Society members go back to school

You are never too old to learn!  Well, our members recently showed their enthusiasm for doing so as can be shown by this photograph taken in the schoolroom at the Rural Life Centre in Tilford.

The event was a visit to this museum of rural bye-gones which began with a fascinating guided tour by one of their very knowledgeable volunteers.  Our members then had an opportunity to investigate further and to understand more about living and working in Surrey at an earlier time. From learning more about a school day at the beginning of the 20th century through to visits to the blacksmiths shop and a recently installed cycle shop, there was something to fascinate all our group.

After a leisurely ploughman’s lunch under the trees of the on-site café, our intrepid group then headed next door to the RSPB Farnham Heath nature reserve.  This reserve has a special connection to the Surrey Hills AONB, because back in 2016 following a heathland fire, the Surrey Hills Trust Fund provided a grant to help with heathland recovery (click here to read more).  Not only that, but the reserve is currently the home of an outdoor arts project entitled “Heathland Artworks” which is being led by Surrey Hills Arts.

Our afternoon route around the heath included visits to all the artworks – which created a lively topic of discussion throughout the walk. So, not only did we get to see some wonderful heathland but we had the opportunity to visit these exhibits created by students from the University for the Creative Arts based at Farnham.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to visit either of these locations, the museum is well worth a visit (visit and the Heathland Artworks exhibition – free – is open daily until 4th September with access from the Rural Life Centre car park.

Water fountain launched at Leith Hill

The Society works in partnership with an increasing number of related charities and organisations. One of these is the National Trust and this particular initiative was with the NT Surrey Hills office.

Way back in 2015 we decided to raise funds to support an initiative by the then Leith Hill ranger, Ruby Cole, who came up with the idea of providing a Victorian water fountain and cattle trough to be sited near to the Tower. There are many visitors to Leith Hill, whether on foot, cycling or horse-riding, not to mention our four-legged friends – they can now all benefit from fresh running water if they need it.


We were able to donate a cheque for £1,000 to them to add to the funds that Ruby herself had raised, as well as other charities. Some of our funds were raised by our members sponsoring two cyclists (my sons!) taking part in the Ride London annual cycling event.

The time lapse came with the need to actually find an original trough from the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Trust that had been decommissioned, then refurbished, modernised, transported to Leith Hill and connected to the water supply. But we got there in the end and a group of about 30 met in view of the Tower on 13 July to launch the water fountain, which had come from Roehampton Vale. NT volunteers had given their time to bring this all together with the NT office, as well as baking delicious cakes and providing us with refreshments. Thanks to Nicky Scott, Ranger for Leith Hill, and her team for hosting the event.

Diane Cooper, SHS Marketing & Comms group 

New walk book for Surrey written by our Chairman

Did you know our Chairman, Chris Howard creates a walk for Surrey Life magazine every month, and then we usually offer that as our free monthly walk for members?  Recently, her walks were spotted by Bradwell Books, who have created a series of walk books called Walks for All Ages. They said they had books covering most counties, except Surrey! They liked the Surrey Hills Society approach of short, easy, interesting walks.

Walks for All Ages walks have to be free, short and tell a story about the County, so Chris took up the challenge to write a book of walks that did just that.  Having volunteered with the Surrey Hills Society for 10 years, she has picked up a Surrey story or two over that time. The walks need to be accessible to all ages, interesting for children and have toilets and pubs or cafes available nearby.

In her working life Chris used to be the Town Centre Manager for Guildford, and is currently the Chairman of the County’s Tourist Board. This has given her a unique opportunity to get to know all sorts of interesting facts about the County, that she has now been able to record in this book.

Chris said she is incredibly grateful to all her Surrey Hills Society walk leadership team, including Pete Lambert and Diane Cooper, who also supplied many of the photos, Steve Peacock, Ken Bare, and Peter Arnold – who also taught her how to read a map via the Society’s map reading course.

The book was launched at the Surrey Hills AONB’s 60th anniversary celebration at Loseley Park on 26th June by Dame Penelope Keith (pictured here with Chris at the event).

