Work Experience Opportunities with Halow


Earlier this month, Year BG from the halow project in Guildford enjoyed 2 fantastic days working with the Surrey Hills Society where they were tree popping and planting fruit trees.


The young people were pleased by the stunning views, friendly team and the lovely sunshine we had, and couldn’t have asked for a better location to be working in.


On the Tuesday the young people were removing and cleaning Hawthorn from the hills and then on Wednesday were planting trees in Puttenham bonfire field to be part of the new orchard. Both days required new skills and patience which the young people showed plenty of!

Having never come across a tree popping tool before, the young people very quickly learnt and developed lots of new skills and had to use teamwork and perseverance to complete the tasks. They loved working with the other volunteers and were even very kindly treated to lunch which went down a storm!

They are very keen to work with Surrey Hills Society again and look forward to possible opportunities in the future.

Written by Hannah Jackson from Halow

Allianz Surrey Hills Champions Volunteering Day


Following the success of our first tree planting event back in February, it was time to get our wellies out again for some more conservation and planting.

On Friday 11 November, over 100 employees from our Guildford office got together to help plant hedgerows and wildflowers at West Horsley Place. The sun shone all day and we loved getting out of the office to use our volunteering hours. We planted 870 hedgerow plants along 250 metres of pathway and created several large wildflower beds.

The day was a great success thanks to the team at Surrey Hills who organised the day so that we could be as productive as possible. They explained how the work needed to be done as well as how it would help preserve the local environment so everyone felt that it was a really worthwhile day out of the office. We are looking forward to planning more events together in the future.




Jessica Pike
Marketing Assistant for Brand and CSR Allianz

This was as part of the Surrey Hills Champions programme in partnership with Surrey Hills Enterprises.

Our visit to Adam Aaronson’s glass studio


On a cold November day over 30 members found the perfect place to keep warm! Adam Aaronson treated us to a fascinating display of specialist glassmaking at his West Horsley Studio. Adam told how he had learnt his trade in Stoke having originally been encouraged to study law by his father!

Adam has been at the heart of British studio glass for nearly 40 years, first running galleries dedicated to glass art and subsequently as a glass artist in his own right, learning how to create glass art later in his career and developing self-taught methods. Adam is a skilled maker and a truly diverse and talented glass artist. He is constantly experimenting with techniques and exploring new ideas, including the potential of large sculptural works designed for the outdoors.

We watched spellbound as he expertly fashioned several separate pieces including a glass, a bowl and a small bird. Several of our members were so enthused that they have signed up for one of the several classes that Adam runs regularly. “Anyone over 9 years old can do it!” Adam assured us.

Halfway through we enjoyed tea and cakes which gave us the opportunity to look at the extensive samples of Adam’s work available for sale with a new appreciation of the skill and effort involved in even the simple pieces.

None of us wanted to exchange the warmth of the furnaces for the cold outside at the end of an excellent afternoon!

Gordon Jackson

The Chilworth Chicken

Many people will have heard of the Dorking Cockerel but few will have any knowledge of the “Chilworth Chicken”.

This is the affectionate nickname given to a piece of topiary beside the North Downs railway line and which forms a moving memorial to a train guard who lost his life in a tragic incident over 130 years ago.

On Monday 29 February 1892 – a leap year – a goods train travelling from Redhill to Reading crashed at about 10:40pm, throwing the guard, Henry Wicks, to his death. The train, led by two locomotives, had come apart because of a broken goods wagon coupling.

The front portion of the train continued down the gradient and was eventually stopped by the two locomotives. The rear wagons caught up and collided with the front section between Gomshall and Chilworth. The impact threw 30 wagons down the embankment and derailed the vehicle’s front nine wagons and the second locomotive.

Henry, age 52, was found at first light lying on the embankment. He had worked on the railway for 30 years and left behind his wife, a son and daughter-in-law, Jessie Wicks. Jessie was especially upset by the loss of her father-in-law, and was instrumental in the planting of his lineside memorial and asking railway workers to care for it.

Rather than a chicken, the topiary is pheasant-shaped. It sits on a wide chair, symbolising Henry’s peace, and is also known as Jessie’s Seat. Former railway operators maintained it until 1989 and, since then, volunteers have looked after it.

The “Chilworth Chicken” is still there but blink and you’ll miss it! Unfortunately, it’s not accessible from a public route and sits very close to the track. However, to keep the memory alive, a special memorial train was run on the anniversary in 2020. There are now plans to place a poster cabinet at Chilworth Station to explain the story, along with a replica of the train headboard used on the commemoration event.

Ken Bare

Waverley Abbey’s Winning Tree

For the last twelve years, The Woodland Trust has held an annual competition to select the Tree of the Year.  The 2022 winner has just been announced and we are proud to note that the winning tree is a venerable Yew at Waverley Abbey near Farnham – a destination within the Surrey Hills that the Society has visited on a number of occasions.

