Our visit to Langley Vale Centenary Wood

Here are a few photographs taken during our visit to the Langley Vale Centenary Wood, Ashtead, guided by volunteers from the Woodland Trust today.












Thanks to Sall and Gordon for the photos and Gilly for organising the visit.

Our bird walk at Bookham Commons

What a fantastic walk we had ambling along with bird enthusiast, Chris Burchell.  We started watching buzzards hovering gracefully over the car park and learnt so much from Chris about some of our common woodland species.  We paid a visit to the lakes, originally installed by the monks of Chertsey Abbey to provide fish for food, and now the home of 9 Canadian goslings as well as a number of mallard and a coot.

However the best was yet to come.  Chris led us towards the area called “the Plains” where we were incrediby lucky to hear a nightingale singing strongly.  A fantastic experience – there are only 50 pairs in Surrey and the nightingales only re-appeared at Bookham 3 days ago afgter an estimated 7 year absence. Yet this was not the end.  After a heavy shower Chris spotted a lesser whitethroat which is also extremely rare and which the whole group were able to watch through binoculars.

All in all a wonderful morning and many many thanks to Chris for giving up his time and sharing his great expertise.

Gordon Jackson

Visit To Brookwood Cemetery to celebrate Surrey Day



Surrey Hills Society members spent a fascinating afternoon at Brookwood Cemetery on Saturday 1st May as part of the Surrey Day celebrations.


Although not in the Surrey Hills, Brookwood Cemetery is a hidden gem hidden in the countryside just outside Woking. It is the largest necropolis in western Europe and has many listed mausoleums and statues. It is also a Grade 1 Listed arboretum and is a wonderful place to walk through.


The Brookwood Cemetery Society was formed in April 1992. It works to promote the wider interest in the cemetery which the Society believes should be a site of national importance.  Moreover, the site has the potential to become a World Heritage Site. The Society seeks to ensure the long term future of Brookwood Cemetery.  It assists with maintenance, clearance and restoration work and it helps relatives locate graves within the site.  It also works to ensure the cemetery remains a valuable haven for flora and fauna.

Left to right Volunteer Co ordinator for Brookwood Cemetery Society volunteers , Kim Lowe, outgoing High Sheriff, Shahid Azeem, Mel from BBC Radio Surrey and our Chairman Gordon Jackson.











We were also joined by the outgoing High Sheriff, Shahid Azeem, a British-Pakistani entrepreneur, who left school without a single curricular qualification and went on to run a football club. He was appointed High Sheriff for Surrey for 2020 – a direct servant to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It is an esteemed position that dates back more than 1000 years and there are only 45 High Sheriffs, out of a national population of more than 70 million. Shahid Azeem is the first male of Pakistani origin ever to hold the Royally-appointed title of High Sheriff.

Shahid Azeem arrived in Britain in 1969 as a 9 years old son of a migrant from the city of MatoreThesilKahuta in Pakistan. He was expelled from school at the age of 12, faced bullying and racism but joined a computer system company to make an independent living. He started selling fish and chips at a local ship. His father worked at British Rail as a porter and family lived in a 2 bedroom house shared with others in Guildford.  A determined Shahid Azeem went on from doing menial jobs to building a multi-million pound IT business.

Shahid Azeem loved football in his youth and started playing for local teams. He went on to become chairman of National League outfit Aldershot Town.He has also recently been appointed as an independent Director of Woking Necropolis and Mausoleum Limited.

Shahid spoke to our members about his time as High Sheriff during this challenging year . He spoke of the real community spirit he witnessed during Lockdown and hoped it would continue post the pandemic.


Thanks to our Vice President Chris for organising a very enjoyable visit with tea and cakes afterwards.

Bluebells at Staffhurst Woods


It was great to be out and about again with all our members again.  This month our free walk on the first Sunday of the month was to Staffhurst Wood to enjoy the incredible bluebell display.  This site managed by Surrey County Council is home to one of the best displays of bluebells in Surrey. We walked for over an hour and everywhere we looked was just a carpet of blue. Incredible that this woodland wonderland was clear felled in the 1930s and then used as a munitions dump and Canadian camp during WW2.


