Happy St John Seminary visitors

This visit was so popular that we had to open a second group and double our number of participants. Everyone was very pleased with the event and shared their enthusiasm as below:

“I drive by this building almost every day and have wanted to look inside for a long time.”

“What a fascinating building architecturally!”

“One thing I really like about the Surrey Hills Society, is that we get to see things that are not open to the general public.”

A big thank you to our lovely members and to our volunteer event organiser! The event wouldn’t have happened without him giving his time.

Exploring Godstone & Tilburstow Hill – free Sunday walk

Thirty members of the Society explored Godstone and Tilburstow Hill in the east of the County on a frosty February morning. Although we could see the M25 Motorway in the distance on our walk, the area is incredibly beautiful and rural.

Starting on the green in Godstone we originally explored the series of lakes developed by the Evelyn family in 1588 for their gunpowder mills. The area is now known as Bay Pond and is a nature reserve managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust. We then ascended the steep Tilburstow Hill and explored the Greensand Way, with several outstanding panoramic views along the way.

The area is extremely historic and is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book. It was owned by King Ethelred and was passed to his daughter Goda upon her marriage and became known as “Goda’s Place”. Goda died in 1055.

Godstone is built on a stretch of the Brighton Way Roman Road, which comes through the high Caterham Gap, and continues southward along Tilburstow Hill Road.

The village was also a famous historic coach stop with The Bell Inn dating from 1393. The White Hart and the Hare and Hounds date from 1500s. Several members very sensibly reserved tables in advance of the walk as the pubs here are incredibly popular and it is impossible to get a table on spec on the day. There are also several really nice cafes which our members sampled both before and after our walk.

Surrey’s Local Producers – a talk by our Vice President

In late January, the Society was lucky enough to enjoy a fascinating talk by one of our Vice Presidents, Ken Bare, in the lovely Shere Village Hall.

Ken has a wealth of experience when it comes to the Surrey Hills and in particular to the small artisan businesses that have started and grown over the years.  The talk lasted for an hour and a half and was very varied in relation to the businesses that not only survive but thrive in the area.  Ken also discussed in detail the various problems that some of the smaller producers faced on a daily basis and also ways people are diversifying in order to create a new business from an existing one.

An example of this is The Fillet and Bean which is a fully fitted kitchen within an american Airstream caravan.  The owner runs a farm in the Surrey Hills and uses his own meat to supply the unit.  The caravan is taken all over the area to support numerous shows, fêtes, corporate launches, etc and provides wonderful free range meat dishes and good quality locally roasted and blended coffee.

The variety of businesses described was really diverse – including a lavender grower, a coppice expert, a rocking horse maker, food & drink producers and many more.  It was an inspiring talk and one that reminded us of the quality and varied local produce that we are fortunate to have on our doorsteps.

Although this talk formed part of the Society’s events programme, it is also available to be given to external groups and organisations – just contact info@surreyhillssociety.org for more details.

Greensand Way from Haslemere to Hindhead

Our monthly, free guided walk took us this time along Greensand Way from Haslemere to Hindhead

For the first event of the new year, 25 members of the Surrey Hills Society set off from Haslemere for a 6 mile walk along the Greensand Way to Hindhead. The walk was in celebration of the Surrey Hills Inspiring Views project. An Arts project to create beautiful works of art that also serve as benches, on which you can sit and admire the view. The bench at Hindhead was created by Sir Walter Bailey and is called Xylem.

For this bench at Gibbets Hill, Hindhead, the artist explored charcoal, its historical relevance to the Greensand Way and how this material has supported individuals and industries enabling the shaping of copper, bronze, glass and iron. He examined charcoal under the microscope and made enlarged studies of these to inform his intuitive approach of carving directly out of oak.

Everyone enjoyed getting out in the fresh air after Christmas. Several members had not been to the Haslemere area before and commented on how pretty the area was.

Chris Howard, Walk Leader

Have Your Say

The Surrey Hills was one of the first landscapes in England to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in 1958. It is now one of 34 AONBs in England and has equivalent landscape status to a National Park.

Every 5 years the Surrey Hills AONB Board have a statutory duty to produce a Management Plan setting the policies for the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Plan needs to be approved by the Secretary of State and adopted by all the local authorities to ensure the Surrey Hills is conserved and enhanced for future generations.

