Fleet Pond Walks

History of Fleet Pond

Fleet Pond Video


(Founded 1976)

Registered Charity No 290637

Fleet Pond is the largest fresh water lake in Hampshire. Together with the surrounding areas of reedbeds, marsh and heath land, it provides special natural habitats of a kind that have become rare in this part of Britain. Such conditions enable a rich community of animal and plant life to thrive, including many species which are no longer to be found in the ordinary countryside. The conservation of the various habitats in the Fleet Pond Nature Reserve requires regular maintenance work and that Fleet Pond Society holds conservation sessions on the second Sunday of the month from September to June. Details of these sessions are published in the Society's magazine and the local press.

Why not join the Society and receive regular details of all our events in the quarterly magazine?  Membership subscription is 10 per household, 15 if the member prefers to receive the newsletter by post or lives outside Fleet and Church Crookham.   Newsletter by e-mail is 10 per household.  Corporate Membership is open to local businesses at 35 per year.


Caring for Fleet Pond Nature Reserve


Fleet Pond Nature Reserve owes its special character to a remarkable blend of centuries of human endeavour, accident and carelessness, climatic extremes of ice, storm, deluge and drought and the unique relationship of soils, topography, aspects and hydrology. No amount of human planning, research or ingenuity could reproduce this.

The diversity of open water, reedbed, fen, streams, four types of heathland, grassland, scrub, glades and six main kinds of woodland together form the intricate mosaic that is Fleet Pond Nature Reserve; a priceless educational resource and an immense asset to the local community. It will only continue to be so, however, if it is cared for in a skilful, sympathetic and informed manner.

The greater the variety of habitat, the greater is the range of species that can be accommodated. Each individual of the many kinds of animal and plant depends on places where the correct degrees of light, shade, soil type and moisture level occur in association with the right quality and quantity of food and suitable conditions for reproduction. These conditions exist in a delicate ecological balance vulnerable to the stresses of climatic variation, pollution and habitat destruction.

View from Chestnut Grove Landing Stage by Peter Martin


The open water is invaluable to waterfowl. It provides a deterent to predators for breeding birds and a refuge in winter. Passage migratory species use Fleet Pond as an en-route feeding station. The islands, peripheral reedbeds, fen and carr woodland provide roosting, nesting and feeding areas, both for the resident species and for those migrants that arrive in spring to breed. Fleet Pond is renowned among birdwatchers for some of the rarities which pass through and for some which spend the winter there; the rare Bittern is an example. Water attracts many flying insects which, in turn, provide food for birds by day and bats by night. Five species of bat have been recorded feeding at Fleet Pond.


Extensive, good quality reedbeds have declined or disappeared in many parts of Britain. Most of the best remaining examples are coastal. A nation-wide survey by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds located only 109 reedbeds of over 2 hectares in extent. This figure includes Fleet Pond. One reason for the uniqueness of reedbed is that it is a transient stage in the natural transition from shallow water to damp woodland. Management of reedbed habitat is essential if it is to continue to thrive. Without this intervention the reeds would dry out and, ultimately, be crowded out by trees. It follows that the specialised animals and birds which are dependent on these rather rare conditions are unusual and are not to be found in such abundance nor on such a regular basis, anywhere else in the area.   


The extent of fen at Fleet was one of the reasons for the designation of Site of Special Scientific Interest. The wetland areas of Fleet Pond, together with the reeds, marsh pools and scrub, support a great number of specialised animals and plants, including national and regional rarities. Like reedbeds, fen is now a scarce habitat type in England, as much has been drained for agriculture or building. It is particularly rich in species.


The Dry Heath by Derek Knight

Once a widespread and common landscape of lowland England, heathland has all but disappeared from many counties. Maps dating from the 1840's show Fleet Pond to have been largely surrounded by heathland. A significant proportion of Hampshire, Dorset Sussex, Surrey and Berkshire was, at one time, covered in heathland which extended well into what is now called Greater London. Many of the specialised animals and plants which depend on this type of landscape have declined drastically or become locally extinct.

Heathland only occurs in Western Europe; on a world basis it is already much scarcer than tropical rain forest. Thanks mainly to the New Forest Hampshire today has around 12 % of all heathland remaining on Earth.
Some examples of losses of heathland since 1800 are:

Surrey: 93%, N.E. Hampshire: 90%, Thames Basin: 83%, New Forest; 25%. 
Britain as a whole is estimated to have lost 75%. (Source: English Nature)


A great merit of the Reserve's woodland is its attractiveness to the local community. It is a place of semi-wildness and seclusion, a contrast to the formal discipline of a town park. Encounters with wildlife in its natural domain are not just possible, but probable. For many people all this is merely a short walk from home.

The woodland supports many of the more common animals and plants and complements the other habitats. At Fleet Pond it is not yet mature enough to achieve the quality of an ancient woodland. The varying kinds of woodland (birch, pine, oak, alder, willow, beech) ensure the walker experiences a distinct character to each part of the Reserve. Some 65 % of the tree species native to Britain may be found somewhere in the Reserve.

The Woodland by Bronwen Drake

Part of the intrinsic appeal of these woodlands, both to people and to wildlife, is that to a very large degree, they are natural. They are free of the fashion for tree planting which scatters trees about in arbitrary and meaningless ways. To the discerning eye natural woods are full of the stories of woodland history, tree associations, soils and past human endeavour Each tree is also a catalogue of the wildlife which depends upon it and a record of wildlife that has lived on or within it.

