The Tillingbourne Tales taken to schools


The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre’s involvement in The Tillingbourne Tales Heritage Lottery Funded project stands out as one of our most memorable education programmes of 2016.

John Lambert, Job Durbridge, Charles Ball and Peggy were brought to life by our education team and placed each group of children as Mill employees, exploring working conditions and recreating life as it was when the mills were operating at their peak.  Our schools workshops are designed to place each child into the shoes of their forefathers and foster lifelong learning through interactive teaching.  We aim to inspire all participants by giving them a true taste of life from their past and through the retelling of their experiences in a school assembly, we allow the young people of the Tillingbourne Valley to educate each other about their rich history.

Of course, teaching can sometimes become a little bit repetitive, so with just a little bit of artistic licence, John, Job, Charles and Peggy also appeared at a number of other events as part of the HLF project and at one memorable after dinner event, demonstrated that adults can have just as much fun as the children!

Fast forward to 2017 and we were delighted to receive the news that Fidelity International have awarded a continuation grant for this part of the project.  We have just put the finishing touches to our updated workshop that will allow another entire year group of young people to explore the characters from the Tillingbourne Tales.  These workshops are scheduled to take place in the autumn term and are testament to the lasting legacy that the HLF project has achieved.

Nick White, Head of Youth, Education & Community at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Surrey’s Public Paths Network 

We all love Surrey for its many open spaces, woodland and overall green environment, but do we ever consider what it takes to keep it that way for residents and visitors?

A volunteer fixing a footpath waymark to a stile.

This piece focuses in particular on public paths, of which there are over 2,000 miles across the county.  That’s the distance from Guildford to Istanbul!  Many Society members enjoy our monthly guided walks, when you’ll nearly always be walking on a local right of way.

Public paths may be footpaths, bridleways or byways and any of these might be permissive paths, which means they are open with permission from the private landowner, and maintained by them.

But the majority right across the county are looked after by Surrey County Council’s Countryside Access team of 7 people, as well as a small but busy, legal team who deal with path closures, permanent or temporary diversions and public inquiries.

There is a statutory duty for the council to maintain and keep the public paths network open for public enjoyment, but the team have faced staff and budget cuts for at least four of the last five years.  The latest budget cuts are very punishing – in the region of 60% down from last year – which makes it very hard-going to keep the network even in a basic state for public accessibility, with vegetation cuts now barely happening even once a year.   It used to be twice.  They also need to keep approximately 10,000 waymarks and signage in place and ensure 5,000 stiles and gates are in good condition.

On top of this, the team also now looks after more than 1,400 bridges across the county.   One creative idea they’ve come up with is for local interested parties (like Ramblers groups or conservation charities) to ‘adopt a bridge’ and then agree to look after its basic maintenance and report issues back.

Volunteers helping with a broadwalk at a moat in Elstead.

Volunteer groups play a huge part in helping to check up on and provide basic maintenance on public paths and the Countryside Access team would struggle to cope without their ongoing help.  SCC have a very good arrangement with conservation groups and regularly provide training and tools for Volunteer Path Wardens who commit to looking after a particular section of path, usually in their local area.   Additionally, local Ramblers Group have just agreed to make annual donations towards the provision and installation of new kissing gates where required. This is seen as very good news.

Volunteers can be proud of their work!

If you come across an issue on a public path that you think should be reported, use the online reporting form found on SCC’s website.

Diane Cooper, SCC Countryside Marketing Officer



Very Wet Sponsor’s Day

Even though the event and our group suffered from extremely wet weather conditions, very positive comments were heard from our members:

“This was a fascinating walk all about things which were no longer there.  Amazing to think how an area can changed so quickly.”

“Thank you Ken!  Despite the VERY wet weather, we really enjoyed our afternoon.”

Wonderfully Exciting President’s Day

” Thank you for an extremely interesting, fun President’s Day. We really
learned a great deal and it was lovely to see both training yards and meet new
people. Shame Jim wouldn’t let me take a horse home with me, but a great
insight into the struggle now facing training yards and Epsom racecourse.
Thank you Neil!” – Tamsin Wilkins, Society Member


Celebrating the history of the Surrey Hills thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund

The Surrey Hills Society has received a ‘Sharing Heritage’ grant of £6,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting new project which will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The Surrey Hills Society which is an independent charity, run by its unpaid members and set up to promote and protect the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), has volunteered to produce a booklet in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the AONB in 2018.

The project, titled “The Surrey Hills AONB – 60 Years of Landscape Change” will see the Surrey Hills Society research into the history of the Surrey Hills. The Surrey Hills was officially designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1958, the second landscape in the country to receive that designation.

This exciting project will record why the Surrey Hills was considered so important to receive national protection in 1958 and how the designation has helped to protect and enhance the area including the ways that societal change has impacted on the landscape. An important part of the project will be to engage farmers and landowners who will help to identify how and why the land that they are responsible for has changed over the last 60 years.

The booklet (anticipated to be 48 – 64 pages at A5 with colour and black & white images) will provide a readable history of how the AONB came about and its achievements / benefits to the community. Sections will cover the way that different aspects of the AONB have changed over the 60 years – farming, woodland, broader landscape, built environment & population pressures etc. – and help local people and visitors understand that the countryside changes over time and has not always been as it is seen on a visit in 2018.