This is YOUR opportunity to inform the policies and priorities in the Surrey Hills AONB Management Plan for 2019 – 2024.  Let us know why the Surrey Hills are important to you and help us to identify the main challenges and opportunities for the future.

Simply visit www.surreyhillssurvey.org and complete the short survey by 13 January 2019.

A Change of Chairs

At our October AGM, Chris Howard stood down as Chairman having completed her allotted time as defined by our Constitution.  Although the formal business of the AGM allowed us to have a small amount of time to say “Thank You”, the Society decided that it would be more fitting to have a separate celebratory event to recognise Chris’s enormous contribution.  Thus was the Change of Chairs event born.

We felt that this event would also be a great opportunity for our members to meet and get to know the incoming Chairman, Gordon Jackson, and for him to get feedback on the way our members want the Society to evolve.

It is a well established fact that our members like their food and drink so, to provide continuity to the evening, we put on a substantial buffet and – in a long standing tradition – created one of our photo quizzes about the Surrey Hills.

The evening was a great success and as Chris said afterwards “I for one thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was lovely to just enjoy the event, rather than worrying about delivering an effective AGM”.


Footnote: Chris Howard and Ken Bare may have ceased to be Chair and Vice-Chair of the Society but they have not gone away.  The Trustee board has appointed them as Vice-Presidents and in that role they will continue to work closely with the Society, supporting new initiatives and working as active volunteers.

Harvest by Surrey Hills Arts

Last October saw an incredible community event upon Box Hill. As part of Surrey Unearthed artist Mary Branson created a large-scale, illuminated installation of 65 outlines of hay bales in a field on Box Hill Farm. On 29 October, hundreds of people gathered at Box Hill viewpoint to view the last day of the installation and hear choirs singing traditional harvest songs.

During the event, Surrey Hills Arts held an experimental Call and Response artwork between the singers at the top of the hill and those down in the field. As the sun turned orange and then pink, the evening ended with a recital of a beautiful poem, selected from the Surrey Unearthed anthology by the Mole Valley poets.

The Harvest event is hoped to be established as an annual community celebration. You can view the film of the event at www.surreyunearthed.org/harvest-box-hill-event

Amazing Patchworking Garden bringing people together

On Friday August 24th, we made a follow up visit to the Patchworking Garden Project in Dorking which was established less than four years ago in the stunning setting of a walled garden with views to Box Hill. Its aim is to bring positive change to people’s lives through friendship and gardening.

Around fifteen of us gathered to tour the garden followed by tea and cake. The majority had not visited the garden before, but those who had were impressed by the enormous change in just two years when we last visited the garden.

The theme of our visit was “harvest” and in addition to Susie Turner, an SHS and Patchworking Garden volunteer, we were led by Jennie Philips, their fruit and vegetable specialist. The number of vegetables grown outside was extraordinary; including rhubarb, onions, leeks, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, courgettes, corn, carrots, squash, parsnips, beetroot and beans and in the poly-tunnel, a wealth of cucumbers , tomatoes, aubergines and ripening melons. Jennie told us she – like others – had just learnt as she went along but given the impressive display, we are sure considerable knowledge and experience was involved.

The short introductory talk taught us quite a bit. We learnt that the garden supports people ranging in age from late teens to late eighties with a diverse range of needs including mental health conditions, physical disabilities and bereavement. Volunteers attend either a morning or afternoon session each week and ideally everyone leaves feeling better than they did on arrival.

And what of the changes? Well, there are quite a few: the workshop where activities take place in the winter is now insulated, a new kitchen shed is under construction and an outdoor kitchen area has been added, enabling volunteers to make soups in the winter months. Aesthetically much has improved, rough grass has made way for a very pretty patchwork bedding area: a couple of our visitors thought they may copy the idea. A pond, surrounded by plants and home to a variety of wildlife, looked as if it had been there for ever. A willow house provides an opportunity for therapeutic weaving and a peaceful place to sit, while in place of a mass of brambles and weeds is a beautiful wild flower garden. There were also lots of signs of creativity including a stunning bug hotel, a butterfly made from bottle tops and at the entrance, totem poles made from pottery.

It was a fascinating afternoon made all the more enjoyable by the dry warm weather although shortly after leaving, the heavens opened giving the garden a much needed soak.

The garden has been in the spotlight over the past year with a visit by HRH the Duke of Gloucester and an award from Surrey’s High Sheriff. Anyone interested in becoming a Friend or Volunteer should look at the website www.patchworkinggardenproject.co.uk.