A SIX-YEAR-OLD starlet from Elstead has raised almost £800 to help rebuild the boardwalk at Thursley Nature Reserve after her mum convinced her to take on a gruelling 20km bike ride instead of fighting the blaze at the common herself.
Darcy Hicks was so upset to learn about the fire at the common in May that she was about to get on her bike and help the firefighters when mum Tracey stopped her in the nick of time.
After negotiating a safer way of helping, Darcy decided she would take part in her own 20km bike ride and set up a JustGiving page, with all donations going towards the Preserve Our Reserve campaign.
This was jointly launched by Elstead and Thursley parish councils to restore the rare habitat and its visitor facilities – raising almost £40,000 since June 3.
Darcy, who completed her mammoth bike ride on June 27, has raised a whopping £775 so far towards this total – representing the campaign’s largest single donation to date.
Darcy, whose grinning face, golden Easter egg and NHS rainbow also earned her a front page picture in The Times earlier this year, told the Herald: “I always go for bike rides at the common and have school trips there, so I love it!
“I’m so happy for the nature reserve that we have raised so much money for them.”
The schoolgirl has also received a certificate of thanks from the Preserve Our Reserve committee for her wonderful achievement, a well-deserved reward for someone who has inspired many during this fundraiser.
It all comes after a major wildfire took hold at the Thursley reserve on May 30, destroying 470 acres of precious heathland and forcing homes nearby to be evacuated.
The blaze raged for three days, and left behind a severely-scorched landscape, destroyed the common’s boardwalk and rendered much of the popular heath inaccessible to members of the public.
The Preserve Our Reserve campaign hopes to remedy much of this damage and safeguard the common from further fires, with Thursley and Elstead councils still encouraging donations via cheque and BACS as well as their GoFundMe page at https://uk.gofundme.com/f/preserve-our-reserve-thursley-nnr-support-fund
Providing an update on the campaign, Thursley Parish Council chairman James Mendelssohn said: “There are three main areas where we would like to spend the money raised.
“The first thing is to begin restoring the boardwalks.
“That will take up quite a large chunk of the funds we have raised so far – they took quite a few years for volunteers to build so it will be good to provide additional help to rebuild them.
“Secondly, we would like to improve signage around the common, so people know what they are coming to see and learn a little bit more about the nature reserve.
“The purpose of this increased signage is to also educate people on the danger of fire – I think it’s important to educate people rather than to just tell them not to do it.
“We would also like to set up an initiative that will ensure we have volunteers throughout the common to help visitors out – and also to spot any future fires.
“There are around 130 people who would like to help out, so the money will go towards harnessing that support.
“A small group are now looking how best to do this, but we may provide funds to buy software to manage a rota of volunteers, perhaps to provide hi-vis jackets for them, or any other ideas the steering group come up with.
“We have already had a meeting between the Preserve Our Reserve committee and Natural England to discuss how the money can best be used.
“We have also made it clear it should only be spent on initiatives that would improve visitors’ experience of the common, and not just on regular heathland maintenance.”
Natural England are set to come back to the committee at the end of August, when the plans will be reviewed.
From there, they will be hoping the rebuilding project can get fully under way.