AGM at Gatton Park

On Saturday 22 October the Society held its 14th Annual General Meeting at the prestigious venue of Gatton Park.

52 members attended and were welcomed by our President, Chris Howard, who also thanked them for their continuing support.

This was followed by reports from the Chairman, Gordon Jackson; Chair of Events Committee, Sall Baring; Project and Volunteer Coordinator, Christa Emmett and the Treasurer, Martin Cantor.  All these reports are available to read here.

The Park and Garden’s Manager, Dan Ryan then gave a short talk about Capability Brown with particular reference to his design of the historic Gatton Park landscaped gardens.

After a most enjoyable lunch, three Gatton volunteers led tours around the park and gardens, accommodating everyone’s requirements even including a private tour for one lucky lady!


Those with mobility issues were given a ride down to the Japanese garden – much appreciated by those who took it.


We learnt that a key part of Brown’s design for Gatton was a series of ponds which culminated in the main lake.

Main lake by Ian Wells    

Gatton from Main Lake by Ian Wells









The lake is around 30 acres in size, the main body of it narrows to the north to form an area which is known as the Panhandle. The lake has two islands, one of which is home to the only Heronry on private land in Surrey and the other supports many other species of wildfowl.

Walking through the park we went down to the Japanese Garden to see the changes that have recently been made, including new steps to improve access. The rock garden has also been recently renovated and it is around that area that there is a beautiful display of snowdrops in February.

We then went onto St. Andrew’s Church where our volunteer guide, Alan gave us a brief history of the church and drew our attention to the stained glass windows and memorial plaque of Jeremiah and Mary Coleman. Sir Jeremiah Colman, of mustard fame, was the last owner of the Gatton estate before it was left to The Royal Alexandra and Albert School.

Rock Garden

Old Town Hall





Group photo at Japanese Garden by Ian Wells















Quotes received from members include:

“I enjoyed my day at Gatton Park and found the AGM talks very useful. The day ran so smoothly thanks to your efficient organisation and as a result of what I learned I hope to encourage more residents from this village to join the SHS.”

“It was a super setting and was very informative. I learnt today how far reaching the Society is and that there is more to it than arranging events for us to explore the Surrey Hills which I, for one, appreciate very much. The lunch was pretty good, too!”

“Excellent AGM.  One of the best.  Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make ut such a success.”

Today’s walk in Dorking

We scheduled a walk in Dorking as one of our Free Walks of the Month this year to mark the 150th anniversary of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ birth and he lived in or near Dorking as a child and later in life so we were searching for evidence of his time there.

You do not need to search very hard for he has left a living legacy in Dorking. He was involved in the establishment of the Leith Hill Music Festival and was its principal conductor from its beginning in 1905 until 1953. The festival continues to this day and celebrates the number of choirs in the area who come together to compete. RVW believed that music should exist in the community and so was a real supporter attending rehearsals and conducting the performances.

As part of this, he was one of the people involved in getting the Dorking Halls built. This is a beautiful art deco building which has now been refurbished and continues to be a venue for cinema and cultural events of all types.

The walk took us through the town and up onto the Nower. The views from here towards the North Downs are amazing. The path then took us down to cross the A25 and walk back along the bottom of the slopes of Ranmore. Several people commented that they did not know there was such beautiful countryside so close to Dorking town. The weather had cleared up just in time and it was a very pleasant Sunday morning walk.

When we rejoined the road to head back into Dorking, we passed the spot where the house White Gates where the Vaughan Williams lived used to stand. It would be easy to imagine that he wrote the Lark Ascending here looking over the leas running along the base of the North Downs. This cannot be the case as he wrote it in 1914 but it could easily have been instigated by his time at Leith Hill Place in his youth. Certainly his time in Dorking and its surrounds gave him a love of the country.

So there is a statue outside the Dorking Halls and there is a bronze relief memorial in the porch of St Martin’s Church, both of which we saw. The cultural activities which he helped to establish have left living reminders of his time there and have had a lasting effect on the town.



Stella and Martin Cantor