Molesey Hurst ©John Inglis
Queen Anne's Lace ©John Inglis Tufted Vetch ©John Inglis Knapweed ©John Inglis Hedge Brown on Hurst Meadows ©Mick Rock

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See events at Hurst Park


Surrey Fire and Rescue issued two legal notices against vessels near the Sadlers Ride Slipway at Hurst Park (pictured above), as follows:

1. Enforcement notice: issued when SFRS consider the risk to occupants in case of fire is more serious than can be dealt with by the sending of a letter. An enforcement notice stipulates a time scale for when any corrective action must be completed by.

2. Prohibition notice: issued when the condition of a building (or other accommodation) and the lack of fire safety provision mean that there would be significant risk of death or serious injury if a fire started. The notice prohibits or restricts the use of or access to part or all of the accommodation, until it is made safer.

Following the serving of the notices by Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, Trotman was charged with an offence under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. At court in November 2019 he was given a fine of £12,500. His appeal against this was dismissed, but he has pursued his right to take the appeal to a higher court. The matter was heard at Guildford Crown Court late 2020 and judgments were made against the appellant. The Crown Court upheld the case presented by SFRS and awarded costs against the appellant.

A report of the case is here.
(a version of the judgment with the names of some witnesses redacted)

Elmbridge Council - on 13 January 2020, appeals against Elmbridge Council's Planning Enforcement notices to remove the "shanty town" of gates, fences, sheds, storage, and other impediments on public land alongside the Thames Path were dismissed. This land has been appropriated and damaged by those occupying the colony of unuthorised live-aboard vessels along the riverbank at Molesey Reservoirs. The appeals against the notices was judged to be "not valid" by the Planning Inspectorate. As a result, those boats moored up opposite Aquarius Sailing Club had one month from 13th January 2020 to comply with the requirement to remove fences and structures, and to cease using the land for the permanent mooring of boats.

The borough Planning Compliance Team was set to visit the site on 14th February 2020, or thereabouts, to ensure notices had been complied with - and it was clear to those walking the Thames Path that this enforcement did have an impact. Some boats moved, and ground was again open to the public and had been cleared. The damage to habitat, some of it destroyed with chain-saws, remains but the riverbank should have a chance to regenerate over the growing season. We had kingfishers here until recently, along a riverside that is a valuable habitat for a whole range of native species and a designated Site of Nature Conservation Importance. Users of Hurst Park who want to walk on upstream have found this reach a no-go area with the illegal encampments springing up on our public land along the water's edge, and sometimes aggressive defence of these "land-grabs". However, much of this improvement is short-lived, a more comprehensive, enduring approach is needed.

We continue to press for action through our MP, councillors, the Environment Agency and the Councils.

A third lodgings vessel (slumboat) arrived at Hurst Park on 30 April 2019 and a fourth arrived at the end of July 2019 to add to those that arrived in June 2018, and they're still there.

The persistent, vexed issue of long-term unauthorised mooring is something that this group, working with others, has been focused on for years - but with little success, with the authorities unwilling or unable to take meaningful action and apparently paralysed.

As we all can see, unauthorised live aboard and lodgings vessels (tramp boats and slum boats) pervade our river banks and damage the landscape and environment. Many of those upstream of Hurst Park are also staking a claim to the land nearest their boats, all along the Thames Path, erecting fences with locked gates and setting up a shanty town.

Parliament - Along with other resident and river-related orgnisations - notably Reclaim Our Riverside2 and the River Users' Group - we raised the problem with MPs at the All Party Parliamentary Group for the River Thames on 30 April 2019. Dominic Raab, MP for Esher and Walton and our stretch of theThames through Molesey, is a member of the parliamentary group and has been kept fully informed.

Speaking under an agenda item entitled "Abuse of the Public Right of Navigation", Mr Raab made it clear he wanted to see meaningful action to rid our river of this blight along Molesey's riverbanks. He commented: "The problem has got worse and will keep getting worse."

He urged the Environment Agency to apply its powers robustly and rigorously and, if there was challenge, to test them. "It worries me that we will still talk about this in a year's time and things will remain unchanged. I can't take a lax approach and let the problem manifest itself in this particular area."

Elmbridge Borough Council repored at this meeting it was issuing planning enforcement notices to a total of 18 boats along the Thames Path near Molesey Wetlands that have erected structures. Another approach under consideration is Public Space Protection Orders.

For the Agency, officers said that they did not believe they needed additional powers. However, they also said there was no quick remedy and there were no plans to update old byelaws with derisory penalties. The Agency added that they did not have police powers or a cost-effective way of disposing of boats if they removed them from the riverbank. Keeping them secure had to be at tax-payer expense.

Large vessel on Hurst Park removed to Thames Water at Hampton

A large vessel, towed up-river by a tug on Saturday 15 September and manoeuvered into position at Hurst Park, opposite the Hampton Waterworks, has been moved from its unauthorised mooring to Thames Water moorings on the Hampton Bank, where it is awaits repairs at Port Hampton on Platt's Eyot, according to an Environment Agency spokesman.

Boat arriving at Hurst Park

According to the EA the boat, which is in a state of disrepair and unidentified, would have been towed through the locks on a transit licence - similar to trade plates. If it were to remain on the river longer term it would have to comply with boat safety standards and insurance, added the spokesman.

Park users were dismayed to see the owners had chained the heavy vessel to a mature willow at a popular spot near the beaches.

Boat tied up at Hurst Park

Local people were understandably concerned that this might be another unauthorised accommodation barge,, to be let out to short-term tenants despite having no services aboard. There are already four such unauthorised boats on the Hurst Park reach - two downstream at Molesey Lock, two at the Sadlers' Ride slipway.


