Surrey Hills Symposium

Our Natural Health Service

We were delighted to support the Surrey Hills AONB Symposium, which was organised by the AONB team and our Chairman, Gordon Jackson, in his capacity as Chairman of the Advisory Panel for the Surrey Hills Trust Fund. This was a great event which brought together over 400 people with an interest in the Surrey Hills.

The theme of the Symposium was the importance of nature in improving society’s health and well being and we were honoured that Dame Penelope Keith, as Patron of the Surrey Hills, opened the evening and introduced the first guest speaker.

We heard a fascinating talk from Dr William Bird MBE, who founded the Walking for Health charity, which demonstrated the many medical benefits that are associated with being out in the countryside.

This was followed by a talk from Professor Caroline Scarles from the University of Surrey, who presented her research about Living Environments for Healthy Ageing. We heard how tests have shown that the elderly derive great benefits from experiencing the countryside through immersive technology even though they have been unable to go outside. In some cases this even encouraged people, who had not previously ventured out for some considerable time, to go on walks and enjoy the outdoors.

Dr Birgitta Gatersleben, also from the University of Surrey, concluded the presentations by giving the audience a brief summary of the findings of a research project carried out by Genevieve Lebus, under Birgitta’s supervision, entitled “Into the Wild”. This project was commissioned by the Surrey Hills Trust Fund in association with LC Energy and the University.

The detailed research runs to 100 pages and highlights the significant deprivation that exists in some parts of Surrey and identifies that some 10,000 young people aged between 5 and 15 suffer from mental health issues. It also reviews the many studies that demonstrate how young people’s health and well being can benefit significantly from being outdoors. There is clear evidence that mental health issues can start at a very young age and early intervention can prevent a person suffering later in life.

The study also identifies youth groups in Surrey that would like to do more in the countryside, as well as those that could help and the barriers that are encountered.

There was an enthusiastic question and answer session at the end of the presentations and the evening was concluded by the High Sheriff, Bridget Biddell, whose theme for her shrieval year is “Nurturing through Surrey’s Nature”. Gordon Jackson promised that the Surrey Hills Trust Fund and the AONB would establish a steering group to spearhead a concerted effort to work with all interested parties so as to develop ways to improve the opportunities for Surrey’s youth. The focus would be on young people from deprived areas and would look at ways to overcome barriers in order to capitalise on the many opportunities that already exist and facilitate engagement with the countryside through our beautiful Surrey Hills.

The presentations and the full text of the Into the Wild research project can be seen at

Our Royal Visit

Neil Maltby, Gordon Jackson, HRH Earl of Wessex, Chris Howard, Ken Bare

Earl of Wessex presents the Surrey Hills Society with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

The Earl of Wessex KG GCVO presented The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) to the Surrey Hills Society on Wednesday 6 November 2019 at a ceremony attended by over 40 of our volunteers.  The presentation took place at Albury Old Saxon Church.  The Award has been presented to the Society for “encouraging people to explore and learn about the special qualities of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”.  It is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities and was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of HM The Queen’s coronation.

Before presenting the Award, the Earl, HRH Prince Edward, spent time talking to the Society’s volunteers about the work that they do.  He heard about the Heritage Lottery funded Tales of the Tillingbourne project, which sought to encourage various communities along the valley of the River Tillingbourne to engage in the unique and beautiful landscape by researching its industries, promoting heritage trails throughout, capturing local knowledge through oral histories, and monitoring and recording the ecology of the river. Part of the legacy of the project is a permanent display at Shere Museum that includes 7 (1.2m high) puppets, that were specially loaned for the occasion.

The Earl was shown a short play by Nick White of Geeyou entitled “Tales of the Wey”, which the Society hopes to develop as part of a sequel to the Tales of the Tillingbourne Project.

His Royal Highness was also presented with two books.  One entitled, “Our Changing Landscape”, written and researched by Society Vice President Ken Bare, tells how the Surrey Hills AONB came into being 60 years ago and how the area has changed since.  The other “Walks for All Ages” was written by the Society’s other Vice President, Christine Howard and features 20 Surrey Walks ranging from 2 to 6 miles long. 

The Earl heard how we promote the special protected landscape and cultural heritage of the Surrey Hills, through activities such as:

  • manning stalls at local shows handing out free walks leaflets and showcasing the special attractions of the area
  • giving talks to other groups and organisations
  • running local interest events to educate Society members and residents
  • leading free walks across the county
  • supporting and promoting the work of other related charities

Our volunteers share a passion for everything to do with the Surrey Hills – from its wonderful flora and fauna and rare habitats to its unique culture and heritage, and 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.   

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

Exploring Reigate

We were extremely lucky to have a window of some beautiful weather for our Reigate town walk on Sunday.  Twenty four people took part including several people who did as it says you can and just turned up on the day.  There are many surprises behind the high street that we don’t normally see as we drive through – including some Tudor buildings and the remnants of the castle.  Whilst most of the party repaired to the café in the park for coffee, some enthusiasts took the opportunity to explore further into Priory Park. A good Sunday morning stroll.

Cage Yard