Our riverside park

Moira MacQuaide’s history of Burpham

From an idea in the late 1970s, Riverside Park has been developed as a nature reserve in Burpham, owned by Guildford Borough Council and The National Trust, and managed by GBC.

The Riverside Nature Reserve is situated between the A3 and the River Wey, behind the Spectrum and Ladymead, with access from Bowers Lane. The actual size of the park seems to be a question! – varying from 30 hectares to 80 hectares, depending on which website is searched. It is a wildlife haven, supporting many bird, amphibian and mammal species. There are four main habitats: meadow, wetland, open water and woodland. There are boardwalk routes for walks across the wetlands, picnic tables, birdwatching from a bird hide (although currently closed due to vandalism), and lovely views across the lake to enjoy. Conservation is an ongoing process, using different mowing regimes on the grasslands, and cattle grazing for habitat management.

The park was created when the A3 was built in the 1980s, avoiding Burpham, to provide a publicly accessible green space for local residents to enjoy. It is designated as a SANG (Suitable Accessible Natural Green Space). The lake and meadow were by-products of gravel extraction during the A3 construction. The lake is filled from the Merrow Common Stream, which flows via culverts under the A3. Fishing is prohibited, as is kite flying, due to overhead cables.

The park has won several Green Flag Awards. The site is managed for breeding birds, terns, sedge warbler, reed bunting, water rail, redshank, snipe and lapwing. However, the low-lying areas are permanently marshy
and there is occasional flooding in the winter months.

There is a 5.8km circular trail, for those who enjoy a moderately challenging walk, but mud can be a real problem. This can also make access for disabled visitors very difficult. 

Mike Beckwith produced the master plan for Riverside Park in the 1980s, including a few ornamental trees around the site. One of the objectives in designing the park was to reduce noise from the A3. The field running along the back of Manston Road belongs to the park. The original deeds for the land included rights for snipe shooting in season around the lake. Although it can be a lovely place for picnics, visitors to the park must take care with possible fire risks. In July 2022, on three separate occasions, fires broke out, requiring several fire crews to attend and put them out.

Burpham is lucky to have both Sutherland Memorial Park and the Riverside Nature Reserve as places to walk and enjoy green spaces.

If you are willing to share your memories and/or photos to tell us more about Burpham then please contact Moira MacQuaide, either by e-mail (moira.macquaide@gmail.com) or by phone or text (07963 756543). My book, Burpham – A Gateway to Guildford is still available from me for £10 (free delivery locally) or on Amazon, but the History of Burpham Primary School 1908-2014 is now out of print (available to borrow at Guildford Library).