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.


Tillingbourne Tales receives an award

At the end of July, the Surrey Hills Society, and Shere Museum jointly received an award from the Surrey Industry History Group (SIHG).  This award which is presented annually to an important local project was received as a result of the Tales and Trails of the Tillingbourne project.  Whilst there were many participants and partners in this project, the Society and the Museum were deemed to have been lead volunteer groups and hence suitable recipients of the award.

The project had many facets including the creation of character puppets, life stories of the characters, involvement of Yvonne Arnaud Youth Theatre and local schools, etc.  Especially mentioned at the award ceremony was the production of walks leaflets covering each of the Tillingbourne villages and their industrial past.  These leaflets which are available from the Society and Shere Museum have been well received by the public and have introduced a new audience to the fascinating history of the area.

In a small celebration event at Shere Village Hall, a plaque was presented to Christine Howard (Chairman of Surrey Hills Society) and Handa Bray (Patron of Shere Museum) by Jan Spencer (Editor of the SIHG Newsletter).  In due course, this plaque will be mounted close to the Tales of the Tillingbourne display in a new gallery within Shere Museum that was created specifically as part of the project.  SIHG also made donations to both organisations which were very gratefully received.

The Tales and Trails of the Tillingbourne project was funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant.  Further information may be found at:
and on its own web site at:


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 http://rural-life.org.uk/) 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.