All proceeds from the book will be donated to our lovely charity to assist in projects that protect, promote and enhance the Surrey Hills AONB.  You can order the book through our online shop at a cost of £5.99 + £2.50pp. Order here

Scouts volunteer to clear section of North Downs Way

Huge thank you to the 8th Aldershot Scouts for volunteering to clear a section of the North Downs Way near Farnham on 8th June 2018.

The idea to volunteer to clear some of the North Downs Way came from Scout Leader, Martin Clark, who had seen the walks advertised on our website in celebration of the North Downs Way’s 40th anniversary. As the National Trail is the back bone of the Surrey Hills AONB, the Society works closely with the Trail Manager, Peter Morris to promote this historic Way.

Martin then took contact with Peter to agree where the volunteering could take place and how this would be achieved. See the end result of their hard work in the pictures below.

Well done 8th Aldershot Scouts!



Surrey Hills celebrating their anniversary at Gatton Country Fair

The Surrey Hill Society has worked with, and supported, the Gatton Trust for a number of years.  It was, therefore, only fitting that when we decided that we wanted to hold an anniversary celebration in the east of the county, we should look towards Gatton Park, near Reigate, as the venue.  Fortuitously, they always hold a Country Fair at the beginning of July so we approached them with the idea of having our own section within their larger event.  The idea appealed to them – so planning commenced.

Our ongoing work with Gatton Trust had already led to our Membership Secretary & Trustee, Stella Cantor, becoming a Gatton trustee.  Under her direction, the event took shape and evolved into a major display incorporating not only Surrey Hills exhibits, but those of our wider countryside partnerships including the Downlands Partnership, artist Louise Dunckley’s period posters of the Surrey Hills, and artist Molly Verity, with her landscape sketching, drawing for young children – plus the Tales of the Tillingbourne puppets and dressing-up clothes together with storytelling which put the puppets into context.

The organisation and logistics for this display created a significant amount of work – especially on the back of our 60th anniversary celebration at Loseley Park only a few days earlier.  The event wouldn’t have worked without all the volunteers who gave up their time to man the stands, lead our free guided walk around the area, and to generally help out on the day.

As our Chairman, Christine Howard, said in her thank you note “Haven’t we come a long way…. A few years ago we would not have had the team or the resources to pull off this event.  Great team!  Well done and many thanks.”

The wonderful weather, the glorious landscape of Gatton Park and the visitors to the Fair, all helped to make this a truly memorable day and a worthy celebration of the AONB’s and Society’s anniversaries in the east of the county.

Celebrating 60 years of the Surrey Hills AONB at Loseley Park

“What a super evening you organised with such very interesting showcases of what goes on in the Surrey Hills.  Delectable canapes too! “

This was just one of the many emails and comments received following our event at Loseley Park, Guildford on 26th June to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Surrey Hills Society and the 60th anniversary of the Surrey Hills AONB.

Having had such a successful, high profile, event at Speakers House, Westminster on 8th May (the actual anniversary of the AONB designation), we wanted to hold a further event that enabled more of our active volunteers, local partners, parish councils and other affiliates to join with us in celebration of all that has been achieved.  And what a lot there was to celebrate.  It was only when one looked along the length of the Loseley Tithe Barn, that the breadth of our network and partners became apparent.  We could have filled the space twice over!


In addition to the Surrey Hills AONB’s own stands, showcasing the many and varied projects we are involved in, there were displays by partner organisations including Surrey Wildlife Trust with their Hedgerow Heroes project and the GASP Motor project.  GASP is doing incredible work helping local youths become competent mechanics, across the Surrey Hills and beyond. Also included was a display of the current AONB promotion of vintage-style posters by local artist Louise Dunckley, which evokes an earlier period when the Surrey Hills first became a leisure destination of choice for rail and other visitors.


We also had a display promoting our HLF funded projects – the Tales of the Tillingbourne, which highlighted the industrial heritage of the area, plus the recently launched book “Our Changing Landscape” which was written specifically to celebrate the anniversary.  (See separate news item.)

