Volunteers needed for arts projects!

There are two upcoming opportunities to volunteer on some interesting Surrey Hills Arts projects. You can offer just an hour of your time towards these activities which play an important part in making them happen.

Firstly, you can volunteer to come up to the beautiful viewpoint at Winterfold on Tuesday 21st April to assist in assembling some cedar shingles on ‘Perspectives’ the sculptural shelter created by artist Giles Miller. These newly engraved shingles are part of our current project raising funds for the Surrey Hills Trust Fund.  See www.inspiringviews.org

Secondly, you can volunteer to be a steward at an outdoor performance at Waverley Abbey on Saturday 6th June. There will be two site-specific performances that day that last just an hour. There will be six performers joined by six dance students from the University of Surrey who are creating a new piece together and allowing visitors to experience this stunning, historic site in a new way. We are delighted that this project has received Arts Council funding. We will need a body of volunteers to assist directing people to the site and cars into the car park.

For either of these opportunities, please contact Ali Clarke, sa.visual@surreycc.gov.uk

A big thanks to Jeff

Jeff, Gordon and Sall

At our recent visit to the Surrey Copper Gin Distillery, I was delighted to present Jeff Holliday with a bottle of Albury Estate Sparkling Wine in recognition of all his hard work over many years as Chairman of the Events Committee.  Last year the Events Committee oversaw nearly 60 events and Jeff has done an enormous amount to ensure that we are able to put on a varied programme that promotes everything that is good about the Surrey Hills.  Although Jeff is standing down as Chairman, he will continue to be as active as ever with the Surrey Hills Society.  Jeff will continue on the Events Committee to support our new Chairman, Sall Baring (pictured here) and we are working hard at the moment on developing an exciting series of events for the Summer and Autumn.

Gordon Jackson

Gin in the Surrey Hills

We are so grateful to Chris Smart and his daughter, Sarah, for introducing us to the amazing family business that is the Surrey Copper Gin Distillery. Founded in 2017 and based at Unit 222 at Dunsfold Aerodrome, we heard how this Surrey Hills Enterprises business has succeded in a competitive market. 

Craft gin has become something of a phenomenon over recent years with young people in particular being keen aficionados of speciality gins. Often pubs now carry an extensive menu of different gins. Gin sales in the UK reached £2.3 billion last year, far exceeding whisky sales.

Our members learnt how the gin is handcrafted in small batches in a copper pot still using a blend of botanicals inspired by historical recipes discovered in library archives.  The botanicals include Juniper Berries, Orris Root, Angelica, Lemon Peel, Coriander, Pink Peppercorns, Cubeb Berries, Rose Petals, Hibiscus, Elderflower and Lavender.  The gin is gently distilled to release spirit vapours which pass through the carefully selected blended botanicals.  This spirit vapour infusion yields fragrant flavours and aromas to create an inimitable and elegant gin.

The gin still at The Surrey Copper Distillery is very special. She is a 300 litre Mini Carterhead designed specifically by one of the world’s leading craft distillery manufacturers, Green Engineering of Italy. Green Engineering not only bring a tremendous amount of technical expertise to still design, but as craftsmen with typical Italian flair also produce beautiful stills.  The still  has been named “Clara” after  the mother of Charles Dicken’s David Copperfield.  The literary theme has been continued with the two signature gins being named David Copperfield Volume 1 and Volume 2 and the gin bottle being rectangular in the shape of a book, with historic recipes on the inside of the label.  Volume 1 was based on the oldest gin recipe that could be found, dating back to the 1700’s. Volume 2 is juniper-led and exceptionally smooth with fragrant floral notes and subtle hints of spice.  

A further Volume is on the way after the huge success of a new recipe created especially for the Craft Gin Society, which became a Christmas 2019 Best Seller.

After a fabulous afternoon tasting the gin and hearing so much about the distilling process, we left reflecting on how lucky we are to have such exciting small businesses flourishing in the Surrey Hills.

Gordon Jackson 14 February 2020

Fascinating Farnham

For February’s free walk, which we organise for the first Sunday of the month, we headed off to Farnham.  In the winter months we try to organise walks which make use of hard surfaces and hence an exploration of some of Farnham’s hidden delights made an ideal theme.  Clearly, others agreed because we had over 40 people who booked to join us for the visit.

The event was led by our two vice-presidents – Chris Howard and Ken Bare – who split the group into two and took us off in different directions around the town. 

We all covered the same territory but by having the smaller groups, we could all hear what our leaders had to say about the sights and history we came across along the way.  And it was fascinating!

We heard about famous Farnham people such as William Cobbett, JM Barrie, George Sturt (aka George Bourne) and John Henry Knight – plus of course – the Bishop of Winchester. 

Farnham Castle, looking out over the town, has been the seat of the Bishop since 1138 and our exploration of the Keep and enjoyment of the views over Surrey from this vantage point was definitely one of the high points (pun intended) of the morning.

But the tour took in much more than the well-known sights.  We discovered “mathematical tiles” small tiles which look like bricks and were used to face old buildings when bricks first became fashionable. 

Our guides had obviously been doing their homework because another hidden gem which they showed us was the ceiling in a jewellers shop (20a West Street).  This a unique 17th century ornate plaster work produced as an example for the Earl of Shaftsbury to enable him to see what his own ceiling would look like. This was worth a visit to Farnham in its own right!

Farnham has a fascinating history.  Having become rich from agriculture – and the connections with the Bishop of Winchester – it then had a second period of wealth creation by becoming the centre of hop production. Farnham hops were considered to be the best in the country and were priced accordingly.  This led to many of the houses being “improved” by the addition of Georgian frontages although in many cases these were tacked onto the front of much older properties.

There was so much to see.  Our guides made the point that we had only had time to look at a small number of the gems which make Farnham such a fascinating town to visit.  It is certainly worth going back and spending a whole day just exploring more of what there is to see.  Many of the group obviously thought so because several commented that they wanted to return and investigate further.

Come and join us next month, we are exploring Newlands Corner.