A big “Thank You” to all our Volunteers

On 2nd June it was announced that the Surrey Hills Society had received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS). This award honours the outstanding contribution of all our Surrey Hills Society volunteers in their support for the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).  It is the equivalent of an MBE and, as it states on the official website, “It is granted to exceptional volunteer groups across the UK who are making a positive impact on the lives of others.”

The selection process is rigorous, looking at all aspects of what the Society has been doing in recent years and how it achieves the objectives for which it was created.  But more than these processes, it is the people who make our organisation such a success.  We identified that there are currently approximately 70 active volunteers who give their time freely to support the Society across a range of activities.  Amongst these are our Trustees and management team, members of various sub-teams who deal with communications, events, our newsletter, membership, support at shows, finance, administration and so on. These people are the life blood of the Society and their work enables all our members – and those that we connect with through all our activities – to enjoy, enhance and conserve the Surrey Hills AONB.

But it is not only our current band of volunteers to whom we dedicate this Award success.  We could never have created such as successful and vibrant charity if it had not been for the hard work and foresight of those who helped establish the Society and have supported us throughout the years.  Many names come to mind but three in particular deserve a special mention. 

Neil Maltby (left) with Peter Hattersley, a very long serving Shows volunteer

Our founding chairman – Neil Maltby – steered us through our first three years and is now our President.  Neil’s contacts and enthusiasm gave us the firm foundations from which we are still benefiting.

June Robinson (right) with Diane Cooper, our Marketing and Communications Team Leader

June Robinson came on board as a paid administrator but did far more hours as a volunteer than she ever did in return for payment.  June not only managed the Chairman and Trustees and kept the organisation pointing in the right direction but she was also the “go to” person when we needed input on Arts related matters or contacts in the area. Added to that, June was such a highly motivated volunteer that she was a major player in driving the Society forward through those early years. She famously said that she would have finished her job when she had made herself redundant.  By that she meant that all her work had been passed on to competent volunteers.  She succeeded and moved on to other activities – but is still a very supportive member.

Another founder member who had a major impact on the direction of the Society was Graham Butler who, sadly, died recently.  Graham was the first chairman of our Events team and it was he who instigated the early elements of our walks programme which now goes from strength to strength. 

Graham Butler (right) with other Founder Members who volunteered during our early years

Again, his breadth of knowledge gained via his role with the Ramblers and similar organisations, enabled us to kick start our events programme and create activities which our members wanted to take part in.  This then provided an engine to drive membership growth and support the rest of our work.

Over the years, many volunteers have been part of what makes the Society special and we thank all of them for their contributions.  One of the things which differentiates the Surrey Hills Society from many other charities and volunteer groups is that our remit is to promote, and conserve the Surrey Hills AONB but we don’t own or have responsibility for any land.  Thus we are able to work with, and support, any other relevant organisations across the AONB to our mutual benefit.  As an “umbrella” organisation we can work with other charities (large or small) and are quite happy for our members to head off and work with them if they find a topic of interest.  For example, we have members who volunteer with the National Trust in various roles – in some cases as the result of an interest triggered by one of our visits.  Another one took part in a visit to a therapy garden at Dorking, joined their team and this year that group has also been awarded the QAVS.  There are many more examples of our members becoming volunteers either with us or with partner organisations.  The key point is that all of them are doing things which they enjoy and that benefit the long term future of the Surrey Hills AONB.

Volunteers come from all age groups and backgrounds, with different skill sets and with differing interests or amounts of free time.  We have opportunities for all of them to help grow the Society so that we can show to the world that not only were we good enough to get the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2019 but that we are using it as a launch pad to get even better and more successful in future years.

A massive “Thank You” and “Congratulations” to all our volunteers – past and present.

Surrey Hills Society receives The Queens Award for Voluntary Service

More than 70 Surrey Hills Society volunteers have been recognised for their outstanding contributions in support of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as a result of the Surrey Hills Society receiving The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is the equivalent of an MBE for volunteer groups.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of HM The Queen’s Coronation.

Surrey Hills Society volunteers promote this special protected landscape in many different ways, ranging from:

  • Manning our stall at local shows across the county, handing out free walks leaflets and showcasing the special attractions of the area
  • Giving talks to other groups and organisations
  • Running events to educate our members and residents about the area
  • Leading free walks across the county
  • Supporting and promoting the work of other related charities

Our volunteers share their passion for everything to do with the Surrey Hills – from its wonderful flora and fauna and rare habitats to its unique culture and heritage, as well as its leisure opportunities. They also collaborate with other organisations across the Surrey Hills to raise funds for agreed worthwhile projects within the area, which benefits both wildlife and the residents of Surrey.

Representing all the award-winning volunteers, former Vice Chairman, Ken Bare and his wife Angela Hume, who is also a volunteer with the Surrey Hills, attended a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace recently to celebrate the charity’s success. Along with Chris Howard, Ken is probably the most well-known volunteer with the Society, as he has been the lead at shows and fetes across Surrey for the last ten years and is also the main public speaker for the talks programme that is delivered to a variety of organisations across the south east.

Ken said: “It was such a privilege to be invited to Buckingham Palace. Being a representative for all the volunteers across the Surrey Hills was a great honour. It was a wonderful occasion and we were lucky enough to have a beautiful sunny day to enjoy the magnificent garden at its best.”

Meanwhile all volunteers from the charity will be celebrating later this year, when the Surrey Hills Society will be presented with the award by Michael More-Molyneux, Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey.

Gordon Jackson, Chairman of the Society, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive this Queen’s Award, which recognises the huge voluntary contribution this relatively young charity has made to this county. I am so pleased that our volunteers have been given the recognition that they deserve and we look forward to continuing to promote the iconic and distinctive landscape of the Surrey Hills and to help discover and conserve our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”.

Current Vice President, Chris Howard, who was Chairman of the Society for seven years and stood down only last year said “We hope our volunteers feel extremely proud of the recognition that this award represents. They have all been so wonderful to work with and many have become my dearest friends”. Chris added: “I would recommend volunteering with the Surrey Hills Society to anyone who shares a passion for the Surrey Hills’ unique landscape and wants to learn more about this wonderful countryside on their doorstep.”

Celebrating the North Downs Way with Farnham Walking Festival

Surrey Hills Society Walk Leaders Pete Lambert, Chris Howard and Ken Bare led 21 walkers along the North Downs Way National Trail from Farnham to Chilworth, as part of this year’s Farnham Walking Festival. 

The North Downs Way is one of 15 nationally designated trails in the UK, which covers 153 miles from Farnham to Canterbury. Farnham Walking Festival is now in its third year. The Surrey Hills Society has led a walk along the trail each year as part of the festival.

Walk Leader Chris Howard said “We are delighted to support the Farnham Walking Festival and provide this walk each year.  It is such an interesting walk, covering 14 miles of varied terrain from flat sandy farmland at the start, through woodlands and pretty villages like Puttenham, before climbing the Downs towards Guildford at the ruined chapel of St Catherine’s. After crossing the river the route passes over Shalford Park and up into the picturesque woodlands of the Chantries. The final ascent of the day is to St Martha’s Chapel, where you are rewarded with fantastic views over the Tillingbourne Valley. The walk finishes by following a path through the ruined Gunpowder Mills of Chilworth.”

The day came to its end with a relaxing drink at the Percy Arms Pub to finish off the day before returning to Farnham via the adjacent train station.