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

Wilder Schools and Surrey Hills Society

Thanks to the funding from Surrey Hills Society, two local schools, the Howard of Effingham and Manor House received £500 each towards improving their school grounds for nature.

Howard of Effingham

Surrey Wildlife Trust worked with the Howard of Effingham’s Green Armada group to explore their grounds and find ways in which they wanted to help wildlife with the funding.

In the winter, students used their design and technology skills to create bird boxes. They worked in pairs to hammer the pieces together like a puzzle. Later in the year, they were put up around the school, on trees and by hedgerows. The students were excited to see birds interested in their creations soon after they were put up!

Students decided ‘No Mow’ zones were needed and were granted permission to leave a quiet zone full of long grass throughout spring and summer.

With the funding, they purchased hearts and painted them blue (in line with the nationwide Blue Heart campaign) to show the school community why the grass was being left, along with some plug plants to make the space more diverse of plant life.

Funding was also used to buy a small pond for the sixth form area, which the Green Armada looks after. The students got stuck in and dug the pond themselves, measuring the space, working as a team, and collecting materials to surround the small pond.

Later in the school term, they even saw a newt had moved in!

Students sowed pollinator friendly seeds in peat free compost, with the sunflowers doing the best in the summer drought.

Finally, funding was used to purchase a water butt to help save water. The group wouldn’t have had the opportunities they did this year without the funding from the Surrey Hills Society.



Manor House School

A variety of year groups got involved with helping nature at Manor House School, thanks to the funding from the Surrey Hills Society.

The school left a ‘No Mow’ zone by the school pick up space and used the funding to create blue hearts for interpretation of the space.

There was a school wide competition to design the blues hearts and the winners were chosen by the school council and given lavender plants to take home and help pollinators where they live. As the summer continues a variety of plant species appeared, including an orchid!

Year 2 planted pollinator friendly seeds, which they looked after for the summer term. The hope is that these will be planted in a new pollinator friendly flower bed!

Year 2 also created bee homes, hammering pieces together and filling with bamboo. These will be placed in a sunny spot next year close to flowers. Year 3 sowed woodland wildflower seeds in a small area to help encourage more diversity for wildlife.





The funding from the Surrey Hills Society helped to engage a variety of year groups with nature, for both curriculum and non-curriculum sessions, and inspire them to take action at home. A student later built a bucket pond!


Lizzie Foster, Team Wilder Engagement Officer, Surrey Wildlife Trust

National Highways volunteers join the Society in the Surrey Hills

Bees, butterflies and birds……

Earlier this year we offered to organise a volunteering day for our team at National Highways, unaware at the time of the logistical challenges and post covid wait lists that would follow. Fast forward six months and we have just spent the most incredible day with representatives from the Surrey Hills Society (both the Chairman, Gordon Jackson, and the Project and Volunteer Co-ordinator, Christa Emmett) measuring hedgerows and identifying butterflies whilst being educated on conservation, species and wildlife.

From the outset the Surrey Hills Society responded promptly, providing all the information that we requested, and offered to put together a day that factored in everyone’s needs. On the day itself we had a welcome briefing from the Chairman of the Society before making our way to the footpaths of the Surrey Hills. And wow – what a view!

The scenery was stunning. Absolutely spectacular and had the feeling of being both completely unspoilt but yet cared-for. It was so refreshing to see the endless open countryside with wonderful views, incredible trees and signs of wildlife enjoying the day as much as we were. And what was more was the silence. No sounds of cars or phones anywhere and such a welcome break from our hectic office days!

Split into two groups, our first task was to take part in the Great British Hedgerow Survey. Equipped with guides, diagrams and cane sticks to help us with accurate measuring, we analysed sections of hedgerows, identifying plant varieties, measuring height and depth, noting down any large gaps and answering multiple questions to help guide future conservation work. The Surrey Hills team explained how important the hedgerows are for food, shelter and access routes, with many species wholly dependant on them for their survival. We learnt a great deal about the difference types of species, both plants and animals, that make up a seemingly common hedgerow.


