Chairman’s Day in Buckland on 14 July 2021

How lucky we were to chose the first sunny day for several weeks for Chairman’s Day at Buckland.

Our morning started at the home of our guide for the day – local historian Duncan Ferns. Yewdells is a Grade II listed building built in 1713 and we enjoyed our welcome tea and coffee in Duncan’s delightful garden, which he personally designed. That was not all – situated in the garden is the only surviving wind-powered sawmill in the UK. Built between 1860 and 1870, the mill powered a timber saw and was used by the Sanders family who ran their sawyers business from the site.

Duncan then led us a wonderful tour of Buckland Village, which included a visit to Buckland Parish Church.

There has been a church on this since the Domesday Book and probably earlier. Parts of the church are thought to have been built in 1380 although it was extensively refurbished in 1860.

 

Other highlights of the tour included a visit to the former Old Parsonage where we admired the original late Georgian frontage and the fabulous views across to the North Downs.

We also heard about and visited Buckland’s three village greens, which arose because the entire village was moved to avoid the Plague. The current green is idyllic with a an old timber barn and picturesque village pond along one edge and the Old School and a number of timbered cottages opposite.

Duncan then led us on a 30 minute across the fields and into the Buckland Estate, which is newly open to the public.

Here we enjoyed an excellent meal overlooking Park Lake, which was a former gravel pit.  Buckland Sand has been quarried since the 1920’s. Sand extraction activities were completed in 2014 and whole area has been sensitively restored with a view to reintroding biodiversity. Over 100 bird species have been recorded in the area.

Duncan was ideally placed to tell us all about the area as he was the Estate Manager until very recently. The newly opened Cliffe Cafe served an excellent meal and most of us felt the need to stretch our legs for 40 minutes around the perimeter of the Lake before returning to our cars.

 

All in all a fabulous day which will be remembered by all for some time to come.

Gordon Jackson, Chairman

Butterfly walk near Netley House

This excellent walk was led by Mike Waite, Living Landscapes Officer at the Surrey Wildlife Trust. The weather was perfect for butterflies but Mike is hugely knowledgeable about all wildlife and gave us a real insight into the ecology of the area.

We saw several species of butterfly including the Common Blue, the Speckled Wood and the Red Admiral. We also heard about work of the Butterfly Conservation Trust and the Stepping Stones Project, which is designed to create chalk scrapes planted with kidney vetch, the sole food plant of the Small Blue butterfly. These scrapes have been created at strategic spots between Pewley Down in the West and Denbies Hillside in the East to encourage the colonies that exist in these two places to spread out across the North Downs.

Quite apart from the flora and fauna, we also heard about the history of the Netley Estate particularly during the First and Second World Wars and stood on one of a number of pillboxes that are built on the North Downs ridge to enjoy breathtaking views of Shere and the surrounding countryside beneath us.

Mike also introduced us to several species of Orchid. The Bee Orchid was a special find. This is a fine example of a highly evolved mutual relationship where the plant relys on floral mimicry by imitating the bee upon which it is dependent for pollination.

Gordon Jackson Chairman

Surrey Hills Community Forum – 29 July 2021

 

A FREE Community Forum for parish councils, community groups in the Surrey Hills and all Surrey Hills Society members.

About this event
The Surrey Hills AONB Board and the Surrey Association of Local Councils will be hosting an online Community Forum for parish councils and community groups on Thursday 29 July.

This will be an opportunity to hear about the Surrey Hills Boundary Extension, Making Space for Nature – Greening Communities and the work of the Surrey Hills Family.

Programme:
Welcome and introduction
Liz Cutter, Vice President of SALC and Surrey Hills AONB Board

Update on the Surrey Hills
Rob Fairbanks, Surrey Hills AONB Director

Surrey Hills Boundary Extension
Heather Kerswell,Surrey Hills AONB Chair
Clive Smith, Surrey Hills Planning Adviser

Making Space for Nature – Greening Communities
Liz Cutter, Vice President of SALC and Surrey Hills AONB Board
Caroline Price, Surrey Hills AONB

Q&A
Anne Bott,Deputy CEO SALC

To book a place, visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/surrey-hills-community-forum-2021-tickets-160542118799

The Vineyards of the Surrey Hills

At the Guildford Book Festival in 2020 Oz Clarke spoke about his latest book, “English Wine – From Still to Sparkling – The Newest New World Wine Country”.

