A CROWD-FUNDING campaign set up to help restore Thursley Common “to its beautiful best” after a devastating wildfire has smashed through its initial £20,000 target within just six days of its launch.

The online ‘Preserve Our Reserve’ fundraising page – at www.gofundme.com/f/preserve-our-reserve-thursley-nnr-support-fund – was jointly created by Elstead and Thursley parish councils on Wednesday last week, in response to an outpouring of offers of support from the community.

Around 470 acres of the precious heathland habitat were destroyed in the blaze.

Funds will be used for initial clearance work to make the area safe and to promote early regeneration of the flora and fauna, as well as longer-term preservation projects focusing on restoring the habitat as quickly as possible.

And donations are still welcomed for further longer-term projects including part-time wardens, the replacement and enhancement of information boards and fire safety measures to reduce the risk of a further blaze.

Elstead Parish Council chairman Patrick Murphy said: “We are so very grateful for the extraordinary generosity, which has quite exceeded our expectations.

“We will welcome further donations which will enable us to do a lot more than we had initially planned.”

Launching the campaign, Elstead and Thursley parish councils said in a joint statement: “The level of public support following the devastating fire on Thursley National Nature Reserve has been overwhelming – and we are now extremely anxious to harness all the kind offers of help that we have received.

“While many would like to help in a practical way on the common, others have said they would like to make a financial contribution.

“As a result, Elstead and Thursley parish councils have got together to launch the ‘Preserve Our Reserve’ campaign, to raise funds both to help restore the common to its beautiful best, and also to support longer-term projects, so everyone can enjoy the common safely for many years to come.

“Careful consideration will be given over the months ahead by James Giles, the reserve manager, and his Natural England colleagues, as to what projects should be prioritised.

“The aim of the fund will be to help meet the capital cost of these projects.”

Donations can be made via cheque (payable to ‘Elstead Parish Council’ c/o The Clerk, Woodview, Red House Lane, Elstead, GU8 6DS), while those wishing to volunteer should email [email protected]