Day out: Frensham Common and Ponds near Farnham, Surrey
Imagine driving into the deepest depths of the Surrey countryside and stumbling across a beach scene with people sunbathing on warm sand, swimming in calm waters and playing with beach balls and bucket and spades.
Frensham Great Pond has a beautiful sandy beach which is a great draw on summer's days.
It is part of Frensham Common, a 1,000 acre area south of Farnham, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI), a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
While the Great Pond is popular with people enjoying swimming, sunbathing, fishing and sailing, the common is a quiet wildlife retreat and Frensham Little Pond is reserved as a haven for the wildlife who live there.
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Whether you want to relax on the sand or take a tranquil stroll and discover the wildlife, Frensham Common and Ponds is an educational and fun day out for all ages throughout the year.
The 1,000 acres features heathland scrub, together with some coniferous and mixed woodland, and the Great Pond and Little Pond.
The ponds were created in the Middle Ages to provide fish, especially carp, for the Bishop of Winchester's estate.
The common would once provide the locals with heather turfs for fuel and building, wood for fuel and bracken for animal bedding.
Management of the site has been a 30 year partnership between the National Trust and Waverley Borough Council with input from regular users and specialist advisors.
Today the heathland is treasured as an international rare habitat and wildlife abounds on land and on the water.
So discover its treasures – just remember to respect the creatures and plants and their home.
Explore the common by using its network of footpaths and bridleways, including a circular loop around the pond.
There are four way-marked routes – pick up maps from the Information Centre near the Great Pond, also available at the National Trust office at Little Pond, or log onto www.frensham-pc.gov.uk/common.
Rare animals and insects such as sand lizard, natterjack toads, the Dartford warbler, tiger beetle, silver studded butterfly
Tits and woodpeckers in the small oak wood
Stonechat birds on the heathland
Common lizard in the heather
Woodmice and purple hairstreak butterfly in the oak woodland
Mallards, coots and rare visitors such as bittern and goosander on the pond
Birds such as the redpoll, siskins and nightjar
Snakes such as the adder, grass snake and, if you're lucky, the rare smooth snake
Mining bees and digger wasps
Avoid venturing from the paths onto the open heath. The adder is a venomous snake and bites when disturbed. Walkers and dogs can disturb ground nesting birds such as the nightjar and woodlark which breed between the beginning of March and the end of August.
Frensham Great Pond
Follow Bacon Lane from the A287 and you'll stumble over a beach resembling in every respect a seaside resort.
The sandy soil of Frensham Common forms a beach at the Great Pond where families in swimming costumes build sandcastles, play with beachballs and sunbathe as if they were on holiday.
Two swimming areas with maximum depths of 1.4 meters and 1.2 are marked off by white buoys.
Following a recent test the Environment Agency declared the water quality 'excellent'.
Fishing and sailing are only available to members of Farnham Angling Society and Frensham Sailing Club.
Frensham Little Pond
Frensham Little Pond covers an area of nearly 136 acres of mainly heathland and open water, providing a haven for rare animals.
The Little Pond is man-made and was formed when a dam was built in 1246. It was drained during the Second World War to remove distinctive identification features and used for tank training before being filled in again in 1949.
Recreational activities such as swimming, sunbathing and sailing are kept to the Great Pond but you can enjoy a beautiful walk around Little Pond.
Yellow flowering gorse is in bloom for most of the year while the purple heather looks spectacular in the height of summer. Little Pond is fringed with reeds and yellow iris, and during the bird nesting season listen out for the call of reed warblers and sedge warblers. Dragonflies and damselflies are a common site among the vegetation around the pond.
The area is home to rare animals such as sand lizards, smooth snakes, Dartford warblers and the silver-studded blue butterfly.
Rules and safety
No: dogs on the beaches, barbecues or fires (£20 fine), camping launching of boats including inflatable boats and rings, windsurfing, canoeing or jet skis.
Stay on the paths to avoid disturbing wildlife.
There are no lifeguards but there are safety throw lines at each swimming area.
Do not swim if you have any open cuts or grazes and try not to go under or swallow the water. Wash your hands before eating or drinking.
Where: Frensham Common and Ponds
Car park: Great Pond car park in Bacon Lane, Little Pond car park in Priory Road, off A287, south of Farnham, Surrey
Parking charges: Great Pond - cars £2.50 (after 4pm 50p, Blue Badge holders free). Free at Little Pond
Information Centre: The Information Centre at the Great Pond also includes first aid, a telephone, a snack bar, toilets and drinking water
Telephone: The National Trust office at Little Pond is 01428 604040, the rangers' office at Great Pond is 01252 792416.
Get there: By car - turn off the A3 at Hindhead and follow the A287 north signposted to Farnham for four miles. Turn off at Bacon Lane on the left for Great Pond car park. Drive another quarter of a mile to Priory Road on your right for Little Pond car park. Alternatively, leave the A3 for the A31 to Farnham and at Farnham join the A287 and head south. Turn off at Priory Road for Little Pond on the left and quarter of a mile later turn off at Bacon Lane for Great Pond on the right.
By train and bus - Stagecoach bus number 19 runs from Farnham Station to Haslemere station, stopping at Pond Lane pillar box (about every hour, not on Sundays) - 0871 200 2233, www.stagecoachbus.com for bus information.