald which is more extensively wooded in the South West of the District. To the North of the District, the Thames Lowland Basin acts as the interface between the countryside and urban edge and is largely broad and flat with strong field patterns and wooded shaws.
The District’s name sake, the River Mole, carves its path, starting near Gatwick as a collection of small tributaries in the Weald before carving through the steep sided valley of the North Downs, creating the Mole Gap, before extending beyond Leatherhead and Fetcham to meet the Thames to the North.
Such is the importance of the District it is covered by an array of landscape designations including a European designation of an SAC, SSSI’s, SNCI’s, NNR, LNR’s and an SPA.
The district is one of most wooded parts of Surrey and England with 30.5% woodland cover compared against a national average of 7.5 %. This, in part, is made up of nearly 4000Ha of Broadleaf Woodland, some of which is ancient, and, just over 2000Ha of mixed woodland.
The presence of a rich and varied underlying geology means the Mole Valley district is home to a rich array of species and habitats including chalk grassland, lowland heath, wood pasture, and dry acid grassland to name a few, as well as the UK’s only native Boxwood population and strong populations of the Purple Emperor butterfly. Some of these important and impressive habitats and landscape features can be accessed easily from the District’s towns. Mole Valley District Council has produced a booklet with a number of walks to enable you to enjoy this landscape and is available from here.
The District is ecologically important due to the presence of many species, habitats and high area of woodland cover. It is our aim to support the drive to conserve biodiversity for future generations and to highlight the essential role it plays in maintaining our living conditions through providing ecosystem services such as climate regulation, pollination, water purification, genetic resources and flood control.
We hope the information here inspires you to explore the landscape, its habitats and identify species and appreciate its value and beauty. We ask that you respect the countryside by following the countryside code and take memories and experiences and leave nothing but footprints.
This site has been prepared by, and is maintained by Mole Valley’s Natural Conservation Group. This group has representatives from the organisations listed below. The organisations have an interest in Mole Valley’s natural history and are responsible for managing areas of the District’s rich and varied landscape. Opportunities exist to get involved with these organisations or the Mole Valley nature conservation groups; if you feel inspired or have a keen interest then please contact them directly.
Surrey Botanical Society
Lower Mole Countryside Project
Surrey Wildlife Trust
Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group
Mole Valley District Council
RSPB Dorking and District Local Group
Leatherhead and District Countryside Protection Society
British Mycological Society