After a picnic lunch, we walked a section of the Leith Hill Greenway, a 15km multi-user, off-road route which links Box Hill with Surrey’s highest point, Leith Hill. At the same time, equipped with guides we were asked to spot and identify any butterflies we encountered enroute, of which there were many. Such data-gathering is critical to assessing the health of the rare butterfly population and the information we recorded would help the Society to plan future butterfly conservation activities.


We all have busy jobs, stressful and demanding at times, but left feeling calm and collected, having enjoyed an informative and fun day, thanks to our fabulous representatives from the Surrey Hills Society. It is true when they say that the Surrey Hills are open to all and they left a strong impression. We felt humbled when we learnt about the incredible work that the Society carries – out, engaging with all members of the community and caring for this precious countryside so that it can be enjoyed by everyone.

Some people may mistakenly believe those managing the nation’s motorways wouldn’t be the first to appreciate the nature and beauty of our landscapes, but that misconception could not be further from the truth. Indeed, it has long been a key priority for National Highways to manage the balance between the safety and convenience of those using our roads with the preservation of the landscapes they pass through. This trip highlighted the need for us to continue to prioritise that important work.

A huge thank you to all and we will be back to plant hedgerows in the Spring! We couldn’t have had a better-organised, more successful day.

National Highways 16 August 2022

NAS Family Fun Day at Clandon Wood


Christa Emmett, our Project and Volunteer Coordinator and Ash Greening joined ten families supported by the National Autistic Society Surrey Family Support Team at Clandon Woods on Monday 22nd August.


There were lots of fun activities for the 19 children who attended including the ‘Where do I live’ magnetic board game supplied by Christa and Ash.

It was a day to explore nature in the reserve and the children were set the ‘matchbox challenge’ (no matches were used!) to find items of interest that they could bring back and share with others. Some of the finds were beautiful including a heart shaped stone.

The children enjoyed watching the wildlife on the ponds and the various insects and animals nestling alongside the planting and hedgerow. The children were fascinated by the bird life including a couple of birds of prey in the sky above.

The children could then occupy themselves back at the spacious Pavilion with panoramic views of the reserve. They could make Pom Pom sensory balls, Salt Jars, stone painting and friendship bracelets. The Surrey Hills Society provided colouring pages of animals and a guide book of what is available in the Surrey Hills.

All the parents commented on how relaxed and happy the children were in this peaceful environment. It was also lovely to see how the siblings worked together harmoniously. The parents were able to relax, talk to other parents and drink coffee. It was a positive experience all round.


Simon Ferrar from Clandon Wood told us how much he enjoyed seeing the families enjoying the facilities and the nature reserve. It fits perfectly with the ethos of encouraging families and young people to enjoy all that Surrey has to offer!




NAS and their families hope to visit again soon and would be happy to visit any other great facilities in Surrey. If you are interested, you may contact them at,uk.

Mandy Elton

Family Support Coordinator, National Autistic Society

Guildford’s “Kernow Stone”

In a grassy corner at the top of The Mount overlooking Guildford is a memorial stone. It is called the “Kernow Stone” – but why is it there and what is the background to its name?

The story begins in 1496. After disagreements regarding new regulations for the tin-mining industry, King Henry VII suspended the operation and privileges of the Cornish stannaries, a major part of the county’s economy. These privileges, which included exemption from certain royal and local taxes, had been granted under a deal with Edward I in 1305. With Scotland threatening to invade England the King levied an extraordinary series of financial demands on his subjects, a burden which fell more heavily on Cornwall than most areas.

The people of Cornwall were incited into armed revolt with the supposed aim of removing the two servants of the king considered responsible for his taxation policies, Cardinal John Morton and Sir Reginald Bray.

An army some 15,000 strong marched towards Devon, attracting support in the form of provisions and recruits as they went. In Devon support for the rebellion was far lower than in Cornwall. Entering Somerset, however, they were joined by James Touchet, the seventh Baron Audley who as a member of the nobility with military experience was gladly received and acclaimed as their leader. The rebels continued towards London, marching via Salisbury and Winchester.