View from the Picnic Site by Peter Martin

'Natural' woodland is dynamic, vibrantly alive. Where a tree falls, a score of saplings spring up after only two or three seasons. Even when dead, trees give support to as much wildlife as when alive though of different kinds.
Fleet Pond Nature Reserve has 40 acres of wild trees living together as natural woodland.
Management, compared to the open areas, is minimal (see the Management section).

  Natural woodland also provides the three types of tree most needed for the conservation of tree-dependent wildlife: old trees, coppiced and pollarded trees and dead trees. In conservation terms the protection of naturally established trees, in all their forms, is always more important and worthwhile than planting trees. Fleet Pond's natural woodlands make a very real contribution to woodland wildlife conservation.


Woodland management

If all of Hart District were a continuous woodland, it could probably be "left to nature". Storm damage natural ageing and the browsing action of the larger wild animals would 'manage' the area naturally. Smaller woods have been controlled and managed by people, probably since the Iron Age. Selective harvesting activities, like felling and coppicing for fuel and building materials, varied the structure and composition of woodlands thus maintaining and increasing habitats for wildlife. We can copy this technique in nature reserves by selective thinning of densely growing young trees to allow individual trees to mature. This admits more light to the woodland floor and brings life to wild flowers and under-shrubs that would die out in shade. A wider variety of plants encourages insects - important in themselves - to prosper and provides a wider variety of food sources for the birds and mammals that feed on them. Mature trees will not be felled unless they are in a condition which is potentially dangerous.

Fleet Pond's woodlands are very young (almost no woodland existed near Fleet Pond in 1850). They do not support the numbers of scarce and rare animals and plants that inhabit the wetlands and heaths. Many of the species that make Fleet Pond a special place need warm, sunny, unshaded places; they would die out in woodland.

Unstable trees near footpaths, near places where people gather, such as the Picnic Site, or which overhang our neighbours' properties are removed or made safe. Elsewhere dead or decaying trees, fallen logs and all forms of dead wood provide an essential part of a woodland that is rich in wildlife. Holes and cavities are used for nesting, roosting or hibernation. Many insects live in, or feed upon, dead wood; mosses and fungi grow on it; log piles and brushwood become shelters for insects and small mammals. If all dead wood in a woodland was removed, it might reduce by a third the number of species that can live there and force many to seek food and shelter elsewhere. Dead wood definitely matters.

How do we manage Fleet Pond?

Our aim is to keep Fleet Pond special to ensure that the scarce and rare wildlife continues to thrive and that we can help to protect the site. The great strength of Fleet Pond is the variety of different habitats that co-exist within the 57 hectares (141 acres). Management must ensure the survival of the lake, reedbeds, marshes, heaths and woodlands together with the smaller, but important woodland glades and the areas of open grassland. Each supports different kinds of wildlife. The maintenance of this habitat variety will ensure that the 2,470 kinds of animals and plants recorded since 1980 will continue to thrive. None of these habitats, in isolation, could support such a large number of species.

Maintaining the balance

It is necessary to cut back woodland edges and control the spread of scrub if we are to maintain a balance which will support the widest possible variety of wildlife. A mixture of habitats and the varying views they provide for visitors during a walk at Fleet Pond add considerably to the beauty and the enjoyment of the reserve.

View from Sandy Bay by Peter Martin

People matter

Fleet Pond is popular with walkers (and often their dogs), family groups, cyclists, picnickers, anglers and those interested in the many branches of natural history. The Victorian residents of Fleet often spent some of their leisure time at the Pond. For as long as people continue to enjoy this wonderful natural asset its future is reasonably secure.

At all times we try to take account of the differing needs of visitors. We aim to maintain open views of the lake, provide seats and keep footpaths in good repair A network of paths provides free access around the reserve and takes visitors through a variety of habitats. We ask visitors to recognise, however, that this is a Nature Reserve and that some areas are sensitive to disturbance and trampling. Unrestrained access could harm the very wildness visitors come to enjoy. This is why some areas are protected by hedges, dead hedges or informal post and rail fences. We hope visitors will understand the need to protect some areas and that they will keep to the footpaths.

This is particularly true of cycling. Cycling is welcomed at Fleet Fond; it is a healthy, enjoyable pastime available to people of all ages and degrees of fitness. We ask cyclists to respect other users of the reserve: to cycle slowly, give way to walkers and to keep to the main footpaths. Careless or irresponsible cycling can be very destructive; mountain bikes and off-path cycling, in particular, can disturb wildlife, damage plants and erode banks. Heavy use will spoil the whole character of an area. The bluebell wood on the eastern side is a good example of an area which has had to be protected by barriers to arrest the crushing of bluebell plants by mountain bikes.

A place for wildlife, a place for people

Wildfowl from the NE side of the Pond by Bronwen Drake

All land has a value and none more so than land which can be commercially developed. If we can demonstrate that Fleet Pond continues to support a wide diversity of plants and animals, whilst being of value as a place for tranquil enjoyment for people, we can better ensure its future.
Fleet Pond is a special place; a haven where many kinds of wildlife thrive that cannot live in 'ordinary' countryside. It is equally a place where people can come to 

enjoy walks through mixed woodland, open heathland golden with gorse or purple with heather, and enjoy open vistas of the lake its birdlife and fringing reedbeds.

With careful management this will be so for generations to come.

Conservation tasks are arranged each month of the year (except August) to manage priority areas of the reserve. Social and fund raising events are held to raise money to fund the work of the Society. For more information about the Nature Reserve and the aims, objectives and work of Fleet Pond Society, please contact the Secretary.

Arial photograph taken in June 1994

                                                                                       contact email chairman@fleetpond.org.uk