Ash Link Local Nature Reserve, the first nature reserve in Spelthorne, was officially opened by the Mayor of Spelthorne in June 2012.
It is managed by volunteers from Spelthorne Natural History Society in partnership with Spelthorne Council who own the land. It is located in Shepperton, either side of the M3, with Splash Meadow to the south-east (off Charlton Road) and Nutty Wood to the north-west (off Nutty Lane).
The two sites are linked by a pedestrian bridge and they contain a variety of wildlife as well as mixed woodland, wildflower glades, ponds and the River Ash. Conservation work over the years has helped to increase the biodiversity of the area and as well as monitoring and recording the wealth of species, the volunteers continue to enhance the site for the benefit of the wildlife and enjoyment of the public.
In 2017 the Ash Link Local Nature Reserve was awarded a Gold Medal in the 'South and South East in Bloom' competition run by the Royal Horticultural Society
In 2018 the Friends of Ash Link volunteer group received the 'Queen's Award for Voluntary Services.'
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Situated to the rear of Shepperton Studios this strip of riparian habitat encompasses the River Ash. A surfaced path runs between Squires Bridge Road and the western end of the Littleton estate offering an ease of access and viewpoints over the river, unsurfaced paths also offer plenty to discover.
The woodland onsite holds great ecological importance thanks to the numerous veteran Oaks quercus robur which in turn promotes a vast array of invertebrates. An Oak tree can support 100x the invertebrate abundance compared to a Sycamore acer pseudoplantanus. In conjunction with supporting invertebrate richness and abundance veteran Oaks are invaluable for bats, the rough bark and natural crevices that appear over time on mature Oaks make ideal roosting opportunities. The natural progression of woodland and subsequent dead wood make the site an ideal habitat for Stag beetles lucanidae, these iconic insects require large sections of dead wood to feed and for the development of larvae.
The River Ash flows from the Colne to the Thames and spans approximately 10km and is a key ecological feature within Spelthorne. Kingfisher's alcedo atthiscan often be seen throughout the site using the river as a foraging corridor. The marginal and in-channel habitat along with the sections of still water also offers ideal refuge for amphibians.
In 2016 a project was undertaken alongside the Environment Agency which formed part of the ColnCAN's Weir today: gone tomorrow programme. The works encompassed the notching of a weir, installation of a new control structure and restoring a relic channel to serve as a by-pass channel to the main weir onsite. The principal aim of this work was to improve fish passage throughout the site and ultimately the river Ash which flows between the Colne and the Thames. In conjunction with work outlined approx. 600m of river was restored to provide favourable flow variations and enhanced aquatic and terrestrial habitat for a broad range of species.