When the King learned of the close approach of the West Country rebels to London, and of their strength, he diverted his main army of 8,000 men under Lord Daubeny to meet them. Daubeny’s army camped on Hounslow Heath on 13 June and the next day a detachment of 500 of his spearmen clashed with the rebels near Guildford. Until then, the rebel army had met virtually no armed opposition, but neither had they gained significant numbers of new recruits since passing through Somerset.

Instead of approaching London directly they skirted to the south believing they would gain popular support from Kent. Leaving Guildford they moved via Banstead to Blackheath, an area of high ground south-east of London, which they reached on 16 June. No Kentish uprising materialised. Indeed, forces of Kentish men had been mobilised against them under loyalist nobles. The King had now mustered a large army in London so the outlook for the rebels was grim. There was much dismay and disunity among the rebels on Blackheath and thousands of desertions from the insurgency that night.

The Battle of Deptford Bridge (also known as Battle of Blackheath) took place on 17 June 1497. The King’s forces were deployed to surround the Blackheath high ground where the rebel army had camped and where its greater part was still positioned. Lord Daubeny attacked along the main road from London, crossing Deptford Bridge and taking it from the rebels. He then led the attack up into the rebels’ main position on the heath. So bold was his leadership that he became separated, surrounded by the enemy, and temporarily captured. The rebels could have killed him, but actually let him go unhurt. Overwhelmingly outnumbered, surrounded, poorly trained and equipped and lacking cavalry, their fight was now hopeless. They were routed. Their leaders were captured and subsequently executed.

In 1997, a commemorative march named Keskerdh Kernow (Cornish: “Cornwall marches on”) retraced the original route of the rebels from St. Keverne to Blackheath to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Cornish Rebellion. A statue depicting the Cornish leaders was unveiled at St. Keverne and commemorative plaques were unveiled at Guildford and on Blackheath.

A visit to this memorial is included in a Guildford Walkfest event being hosted by Surrey Hills Society on Friday 16th September. Details are on the SHS website “Events” page and on the Walkfest website  Why not join us to see the stone for yourself?


A special visit to Horsley Towers – home of Ada Lovelace

The area around the town of Guildford in the Surrey Hills is recognised as one of the top technology centres in Europe. It hosts companies such as EA Games, is home to the University of Surrey which is leading the way with 5G technology and in the University main square stands a statue of Enigma Code breaker and Guildfordian, Alan Turing. What is less well known is that the person recognised as the first computer programmer in the world was also from this area – and a very famous lady she was too!

Ada Lovelace was born in 1815, daughter to the infamous poet Lord Byron and wealthy heiress Annabella Milbanke. She was an extremely talented mathematician and writer who collaborated with Charles Babbage on his work creating the first mechanical general purpose computer. She was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculations and to publish the first algorithm intended to be carried out by this machine. The first modern widely used computer language was named in her honour – ADA.

Ada married William King-Noel, 1st Earl of Lovelace and they lived for many years at Horsley Towers in West Horsley, just outside Guildford. This is an extraordinary Tudorbethan fashioned building, designed by the same architect who created the Houses of Parliament – Charles Barry. It is now a hotel, conference centre and wedding venue.

Surrey Hills Society members were recently treated to a fascinating talk on Ada Lovelace by local historian, Roger Price. This was followed by a tour of the garden before returning for lunch on the terrace. After lunch we were able to access the exquisitely decorated family chapel.
It is amazing to think that a local Surrey Hills resident helped lead the way to modern computer technology. In fact, Ada Lovelace is known as ‘the mother of computing’.


From Quarry to Recreation Space

The UK quarrying industry is one of the oldest industries in the country and for hundreds of years was an integral part of our industrial heritage. Several formerly active quarries in Surrey have now been transformed into conservation areas and recreational facilities.

Tice’s Meadow Nature Reserve, a 150 acre site near Farnham and former quarry, has recently come under the ownership of Surrey County Council with funding support from several other councils. Designated a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), it is one of the best bird watching sites in Surrey.


