We were warmly greeted by Emily Caröe on our visit to Vann House Garden and by her brother Oliver, an architect and the grandson of the eminent Arts and Crafts architect W.D. Caröe. Oliver gave us a very informative introductory talk about the history of the house and its occupants including some of its illustrious visitors.
The house which is Tudor in origin (c. 1540) has undergone many alterations and additions since when it was formerly a yeoman’s house built on heavy Wealden clay but later made into a comfortable house for country house parties.
W.D. Caröe originally leased Vann House in 1906, before eventually purchasing it in 1930. He and his wife, the actress Grace Rendall, proceeded to lay out the garden in 1907-1908 and in 1911 their friend Gertrude Jekyll came from her home in Munstead to design the water garden. In 1948 the property passed to the next generation of Caröes in whose ownership it has been for 5 generations.
After coffee and delicious home-made cookies we were then left to explore the wonderful 5 acre garden at our leisure. Features included the yew walk, a Bargate stone pergola, superb vegetable garden, woodland glades of cyclamen and much else. The family have always had little help in the garden with now only two part-time gardeners.
Our visit here was a most enjoyable event at a unique venue (ours was the only group visit this year), not only because of its garden but also because of the architectural interest in the house itself.
Friday produced yet another perfect day for our Walkfest walk in the Pirbright area. This walk started at the Royal Oak and cut across Cobettshill Common before joining a short section of the Fox Way through the Leapingbar Copse towards Henley Park House. The Fox Way is a 39-mile circular walk through the beautiful and varied countryside around Guildford devised by RichardFox – it can be completed in 7 easy stages and more detail can be found here
This was a delightful woodland walk taking in some beautifully maintained ancient deciduous woodland, where we admired an old oak that is thought to be nearly four hundred years old.
We then crossed to the statuesque pine forest, managed by the Forestry Commission, that borders Henley Park Lake. The glittering sunshine showed off the lake to its best advantage and our walkers were fascinated to hear about the history of Henley Park that dates back to 727 AD and Baron Lord Pirbright, a conservative MP in the late 19th century, who was a great benefactor to the local village and leased Henley Park House as a country retreat.
Many of you will be aware that the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has adjacent land designated as Areas of Great Landscape Value (AGLV). In essence, these are parts of Surrey which fell outside the AONB boundary when the original map was created but which are widely considered to have equivalent importance and contribute to the overall landscape quality of the Surrey Hills.
For many years, there have been initiatives to revisit this topic with the desire to see more of the AGLV incorporated in the AONB and hence provide it with greater protection. One of the greatest stumbling blocks has always been the complexity of a formal review and the need for Natural England (and its predecessors) to allocate significant resources to such a review. This was exacerbated by the fact that no AONB boundary reviews had taken place elsewhere and hence they had no model for the task.
Natural England finally bit the bullet of a review of another AONB in Suffolk and promised that Surrey would be next on the list once they had completed Suffolk as a pilot. The Suffolk review is now complete and there has been a widespread expectation that the Surrey Hills review would now commence – with the AONB Board and others publicly commenting on that expectation. However, continuing a saga which has continued for well over a decade, Natural England is continuing to hold back from initiating this review.
The current explanations are that the Glover Review on the future of National Parks and AONBs means that more work is needed on following through on those recommendations – and Government has been tardy in actually responding to the Review and progressing it. They also claim that although they are still supportive, they cannot progress until DEFRA provide them with the funding and resource to implement it.
Needless to say, the AONB Board and many other groups are becoming exceeding frustrated by this prevarication. At the recent AONB Board meeting, Members reiterated that there was an urgent need to review the AONB Boundary and agreed to support Natural England on a new streamlined procedure for AONB designation. The Chairman of the AONB Board has written various letters to Natural England’s Chief Executive and others at a similar level and has had discussions with Glover and various local MPs. Claire Coutinho, MP for Tandridge, has taken up the issue on our behalf and other MPs such as Jeremy Hunt have become involved.
There is a feeling that the only way that this boundary review will be progressed in a timely manner is if the pressure for it is continued and shown to be widespread. At the recent AONB Board meeting there was agreement that all groups, and individuals who were in a position to do so, should add their weight to the case being presented to Natural England and also direct to DEFRA.
For our part, the SHS Chairman has written to the Chief Executive of Natural England emphasising how important SHS believes this review to be.
The Society has also been approached by CPRE to ask our members to support a petition that has been started by them. Whilst the Society normally avoids getting involved with planning matters – which are the remit of the AONB Planning Adviser and the local councils – in this case, the topic is of such wide interest and of importance to people right across the county, we feel that we should make you aware of the petiton so that you may act accordingly. The link is https://www.change.org/SurreyHillsAONB
As a Society, we feel strongly that much of the AGLV land should be incorporated within the AONB and that the review should be expedited so that the uncertainty can be removed. We will be playing our part in trying to achieve this.
Green hatched area = AONB Blue hatched area = AGLV
Here are a selection of images taken on today’s most enjoyable walk organised by our Vice President, Chris Howard. With 21 of us, Chris organised 3 separate groups who all set off in different directions . We heard all about George Frederick Watts, his wife Mary how the Watts Gallery Artists’ Village has evolved over the years.
After our leisurely Sunday stroll in he sunshine, some of us then popped into the Tea Room. You are right Chris, this is a fascinating little Surrey Hills treasure.
The first in our month of guided walks in conjunction with Guildford Walkfest. Perfect weather, a great group of walkers and an interesting 4 mile route around Ripley village. Papercourt Lake, along the River Wey navigations passing Newark Abbey, to the weir near Dunsborough Park and back to the village green where the cricket match was about to start. How quintessentially English is that!
Everyone said how much they enjoyed their walk today. There are still some places available on some of our Walkfest walks during September, so why not come and join us – all you have to do is book online.