An extraordinary transformation has been quietly taking place during the last 20 years.  Although wine has been made in England for over 2000 years – the Romans planted vineyards as far north as Lincolnshire – it would have been hard to find anyone that took English wine seriously during most of that period. Since the turn of the century there has been an ever-increasing interest in the potential for vineyards in England and in 2019 we produced 10.5 million bottles of wine – 72% of which was sparkling.

The harbinger of change occurred in 1998 when Nyetimber’s 1993 Classic Cuvée sparkling wine was awarded the Trophy for the Best Sparkling Wine in the World, shaking the wine establishment to its core.  Since then, a recognition that the chalk geology of the North and South Downs is nearly identical to that in Champagne and the certainty of increasing temperatures because of climate change have led to more and more plantings.  Even some of the great French Champagne Houses such as Taittinger and Vranken-Pommery have begun planting the traditional champagne grape varieties in Kent and Hampshire.

The Surrey Hills is now a recognised wine growing region.  The Vineyards of the Surrey Hills collaborate to market their award-winning wines, although each has its own unique way of promoting a wine experience.

Denbies, owned and run by the White family, is the largest single estate vineyard in the country and produces several internationally award-winning wines.   Dine at the Vineyard or Gallery Restaurants, experience an indoor wine tasting and winery tour or take an outdoor vineyard tour on a train and enjoy the panoramic views of the vineyard and the North Downs.

It was their still Silent Pool Rosé that first put Albury Organic Vineyard on the map when it was served on the Royal Barge to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The brainchild of former IT specialist, Nick Wenman, Albury rigorously apply biodynamic principles to the production of their excellent gold award winning sparkling wines. Again, there are a wide variety of experiences to enjoy: Sparkling Afternoon Tea (with the team from the Dabbling Duck), Biryani and Bubbles (with nearby Mandira’s Kitchen), Bee Keeping Demonstration with Sergio, the Albury Bee Keeper, and Music in the Vineyard to mention just a few.

At High Clandon Bruce and Sybilla Tindale are twice winners of the prestigious IWC Cellar Door of the Year in 2017 and 2018.  They call their sparkling wine Quintessence of England.  And that is certainly the sense you get if you visit the Glass Barn – their new visitor centre where they host sparkling wine tastings alongside Sculpture and Art exhibitions.  Their wildflower meadow enjoys glorious views over the AONB towards London with the boutique vineyard nestling below.

Mike and Hilary Wagstaff took over Greyfriars Vineyard In 2010.  With over 50 acres now planted near their base on the Hogs Back they have dug a cellar out of the chalk that will house 250,000 bottles.  They specialise in making top quality sparkling wines using the traditional method but with the most modern grape growing and winemaking technology.

Mia and Graham Wrigley run the family-owned business at Chilworth Manor that produces excellent Rosé made from 51% Pinot Meunier and 49% Pinot Noir.  Chilworth Manor is a house and estate rooted in an extraordinary 1000 year history that reaches as far back as the Domesday Book – its story told through the lives of Saxons, Normans, monks, and gunpowder manufacturers.  Their 2020 production is already sold out!

There are other wineries in or near the Surrey Hills AONB such as Godstone and Iron Railway and all the signs are that future growth of wineries in the Surrey Hills will be substantial. There are now 222 vineyards in the South East representing 61.5% of the total hectarage in the UK. 26% of winegrowers in England have indicated an intention to plant more vines in the next three years (see Wine GB 2020 Industry Report).

Interestingly, it is not only the wineries that are growing.  There are many breweries and distilleries beginning to flourish in the Surrey Hills.  Keep an eye out for future eNewsletters when we hope to review the exciting things that are happening in this area.

Gordon Jackson

Our Butterflies

Ben Carter has been one of the Society’s younger volunteers for a number of years (he can be seen modelling our SHS fleeces in a photo on our Shop web page).  In this article he explains how recent events have led to his interest in butterflies and introduces some of the conservation initiatives being undertaken in and around the Surrey Hills.

Connecting with nature has been very important for me during the lockdown. During breaks from the computer, following a day of working from home last summer, I would often walk to local parks, countryside and common land near to where I live in Haslemere. Making an effort to feel mindful and connect to the natural space I was in when exploring new areas on my doorstep, I began to notice the different butterflies that were fluttering around. I made records and researched what I had seen. These activities really began to develop my interest in butterflies as well as help to get through long periods of lockdown.

I soon discovered that we are extremely lucky to have 42 different species of butterflies resident in Surrey.  Our diverse landscapes and habitats within the county really encourage a wide range of species. These vary from common garden butterflies, such as the Red Admiral and Large White, to delicate and vibrant Blues that inhabit our chalk grassland. Surrey is also the only remaining refuge in the south-east of the elusive Wood White butterfly, which is one of the rarest in the country.