While the old chalk quarry and lime kilns at Betchworth ceased production in the 1960s and is now a stunning chalk grassland site rich in flora managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust. Nearby Buckland Park Lake, a 100-acre site between Reigate and Dorking, is an interesting case study of major quarry transformation.

A fascinating conversation with Dominic Sanders, Managing Director at Buckland Estate, which owns Buckland Park Lake, highlighted the challenges in transforming what was a major supplier to the national glass sand market into a wonderful outdoor recreational space.

The “Folkestone beds” along the foot of the North Downs contain some of the purest silica sand deposits in the country. Its low metal content makes it useful in a range of industries including glass and foundry casting. At its peak Buckland Sand & Silica Co. Ltd, owned by the Sanders family since 1925, had up to 15% of the national sand market. The sand had interesting uses from casting the propellers of the Queen Mary through to the moonscapes on the set of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.

Dominic explained why the change of use. “The advent of plastic bottles and the offshoring of much of the foundry industry put the demand for silica sand into gradual decline.” Quarrying ceased at Buckland Park Lake in the late 1980s, although it served as the processing plant for sand extracted from nearby Tapwood until 2014.

A decision had to be made about the Buckland site’s future use. The size and easy access to the A25 offered various opportunities, but of course a key issue was planning consent within the green belt. As quarries are tempting but highly dangerous places to swim, supervised swimming was one option. In 2018 the planners agreed to provide access to the public, including water sports, refreshments and other facilities. The development, like many others, was hindered by Covid and finally opened in May 2021. Our Society’s Chairman’s day brought it to the attention of many of our members in July 2021.

There are plenty of ongoing challenges. “Higher footfall means a better return on the large investment, but overcrowding would spoil the ambience,” said Dominic. Do they think they have succeeded? “Overall, we are very pleased with the results. Although we have had far more visitors than we expected we believe we have been successful in not overcrowding the site. However, we are trying to remain honest about how much lies ahead and what we must do to achieve the standards to which we aspire for our visitors.” And what about Tapwood on the other side of the A25? According to Dominic it is unlikely it will ever be suitable for general public enjoyment due to its topography and location.

Glassmaking in the Surrey Hills

It’s always intriguing to discover how and why certain industries rose to prominence in a particular area, such as glassmaking in Chiddingfold. During the reign of Elizabeth I there were already around 11 glassmakers on Chiddingfold Green, all benefitting from the local geology; the ground being exceptionally sandy while local woodlands provided plenty of firewood for the furnaces.

The industry was however still small scale in the 1500s, it took an influx of Huguenot refugees for it to take off in a big way. Huguenot glassmakers brought with them new technologies and techniques including the production of coloured glass. One refugee, Jean Carre, was determined to make window glass in the Weald. It was only once he received a licence from Queen Elizabeth I to produce glass for glazing similar to that made in France that the industry flourished.

What then caused its decline? Firstly, local inhabitants complained that the furnaces were causing a nuisance, though this was possibly more about the unpopularity of the foreigners who owned the furnaces than the industry itself. Secondly, in 1615 King James I prohibited the burning of wood for glassmaking as it was uneconomical and the wood could be used more profitably in other industries. However, this was not before Chiddingfold glass was used in famous buildings such as St Stephen’s Chapel in Westminster and St George’s Chapel in Windsor.

Not surprisingly, the tradition in glass has continued to this day though in different forms. One local artist, Rachel Mulligan is based near Godalming specialising in stained glass and runs classes as well as producing artworks for exhibitions and working to commission.

Another, Amanda Blair, works from her garden studio using blown sheet glass and other flat glass to create stained glass windows for ecclesiastical and secular settings. Her current project is to create a large rose window for All Saints Church in Fleet. She has also just relaunched her ever popular classes following a 2 year break.




Perhaps one of the most well-known is Adam Aaronson considered one of the UK’s leading glass artists.  At his studio in West Horsley, he specialises in free-blown glass, runs beginners’ courses in glassblowing and designs and makes a range of interior design accessories. Visitors to the studio are welcome Tuesday through Sunday.






Given that many of these artists run specialist courses in glassmaking hopefully this wonderful art form will be very much kept alive and enjoyed by future generations.