As you can see from the various photos, it is a beautiful tree with roots that sprawl out above ground before plunging into the earth. Not only is it a wonderful tree but it fits so well into the landscape and ruins of Waverley Abbey – the first Cistercian Monastery established in England

The Yew won with an impressive 16% of the vote. In second place was The Portal Tree Rowan in Midlothian which took 11% of the vote. Third place went to Derbyshire’s Layering Horse Chestnut, with 10% of the votes.

This national Tree of The Year competition aims to highlight how vital trees are for our landscapes and our lives whilst celebrating ancient trees that have withstood the test of time. Each is a constant safe haven for wildlife in a changing and sometimes disconnected landscape. The Waverley Abbey Yew proved to be a wonderful example of how important trees are. Its multi-stemmed form, dotted with holes, crevices and areas of decay, is an invaluable habitat for wildlife.

Having won the UK vote, this tree now becomes the national entry for European Tree of the Year 2023.  Now that really would be an accolade!

More details may be found on the Woodland Trust website.

‘Making Good’ with Leatherhead Youth Project

During October Half Term, we teamed up with Leatherhead Youth Project to carry out two days of practical conservation work as part of their ‘Making Good Project’. This is a project which aims to get young people engaged with communities through positive action projects.

The first day was spent at Newlands Corner, which is part of Surrey County Council’s Countryside Estate. This area is made up of both woodland and chalk grassland, which is very important for insects particularly butterflies. Here, the group met the Surrey Choices Growth Team. The Growth Team comprises of a group of adults with learning disabilities who carry out important conservation and access work across Surrey. They have been working up at Newlands Corner, to clear encroaching bramble and scrub from the grassland to encourage its restoration but also to help open up the viewpoint and create more places for people to sit.

The group split into two, one group off to tackle the scrub with the Growth Team, while the other half of the group, worked on assembling a bug hotel using recycled signposts and wood from the countryside.

They did this in the recently opened Discovery Centre, which was a brilliant space and great for the group to experience. After a scenic lunch and quick mooch around the Dormice Trail, the groups switched over so that everyone could experience both activities.


On the second day, the young people met us at Banstead Heath for a day of tree popping alongside the Banstead Commons Conservators. Tree popping involves removing small unwanted trees by the root, to avoid them growing back. This is done by using a tree popper – essentially a giant lever which grips the tree in its jaw.

We were really impressed by the grit and determination of everyone and the competition to see who could achieve the longest root was met with enthusiasm. We were also very lucky to see an adder basking in the late October sunshine, proof that the work we were doing was important for the heathland species that live there.

It was great for the young people to work in partnership with three different organisations, learning new skills and enjoying being together outside.

It was particularly rewarding for the Growth Team to be able to show the group from Leatherhead Youth Project what they do and for them to work together in partnership for the benefit of people and nature.

Thank you so much to everybody that was involved in making the two days a success!

Christa Emmett
Project and Volunteer Coordinator

AGM at Gatton Park

On Saturday 22 October the Society held its 14th Annual General Meeting at the prestigious venue of Gatton Park.

52 members attended and were welcomed by our President, Chris Howard, who also thanked them for their continuing support.

This was followed by reports from the Chairman, Gordon Jackson; Chair of Events Committee, Sall Baring; Project and Volunteer Coordinator, Christa Emmett and the Treasurer, Martin Cantor.  All these reports are available to read here.

The Park and Garden’s Manager, Dan Ryan then gave a short talk about Capability Brown with particular reference to his design of the historic Gatton Park landscaped gardens.

After a most enjoyable lunch, three Gatton volunteers led tours around the park and gardens, accommodating everyone’s requirements even including a private tour for one lucky lady!


Those with mobility issues were given a ride down to the Japanese garden – much appreciated by those who took it.


We learnt that a key part of Brown’s design for Gatton was a series of ponds which culminated in the main lake.

Main lake by Ian Wells    

Gatton from Main Lake by Ian Wells









The lake is around 30 acres in size, the main body of it narrows to the north to form an area which is known as the Panhandle. The lake has two islands, one of which is home to the only Heronry on private land in Surrey and the other supports many other species of wildfowl.

Walking through the park we went down to the Japanese Garden to see the changes that have recently been made, including new steps to improve access. The rock garden has also been recently renovated and it is around that area that there is a beautiful display of snowdrops in February.

We then went onto St. Andrew’s Church where our volunteer guide, Alan gave us a brief history of the church and drew our attention to the stained glass windows and memorial plaque of Jeremiah and Mary Coleman. Sir Jeremiah Colman, of mustard fame, was the last owner of the Gatton estate before it was left to The Royal Alexandra and Albert School.

Rock Garden

Old Town Hall





Group photo at Japanese Garden by Ian Wells















Quotes received from members include:

“I enjoyed my day at Gatton Park and found the AGM talks very useful. The day ran so smoothly thanks to your efficient organisation and as a result of what I learned I hope to encourage more residents from this village to join the SHS.”

“It was a super setting and was very informative. I learnt today how far reaching the Society is and that there is more to it than arranging events for us to explore the Surrey Hills which I, for one, appreciate very much. The lunch was pretty good, too!”

“Excellent AGM.  One of the best.  Thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make ut such a success.”

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