Along with the text in this booklet there will be a high pictorial content focused on images from early in 20th century (baseline), 1950’s (i.e. just before AONB formed) and current day. These will support the concept of change over time.

The beneficiaries of the project are from a range of groups since the aim of the booklet is to raise awareness of the AONB amongst a wide swathe of the public. The booklet is seen as opening doors to many individuals and organisations where initial face to face contact or presentations are difficult to achieve. Therefore, individual copies will also be given to all parish councillors, borough & district councillors and county councillors across the AONB area to reinforce the importance of the designation in their decision making. Further personal copies will be provided to high profile individuals who can act as ambassadors / opinion formers / agents of change.

However, another key group of recipients – and the one for which the style of the booklet is specifically designed – is a public who want to know more about the area where they live or spend recreational time. The project will work hard to make the booklet of interest to a notional family of adults in their 30s – 40s with children in their teens and therefore of an age to get out into the AONB and learn more about it. To make the booklet available to them, key outlets will be our promotional trailer and gazebo which attend a number of shows across Surrey plus library copies and via other public access areas.

The intention of the grant application has been to gain sufficient funding so that the booklet can be produced and distributed at no cost to the recipients. To match the cash element which has been sought, skilled Society volunteers will be doing all the research, authorship, editing etc. with the major external costs being design & print, postage and photograph copyright costs. The print run is anticipated to be between 3000 – 5000 (subject to funding) to allow for initial distribution, additional copies for public events plus a stock for further use over the 5 years following publication.

A Morning to Explore Denbies Hillside

“Thank you for a lovely morning at Denbies Hillside! We never knew it was there, but will be visiting the area again soon. Rob was very informative about the work of the National Trust in that area, as well as the flora. We are so lucky to live in such a special part of the country!” – Tamsin Wilkins

Bee Orchid

Fragrant Orchid

Pyramid Orchid

SHS Group by Adonis Blue Butterfly Carving

Slow Worm in Lead Ranger’s Caring Hands

Thank you very much Lynne for providing all the pictures!

Chairman’s Day

More that 50 happy Society members visited historical Guildford with the Chairman Chris Howard under the burning sun. Many hidden ‘gems’ and unknown stories were discovered during the day! Chris just knows how to create a fascinating and memorable event.

A couple who have lived in Guildford and been members for many years commented their experience: “A big thank you to Chris Howard and all other SHS ‘staff’ involved in the Chairman’s Day event.  We found it to be a most enjoyable and interesting day, during which we learned a lot and saw places that were new to us – despite being Guildford residents for 45+ years!

The only ‘down’ side was the extreme heat – but even SHS can’t control that!

Despite being SHS members for some time, this is only the second event we have managed to attend – but we look forward to joining in many more occasions in the future.”

Nick Bale from Guildford Town Guides speaking to SHS members at the Guildhall.

Stuart Craggs, Experience Guildford, talking to SHS members at Chairman’s Day 2017

Soundscape Trail

Fabulous day out exploring the sounds of the Surrey Hills around Guildford on Sunday 4th June’s free walk with the Surrey Hills Society.  Ali Clarke from Surrey Hills Arts, along with sound artist Neil Cahoon, led a fascinating walk along the North Downs Way focussing our attentions on the sometimes forgotten sounds around us in the countryside.

The Soundscape project is dedicated to the sounds and soundscape of the North Downs Way. It is a collection of field recordings sound walks, essays, flash fiction and poetry, centred on the section of the North Downs Way between Chantry Wood and Silent Pool. The installation consist of a series of site specific texts displayed on wooden “Listening Posts” – complete with QR codes linked to some of the field recordings on this website.

Neil Cahoon- Surrey Hills Soundscape artist

Neil explained that he was inspired by the work of early 20th century, American composer John Cage, who is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″. This is performed in the absence of any deliberate sound; musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title. The content of the composition is not “four minutes and 33 seconds of silence,” as is often assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during performance.

Neil continued in this theme by asking our group to stand for 4’ 33” minutes.  At first this requests seemed odd and uncomfortable- standing in a car park in the Chantries, while the world around us continued to whizz by. It probably did look odd to passers-by.  However, within about a minute I physically felt my shoulders drop, as the sun burned down on my face, the wind rustled in the trees above and bird song all around me.  I then became aware that the sound waves were also interrupted by the sound of a car passing on the road to my right, the faint humming noise of plane far up in the bright blue sky soon can and went. Then towards the end of the 4 ‘ 33” the rhythmic pulse of a train speeding along from Guildford to Godalming ended the frame beautifully.

Surrey Hills Society member, Helen Barnsley trying out the sound equipment

In my newly relaxed and more open-minded state, I was then able to focus in on the sounds around me as we walked through the beautiful landscape of the Surrey Hills. To aid us in this task we were also given the opportunity experience wearing the sound equipment that Neil had used in the project.  By wearing ear-phones and using a microphone, the sounds around you are amplified, allowing you to eaves drop on private conversations of walkers further down the track, hear the bird song more distinctly and catch the distant sounds of cows mooing in the field far away in the corner of your vision.

It was a special day out experiencing an often unsung aspect of the Surrey Hills and definitely “opened my eyes”, or should I say “ears” to the special sounds of the countryside that we often take for granted, or worse don’t even notice.

Chris Howard