Wisley Airfield, an abandoned runway in Surrey

by Ian Tokelove
Moss grows on Wisley Airport's abandoned runway.

Wisley Airfield is a disused WW2 airfield in Surrey. It sits just beyond the M25, to the south west of Greater London.

The runways are slowly succumbing to nature, soft in places with moss. Cracks and grooves in the concrete support vegetation, growing in grids and lines.

The runway is criss-crossed by public rights-of-way, so access is easy, but few people visit here. Not far away, on the other side of the A3, the car parks of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Gardens are often packed, but they might as well be a world away.

The runway at Wisley Airfield was in use between 1942 and 1973. They were initially used for dispersing aircraft (mainly Vickers Wellington bombers produced nearby) and later for flight testing.

Abandoned runway at Wisley Airport
The main abandoned runway at Wisley Airport

No notable structures remain from the airfield’s days, although a relatively modern VOR beacon stands in a neighbouring field. This low, circular structure sends out navigational radio signals for any listening aircraft. With the widespread adoption of navigation by GPS, the beacon’s days may also soon be numbered.

Green Belt brownfield

Wisley Airfield is part of the Green Belt, and while the airfield is not especially green in the traditional sense, it does provide valuable open space and a buffer to development. In 2018 a plan to build a ‚Äėnew town‚Äô of more than 2,000 houses on the airfield was rejected on appeal.

At Wisley Airfield, cracks and grooves in the concrete support vegetation which grows in grids and lines
Grasses and wildflowers grow along the linear cracks and grooves of the airfield.

With a bit of work this could be a fantastic brownfield nature reserve. Concrete, once softened and broken to create lots of little niches, can be great for wildlife.

For now, the local farmer ploughs and plants right up to the edge of the runway. Aside from the occasional dog walker, you are unlikely to see anyone else up here.

Abandoned runway at Wisley Airport
The abandoned runway stretches away to the horizon

Getting to Wisley Airfield

We walked down to Wisley Airfield from West Byfleet Rail Station (regular trains out of Waterloo), following the Wey Navigation before cutting across to Ockham Mill. From there, Mill Lane took us to the A3 (cross with caution) before taking a footpath onto the airfield.

We returned via RHS Wisley and the beautiful Wisley Common. A footbridge over the thundering M25 leads to paths and quiet residential roads to the rail station at Byfleet and New Haw.

More information

Ukairfieldguide (dot) net/airfields/Wisley ‚Äď an informative but insecure link


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