However, it is clear that despite this biodiversity, butterflies face large challenges in our changing world. According to the charity Butterfly Conservation, ‘76% of the UK’s resident and regular migrant butterflies declined in abundance, occurrence or both over the last four decades.’ Luckily, charities such as this are working hard to stabilise these alarming trends by developing habitat restoration projects. There are various exciting projects that exist locally, which require volunteers, and the Surrey branch of the charity has its own excellent website.

One way for everybody to get involved in conserving butterflies is to take part in the annual ‘Big Butterfly Count’ in July. According to Butterfly Conservation ‘The Big Butterfly Count is a UK-wide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment simply by counting the amount and type of butterflies we see.’ The exciting thing about the count is that anyone can take part, anywhere they like. You could count butterflies from your garden or out in the countryside on a walk. When the next count takes place this summer, I urge everyone to get involved and record what they see. It is an enjoyable experience and provides crucial scientific data.

I don’t profess to be a butterfly expert, but taking part in the Big Butterfly Count last year has really inspired me to join Butterfly Conservation so I can learn more about these amazing, beautiful and important insects. With lockdown easing and being allowed to travel further afield, I am looking forward to discovering more species on my walks. There are still so many butterflies for me to discover within the amazingly varied landscapes of the Surrey Hills.

 

Update from Surrey Hills Arts

This June, you will be able to explore, experience and enjoy the artwork of artists from across Surrey as they welcome the public into their studios for the annual Surrey Artists Open Studios (SAOS) event. SAOS has been running for 21 years and this year there will be 286 artists taking part in 162 studios.

As well as a chance to meet and talk to artists in their place of work, the summer open studios event offers visitors the opportunity to view demonstrations, buy artwork, enter a free prize draw and even get involved in creative workshops. You should be able to pick up a brochure from your local library or gallery.

The launch weekend takes place on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 June, with artists offering an array of activities exclusively for first weekend visitors. There will be the opportunity to take part in taster workshops with different materials across the arts and crafts as well as sampling refreshments especially put on for the weekend.

Throughout the event there will be artists’ trails that you can do on foot and some to enjoy outdoors such as the Birtley Woodland Art Space where wood sculptor Ruth Wheeler has created a community arts, craft and wellbeing space bringing together a diverse range of talented artists.

This year, artists will be opening in a Covid-safe way, offering a range of measures to keep both themselves and members of the public safe when visiting studios across the county. With this in mind, some visitor numbers to studios may be limited.  Check out the SAOS website for the latest updates.

Another outing for you to enjoy is a visit to RSPB Farnham Heath. Heathland Artworks returns for a summer-long experience combining a beautiful walk with an innovative arts trail. Students in ‘Craft, Fine Art and Textiles’ from the University for the Creative Arts have been exploring the wildlife, geology and history of the heath to develop these artworks and make them in their workshops.

This year their exciting artworks include textile hangings, ceramic egg forms and navigation markers. Fine Art MA student Noelle Genevier creates stunning collages and she will be developing her work by finding a way to waterproof these. They will wrap around the trees in an incredible display of images, textures and colours. This is just one of twelve artworks you can see. A downloadable map will be available throughout the event.

If time permits, why not take a detour to the viewpoint on the heath where you can find the Surrey Hills Arts commissioned ‘The House of Invisible Hands’ created by sculptor Walter Bailey.

Heathland Artworks will be open for visitors at Farnham Heath from June 24 – 31 October, free of charge. Parking is available at the Rural Life Living Museum, Tilford, during opening hours.

Ali Clarke

Planting trees – an informed viewpoint

Patrick Mannix is a local resident and has been a practicing owner/operator of Sandhurst Copse & Sheepwalk woodland in the Surrey Hills AONB for the last 20 years. He has lectured and hosted visits by the Surrey Hills Society and many members take advantage of his “managed access” system, giving permission to walk in the woodland. Interacting with nature every day, observing and learning, he has been curious about nature and natural processes since his grandfather taught him the names of trees in the 1940s.  Now, as a grandfather himself, his concerns are about the world our grandchildren will grow up in and how we can learn to respect our natural environment before it is too late.

The growing awareness of the need to plant trees and respect other aspects of nature is very welcome; but with a little caution. Nature is such a complex web of interaction between the smallest invisible organisms comprising the microbiome of the soil, and the larger ones that we can see, that almost any action, however well intended, will have an adverse reaction somewhere. Only nature left to itself over a long time can create biodiversity, we do not have a sufficient grasp of the underpinnings. We seem only able to damage it.

