Frensham Great Pond has received an “excellent” rating from the Environment Agency for the quality of its water – but visitors are being urged to “respect the environment” and bathe elsewhere if possible.
In summer months the water at the Great Pond has previously been affected by high levels of blue-green algae which can be hazardous for users. If the amount of blue-green algae in the water exceeds safety limits during the bathing season (May to September), the pond will be closed to bathers for their own safety.
Samples are taken weekly during the bathing season by the Environment Agency, and the first samples of the year have seen the Great Pond retain its ‘excellent’ classification.
Waverley Borough Council has welcomed the “great news” but warned that the pond’s overuse – particularly during hot weather – spells danger for the important nature site and recommends visiting out of season, or to one of the other 423 sites nationwide the EA assesses for water quality.
The pond draws attention for being one of only a handful of non-coastal sites graded for its excellent water quality. But its location and importance to nature means it is not designed to deal with the “huge influx” of visitors.
A spokesperson for the council said the crowds “cause traffic jams” and “obstacles for emergency vehicles”.
They said: “Our countryside rangers, and volunteers, work hard to maintain the pond as well as the rest of the site, which is a Special Protection Area and a sanctuary for wildlife.
“This includes regular water quality testing. We are also proud that Frensham along with a number of our other sites hold a prestigious Green Flag award.
“We would ask those visiting to please help us look after the site by respecting the environment, especially with regards to littering which has such a negative impact on the natural, rare habitat and wildlife that we work so hard to conserve.
“We have many protected species and unusual plants on the site and it’s important we keep the site in good condition to help these species thrive.”
They said there is a ‘huge influx of visitors” during the summer months but only a very limited spaces for cars which are quickly filled.
The spokesperson said: “If the car park is full then the site is full.”
They added: “We would also remind people to leave barbecues and bonfires for the back garden; neither are allowed on site; not only can they harm wildlife and the environment but can cause devastating fires such as the ones seen last year at Thursley Common and other parts of the south-east last year.
“Frensham is an area for people to enjoy but it is first and foremost a nature reserve so we would ask people to please treat it, and the people working there, respectfully.”
Bathing water season runs from May 15 to the end of September with the EA regularly monitoring water quality across the country to give bathers the up-to-date information.
Across the country there are 424 designated sites, four in London, one in Surrey, with the vast majority along the coast.
By Chris Caulfield
Local Democracy Reporter