As for the canapes…  we were privileged to have sponsorship from Playle and Partners, who have been providing clients in the public & private sectors, with construction and property advice for 60 years. Their support enabled us to put on this special event.  With support from Greyfriars Vineyard, the event was able to include Surrey wine and showcase our growing number of vineyards in the AONB.  The Loseley & Guildway Charitable Trust also supported the event.  Great thanks are due to all these organisations.

An enormous thank you must also go to Michael More-Molyneux, Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, for hosting us in the Loseley Tithe Barn and for supporting our work throughout the years.



It was a great pleasure to have the company of actress and charity champion, Dame Penelope Keith, Patron of the Surrey Hills AONB, for the evening and to have the opportunity for her to meet with the now large group of people that volunteer for the Surrey Hills Society. The setting up of a charity dedicated to supporting this special landscape was a legacy aspiration from the AONB’s 50th anniversary.  The Surrey Hills Society, now a thriving charity, celebrated its 10th birthday as part of the evening.

With wonderful weather on the evening, a fascinating range of displays, an incredible venue, excellent food and drink – plus well received musical entertainment by Phillipa Reed and David Maxfield – it is small wonder that we have received the plaudits noted at the start of this item.

Congratulations to everyone who made the event such a success!


Book Launch to mark 60 years of the Surrey Hills AONB

When the Trustees of Surrey Hills Society started thinking about ways of celebrating the 60th anniversary of the AONB and the 10th birthday of the Society, our vice-chairman, Ken Bare,  suggested that we produce a book recording how the AONB came about and how it had changed over 60 years.  Once he had agreed to be the primary researcher and author, with Diane Cooper (our PR & Communications lead) acting as editor, the project gained its own momentum.  The book had to be written!

We discovered that we could apply for an HLF grant and, fortunately, they decided to give us the full £6000 that it would cost to design, print and distribute 4000 copies of the book.  In exchange we agreed to match this with volunteer labour doing all the work.  Several hundred man-hours later we have reached launch – so a big Thank-you to HLF for underpinning the project.

Ken Bare launching the book at Speaker’s House

What we were aiming to achieve was a product which would act as a legacy to the anniversaries but, just as importantly, would support our Societies aims of promoting and protecting the AONB.  We think we have achieved that goal in that the book is informative whilst being an easy read.

Part of the research involved interviews with a number of farmers, foresters, landowners, planners and so on.  We give a very special Thank-you to them – not only for sharing their wealth of knowledge with Ken but for taking time out of their busy lives to welcome him into their homes and offices.  A key message that came back from all of them was that the AONB designation was very important – and that the work of the Society is pivotal in helping the general public to understand more about their wonderful Surrey Hills and hence why they need to look after them.

And that is where the book starts to do its work.  ‘The Surrey Hills – Our Changing Landscape’ book was launched on 8 May 2018 at Speaker’s House, within the Palace of Westminster as part of a high profile reception to mark the actual 60th anniversary.  In front of an influential audience, Ken launched the book and copies were given to each of the attendees.

SHS volunteers helping with book distribution

The rest of the 4000 will be distributed widely.  Each of our memberships will receive copies as will all local councillors – from County to Parish level – to help them in their decision making.  The remainder will be distributed to the general public at events including the Surrey County Show and various other talks, fetes and so on.  We’ve also been working with the local media – who have been very receptive and are helping with promotion of the book and the anniversaries.

Additional copies can be obtained via the “Shop” page of our web site.

North Downs Way Anniversary celebrations on May Bank holiday weekend 5/6th May

The Surrey Hills Society joined forces with Mole Valley Ramblers, as part of the Mole Valley Walking Festival to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the North Downs Way being designated as a National Trail over the May Bank holiday weekend.  On Saturday 21 people walked from Dorking to Reigate, while on Sunday 26 people walked from Guildford to Dorking in glorious sunshine.

Over the weekend several walks were planned as part of the NDW celebrations in both Surrey and Kent.  More walks are planned throughout the summer.  See for more details.  For more Surrey Hills Society walks see our events page.