To help nature, we should start by understanding what we already have, supporting and promoting that which does well. If we wish to try new species in the expectation that they may benefit from or be better able to withstand climate change, then plant a few as a test, indeed plant a few of different types. When I was managing herbaceous borders that we inherited with our house in Shamley Green, I would always buy several of a new plant, or of several different plants and then only buy more of the ones that were happy in that location and succeeded. In Sandhurst Copse & Sheepwalk woodland for 20 years I have only planted seed or seedlings from trees already in the wood, on the basis that if the mother tree is happy then it increases the chance that the seedlings will be happy, in that location. I am now experimenting with some additional species, eg wild service trees; but again, plant a few and only replicate those that show success. If you want to try wildflower seeds, then do so on an isolated test site, and monitor what happens to the already established species and only try one new species at a time. Only promote those that do well but do not overwhelm the existing inhabitants.

Be cautious regarding tree planting schemes. If you want to plant a tree, then decide what type of tree for what purpose. It should then be planted in a suitable location for that purpose. Trees do need some management in particular to prevent damage from rodents, rabbits, deer and squirrels, is that going to be provided? Also, whilst planting a tree is touted as a contribution to addressing climate change, it should not be an excuse for failing to take other action. Our most significant contribution to addressing climate change is by adjusting our lifestyle regarding long haul flights, motor vehicles, consumption of beef and dairy products, unnecessary purchases and cutting out any excess. Do not plant a tree until you have, at least, decided on your own personal actions.

Farmers’ Markets

Many of us are giving much more thought to our health and wellbeing since the pandemic and have developed a greater interest in the provenance and traceability of our food.  We have also become much more aware of our local community and shown an increasing desire to buy local. We are lucky in Surrey to have an array of wonderful products that are grown and produced locally. What better way can there be to support our local producers than buying food from one of Surrey’s farmers’ markets?

They range from the relatively large monthly markets of Guildford, Farnham and Ripley through to far smaller ones such as the weekly Food Float in Dorking.  Those in-between include Cobham, Horsley, Ockley, Reigate and the South West Surrey Farmers’ Market Co-operative – a not-for-profit organisation that sells locally grown or sourced products through markets in Godalming, Haslemere and Milford.

Many of these markets have become a social hub for the local community – such as the monthly farmers’ market in Ripley. Visiting on a wet and windy morning in May, families were out and about despite the rain, stopping to chat and trying or buying from a diverse range of products. There were well over thirty stall holders set out over the Green. Meat, poultry, honey, cheese, breads, biscuits, handmade chocolates, vegetables and plants were all for sale, along with the more unusual items such as microgreens and naturally fermented vegetables. Stalls with wine, beer and even rum were offering tastings along with the very much on-trend probiotic drinks. Joining the queue to buy locally grown asparagus, baby carrots and spinach was well worth the wait. As I left, another queue was building for the fresh fish mobile market where naturally the fish came from a greater distance.

Guildford’s farmers’ market takes place on the High Street on the first Tuesday of every month. It has been thriving since 2000 and has a wide range of local vendors from Guildford and further afield. The layout along the cobbled street is perhaps less family friendly, but the focus of this market is for customers to buy things and perhaps grab a bargain.

A large corn and cattle market was once a feature of Dorking High Street while a poultry market was regularly held in South Street where the famous ‘Dorking Chickens’ were sold. These have been more recently succeeded by a monthly artisan market and a weekly small general market. The Friday I visited there were some half dozen traders, selling plants, fresh fish, household goods, fruit and vegetables. Sadly, local produce seemed thin on the ground.

However, Dorking still offers access to local farmers and other suppliers through the weekly Food Float; a not-for-profit company staffed by volunteers. It has been operating since 2010 and offers a wide range of locally sourced produce all crammed onto an old-fashioned stand rather like a milk float.  There was an incredible range of dairy, meat, conserves, bread and vegetables along with some more unusual items such as locally ground speciality coffee and dried fruit crisps. It really is all about local produce, with just a few items coming from across county borders. I caught up with Maddie who runs the operation asking her how lockdown had affected their trade. She explained they managed to do extremely well, switching much of their operation to home deliveries as well as donating produce to local families.

With sustainable living and a growing interest in our local communities firmly on the agenda, farmers’ markets are hopefully very much here to stay.

Susie Turner