Teenage gatherings at Fetcham Splash prompt calls for River Mole wardens

An upsurge in reports of anti-social behaviour at the Splash has led to a call for the appointment of two full-time river wardens, or rangers, to deter teenagers gathering in the area.

One resident in River Lane has told the FRA that in recent weeks 50-80 children and teenagers have been visiting the area every day, causing damage and leaving large amounts of litter.

It’s thought that many of the teenagers are coming to the area by train from Sutton and Cheam.  Police have dispersed the young people on some occasions but residents say they have simply returned later.

The recruitment of river wardens has been suggested by Lucy Quinnell, Chair of the Leatherhead and District Countryside Protection Society.

In a letter to local councillors, the FRA and other interested parties, she says:

“I strongly believe that the whole Leatherhead/Fetcham stretch of the Mole badly needs a couple of dedicated rangers/wardens.  They would essentially be ecology-biased conservation and maintenance workers based along the Mole, but who - like every good countryside ranger and conservation volunteer - would also act as eyes and ears, and stewards, and friendly faces to reassure people and engage with people.

"We have had great success in Teazle Wood with young people moving from anti-social behaviour to engagement and friendliness. My personal experience is that they respond pretty well when we let them initiate the conversations - we are simply 'there' doing what we do (litter picking or scrub clearance or surveying) and after a while one of them usually speaks to us and we then have good chats.”

Fetcham Splash and adjacent land has become a magnet for young people in recent weeks.

Earlier this month a Joint Action Group consisting of Surrey Police, Mole Valley District Council, and Surrey Clubs for Young People was set up to tackle anti-social behaviour at the Splash, and at other places in Fetcham such as the Cock Lane Recreation Ground.

Surrey County Councillor Tim Hall (Leatherhead and Fetcham East), is also part of the group.  He believes the idea of wardens having a presence has much to commend it, but the rangers may have to cover a wider area than simply the Leatherhead section of the Mole.

FRA Chairman Tim Waller said: “I think Lucy Quinnell’s idea of river wardens working in the area would be welcomed by residents and should be seriously considered.”

The FRA would also encourage residents who witness anti-social behaviour around the Splash, or in the Cock Lane area to report it to Surrey Police online, or via 101. If you believe a crime is in progress, or someone is in danger, call 999. Incidents can also be reported to MVDC’s Joint Enforcement Team. Simply posting a comment on social media will not provide sufficient evidence for any official action.

River wardens or rangers could also arrange for the clearance of fallen trees, acting as eyes and ears for the Mole between Leatherhead and Fetcham. All pictures courtesy of Lucy Quinnell.

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