Meet the Hare

Surrey Hills Society has a new member and mascot!

Haslemere is running a local community arts project which also acts as a fundraiser called Haslemere Hares.  This will see over 80 decorated hares displayed around the town and surrounding area throughout the summer.

Local artist and SHS member Charlotte Choi with the Surrey Hills Hare

As part of the Surrey Hills Society’s anniversary celebrations, we have sponsored a hare and had it decorated by one of our volunteers – Charlotte Choi.

Although not officially launched until mid-May, out hare has just had an evening out when it made a guest appearance at a talk on the Surrey Hills given to Haslemere Civic Society. The hare loved all the attention given to it by the audience – who also enjoyed the talk given by Ken Bare (our vice Chairman).

Officially known as the Surrey Hills Hare, we are inviting the public to vote for a ‘pet name’ for it. If you would like to vote, please see the Surrey Hills Facebook page and check the entry dated 21s April here.

Visit to Shere Museum to learn more about the Tales of the Tillingbourne HLF project

“What a lovely way to spend a grey March afternoon!” commented the Society member, Joyce Jessop at the end of our afternoon learning about the Heritage Lottery Funded  (HLF) project that was developed over several years, from its early beginnings in 2012, to showcase the industrial history of the valley. The project was inspired by the amazing industrial heritage of the Tillingbourne River. The River’s source is on one of the highest places in Surrey – Leith Hill. Here the natural springs provide a constant flow of water down the valley, through Wotton, Abinger, Shere, Albury, Chilworth and on to Shalford, where the river meets the River Wey.

Its constant flow made it ideal for the development of water powered mills that drove many different industries including, paper, wire, flour and gunpowder.  In fact, this sleepy valley was once home to one of the most industrialised valleys in the country during Tudor times.

With the Surrey Hills Board leading on the project, it harnessed the support of all the Parish Councils along the valley, the National Trust, Surrey Wildlife Trust, Chilworth Together, Chilworth Gunpowder Mills Group, Guildford Borough Council, Shere Museum and the volunteers of Surrey Hills Society.

The talk followed the development of the project, including the recruitment of River Wardens to monitor the River Wey in partnership with Surrey Wildlife Trust, and the recruitment of walk leaders to develop a series of seven walks that told the stories of some of the industries and mills along the river.

The project also included the development of seven characters to represent each of the industries from the villages along the River Wey.  These characters were based on real people from history and were identified by the project’s co-ordinator, Dr Anne Sassins, along with her volunteers. The characters were then transformed into real life-like models that are now housed at Shere Museum in a new exhibition which showcases the lost industrial heritage of the valley.

The day also included the opportunity to get a rare look at Barnes Wallis’ WWII Bouncing Bomb that is currently on display in the Museum.  Barnes Wallis lived in Effingham and worked at Brooklands – now Brooklands Museum.

In true Surrey Hills Society form, the event was ended with an enjoyable traditional afternoon tea.

Exploring Blackheath

Would it be on? Would be off?  As the “Beast from East”, Siberian weather battered the UK in the week running up to The Surrey Hills Society Free monthly walk for March, this was the topic of debate among organisers. A very pleasant winter wonderland walk was had on Monday 26th February by Walk Leaders, Chris Howard and Jeff Holliday. “Looking at the weather forecast we realised this was probably the only day we had to check the route before the snow really set in”, said Chris. “It was very pretty walking in the flurries of snow, as the bad weather set in that afternoon.”

And on the day, it was definitely worth putting in the preparation as the day dawned bright, with a “barmy” 8 degrees predicted. With all the snow virtually disappeared,  a muddy, rather than snowy, walk was had.  Jeff said” It was so good to get out again after being stuck indoors since Tuesday, due to adverse weather conditions”.

The heathlands of Albury and Blackheath are incredible wilderness areas that until the 20th century were wide open heathlands or heather and gorse.  The poor sandy soil means the area was never great for farming, but peasant farmers did graze the land with their cattle and sheep, which always kept the trees at bay.

After the First & Second World Wars the government incentivized landowners to plant pine trees on the heaths. The pines, invasive birch trees and other species have spread to cover most of the heathlands in Surrey now, as farming became more and more challenging in Surrey.

Albury Heath sculpture celebrating 60th anniversary of the Albury Produce show.

This walk had a variety of landscapes. Starting on Albury Heath amongst the heather it quickly enters birch woodland.  After dropping down off the hill, you traverse around the rolling grasslands of a farm, before enjoying a stiff hike up the hill to Blackheath through a pretty pine plantation.

“We passed trout fisheries, quaint cottages and even a small training race course. The William IV pub, nearby is a really pretty historic pub that is very popular with walkers, where some of us retired for a quick drink” added Chris. “Some went off to visit the ancient Saxon church nearby, while others headed for the Drummond Arms in Albury for a well- earned Sunday lunch.

Map reading day in Wotton

12 people attended our very useful map reading day with our experienced leaders. The course is always a success and comes back every year by popular demand. This time we were delighted to have so many non-members in the assistance.

A few participants commented the day:

“Excellent Day – just what I needed – map reading with compass!”

“Very informative and good value!”

“Very useful and I should be able to put things learnt into practice!”

“Very useful course and good catering!”

The morning was spent in the hall to learn how to read a map. In the afternoon there was practical training in the surrounding woods and fields.

Chairman of Surrey Hills Society opens Surrey Hills inspired art exhibition at Watts Gallery

Chris Howard, Chairman of the Surrey Hills Society, was the guest speaker at the opening of the new contemporary art show at Watts Gallery on Saturday 13th January 2018.

Surrey Hills based artist, Diana Croft is inspired by her immediate surroundings. The exhibition features a series of stylised prints derived from sketches of the Surrey Hills and South Downs near where she lives in Dorking.

Chris Howard with artist Diana Croft and Watts Gallery Director Alistair Burtenshaw

When opening the show at the Watts Contemporary Gallery, Chris said she “had come in from a grey January day into all this amazing light, texture and colour. It was truly inspiring and uplifting.”

All prints are for sale.

The exhibition runs from 13 January til 18 February 2018 at Watts Contemporary Gallery, Compton near Guildford.

SHS AGM at Undershaw

We were delighted to welcome 50 members to our this year’s Annual General Meeting at Stepping Stones school at Undershaw, Hindhead.

Our President, Neil Maltby and Chairman, Chris Howard hosted the event and summarised the activities from last year. You can read the Chairman’s report under About us and AGMs tag on the website shortly.

The meeting was followed by an interesting talk about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by local historian Julia Mayo. Undershaw used to be Sherlock Holmes’ creator’s home which we were lucky to be able to visit to finish our afternoon. The old Arts&Crafts building is part of a beautiful school site and we would be very happy to go back again.


Successful talk at the Reigate Society

Our vice-Chairman’s talk at the Reigate Society about the AONB and our Society received a warm welcome and delightful feed back:

” Your talk on the Surrey Hills Society at our Members Evening last Monday 9th October was excellent. We were all greatly impressed with your easy delivery and depth of knowledge as well as your enthusiasm. We all know much more than we did before. Many of the members have told me how much they enjoyed the evening and your presentation and I pass on their thanks.

I appreciate you giving the time to come to our event. We wish you well and also the Surrey Hills Society which is doing such good work for us all.”

Bridget Doughty, Honorary Secretary of The Reigate Society