Portaloos for Hurst PARK Elmbridge Borough Council has installed two portable loos in the Sadlers Ride car park for use by the general public, in the same spot where the automatic public toilet stood for some years before being removed a couple of months ago - all APCs are going from the borough.

The temporary toilets will be serviced and restocked regularly. Friends might like to keep an eye on them to ensure they are not damaged or vandalised. Should members of the public find these failities are damaged or not working, the contact for reporting is by email to building maintenance at Elmbridge or call (office hours) 01372 474166.

However, we hope that these loos will be respected and used responsibly in preference to the antisocial behaviour we see from people relieving themselves in the copses and along the riverside.

BOULES COURT - July 2018
This is now complete, with the top surface. There is a notice about how to play and score and two benches for spectators. The terrain - as it is called - is next to the Saddlers Ride car park and open for anyone with their own boules to have a game, as well as more formal competitions.


Unauthorised accommodtion barges again moored up at Hurst Park when two large "lodgings" boats arrived on 6 June 2018. They were towed by barge from a previous unauthorised mooring below Molesey Lock at Cigarette Island, where Elmbridge had been taking court action to have them removed. As of late December 2019, they are still at Sadlers Ride slipway, Hurst Park.

The total had reached three, but the Environment Agency objected to encroachment into the navigation and two remain. There are a further two currently (December 2018) moored below Molesey Lock, all without authorisation.

The authorities assure us that they continue to take action.

There is little that residents and park users can do, but Molesey North Councillor Steve Bax tells us that he and other local elected members are working with the authorities and local people to keep us informed. Meanwhile, colonies of unauthorised live-aboard and wrecked vessels moored to the Surrey bank between Molesey and Sunbury Locks have been thinned out by the Environment Agency, which took action during autumn 2018 to clear the worst. Some were in such a state of disrepair they had sunk; others are occupied.

Although not in Hurst Park, there is keen interest in the area around Hampton Court Station. Cllr Mike Axton informs us that a new planning application is being submitted, following a consultation exercise held at the Thames Motor Yacht Club on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 June.

THE NATURE OF HURST MEADOWS - A film BANNED by the Molesey Residents Association
26 March 2018
There was an invitation to show this charming five minute nature film at Molesey Residents' Association AGM at the close of the formal meeting. The film has been shot entirely in Hurst Meadows by local people - a celebration of the flora, fauna and river landscape. But as local residents arrived to set it up, they found MRA Chairman Nigel Cooper barring them at the door. Elmbridge Council Leader and Molesey Councillor Stuart Selleck, inside the hall, confirmed the ban, calling the film "political". If you attended thinking you would see The Nature of Hurst Park, this is why it was not screened.

The film, produced by the Panorama of the Thames Project in 2013, has been seen up and down the river at the invitation of organisations from Hampton to Westminster, and widely acclaimed and enjoyed.

To ensure Molesey residents can see it, here is the link to the film on the Panorama of the Thames website:
The Nature of Hurst Meadows

MOLEY AND RATTY - 16th January 2018
Elmbridge Council has had to remove one of these little wooden playboats, located near the towpath in Hurst Meadows, because its condition had deteriorated beyond repair. The parks team hopes to be able to replace them with other play equipment in due course.

A day-long seminar was held with local people at Imber Court on this flood alleviation scheme. The Friends went along to take notes and feed in local information. The report here has been written with the Environment Agency.
Tap here to see a report from this event, with links to documentation about the Scheme.

Populations of vertebrate animals—such as mammals, birds, and fish—have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. Depressingly, the report highlights an even bigger drop in freshwater species - on average, there’s been an 81% decline over the same period. So more important than ever to look after what we have here in Hurst Meadows and along our river Thames.
Read the report here

A Government briefing highlights the benefits of nature and good quality, accessible, green spaces - especially near water - for our health and wellbeing. These public open spaces - like Hurst Park and Meadows, away from the urban setting - encourage local people to take the 30 minutes of exercise each day that we need for better health. Tap here to see the briefing.

Swimming in the ThamesAlthough there was once a bathing station at Hurst Park, the Environment Agency ask us to point out that the river Thames here is not designated bathing water, and as such is not monitored for infectious organisms and human health.

Recently a number of dogs have suffered intestinal illness after swimming in the river and in the past few years people too have fallen sick - most notably about 300 swimmers picking up a gastrointenstinal infection in 2013.

Read here about medical advice on swimming in the Thames.

If you or your dogs become ill after contact with river water we'd be grateful if you would let the Friends of Hurst Park know so that we can log incidents - as far as we are aware records are not kept. Local people suspect it is a recent phenomonum caused by release of effluent from 40-50 unauthorised residential boats without access to any services moored upstream of Hurst Park.

See also other references: here | here | here | here | and here

There are regular reports of fish poaching - either fishermen killing and removing their catch rather than returning fish to the river, or using illegal nets. Netting has been reported along Hurst Park. If you see any fish poaching, report it immediately to the Environment Agency incident hotline (0800 80 70 60), and we would be grateful to hear about it to build up a picture of this illegal activity that depletes our river stocks.


Autumn Squill on Hurst Park
The very rare plant, Autumn Squill, growing on Hurst Park ©John Inglis

Autumn squill, a delightful little blue flower which is rare in Great Britain, has been confirmed to be growing in Hurst Park. This is the only recorded location for this plant in the county of Surrey. The discovery adds yet another rare species to our wonderful Hurst Park environment, following on from the identification in 2013 of Great Burnet in the Little Meadows.

There has since been a further discovery: sea stork's bill, close to the slipway by the car parking area. This is an odd, very rare, little plant and there are several colonies thriving in the area.

Events in the park

See our earlier news