The small fields amongst the woodlands were clearings made some 700 years ago, called ‘assarts’  The area has been managed to try and restore some of the original character of the area which is now home to over 200 plant species and 288 species of moths. Due to several ponds on the area the woods are also a haven for amphibians.


                         Chris Howard


There was no trouble being socially distanced and observing the rule of 6 yesterday as 50 Surrey Hills Society members were able to enjoy a private visit to Dunsborough Park.  The sunshine was a bonus and highlighted the fabulous display of colour from the tremenous variety of tulips.  We thought we would share a few photographs with you.

It’s always nice to receive feedback from our members and we have already had an email to say “Seeing an outstanding display of tulips, and your friendly faces was a real tonic. Thank you so much.”

Nature Recovery petition

Larger Moths Decline over the last 50 Years

Our Chairman, Gordon Jackson, was very interested to read the latest information regarding our British moths and we thought we’d share this with you.


Butterfly Conversation have launched a new report entitled State of Britain’s Larger Moths.  It shows a worrying 33% decline in the population of larger moths over the last 50 years.  You can read the report here.

You may be interested in the attached petition which urges the government to enshrine their nature recovery targets in law and so be held accountable for them. Find out more here.


           Surrey Hills Society

Off-road impact: 4×4 vehicles causing damage to Surrey Hills

Off Road motorised vehicles are having a major impact on the Surrey Hills. The popularity of these activities through the woods and commons of this designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), with new tracks being illegally carved out on private land, has increased during lockdown and creates tension with landowners and leisure users.

The use of off-road, quad bike and 4×4 vehicles is strictly prohibited throughout the AONB, unless on a designated Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT). Damage by illegal off-road vehicles negatively impacts the myriad of species that call the Surrey Hills AONB home.

Recent developments have seen Surrey Police tackle rural crime in the Surrey Hills by seizing un-licensed 4×4 vehicles, handing out warnings and securing prosecutions.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey David Munro said: “Enhancing the response to crime in our rural communities remains one of my key priorities. We are lucky in Surrey to have access to wonderful countryside and I am pleased to see such proactive work by the local team in response to the concerns raised by the residents that live locally.

In the last two years, I’ve supported Surrey Police to establish a dedicated network of rural crime officers across Surrey’s boroughs and I am proud that these individuals are making a real difference in areas where residents may feel the most isolated – preventing crime as well as apprehending those responsible. In the year ahead, I will be supporting Surrey Police to extend this further, with the addition of 10 police officers and 67 operational support staff that will strengthen the overall service of the Force, and additional funding for the rural crime team that is so important.”

Reports of damage caused by off-road vehicles were made earlier this month in Mole Valley, following the discovery of muddy tyre tracks and circular markings throughout The Gallops on Mickleham Downs. This tranquil area managed by the National Trust is regularly frequented by local dog walkers, and forms part of the popular Box Hill Hike trail. Large rutted, muddy tracks were left behind, with grass churned up and damaged, marring the beautiful ranging views across the Downs. The recent wet weather further exacerbated the problem, with sodden ground more readily damaged. Not only does this kind of destruction look unpleasant, it creates highly dangerous conditions for other people using the local routes, including walkers and cyclists.


Councillor Hazel Watson, Chairman of the Surrey Hills Byways Working Group comments,

“It is awful to see this careless destruction of the local area. The grass and woodland of Mickleham Downs is an important haven for wildlife and plant species. Damage caused by off-road vehicles is a major threat to the Surrey Hills AONB and I urge the local community to alert Surrey Police to any antisocial behaviour taking place in our countryside spaces.”

Acting Borough Commander, T/Detective Inspector Wagjiani said: “Off-roading is a nuisance and can cause considerable damage to the beauty of our countryside and woodland areas. Reporting a rural crime such as this is key. While the reporting of one incident might not lead us to the perpetrator, the collective evidence will support us in gaining the intelligence that will help us to identify a suspect. We can then take action.”

Heather Kerswell, Chair of the Surrey Hills AONB Board, says,

“There is mounting concern about the damage being caused to the protected Surrey Hills landscape by an irresponsible minority of off-road drivers. Current lockdown measures have made the Surrey Hills a popular playground for many. I commend Surrey Police for their efforts in this area and call on all our rural communities to work together to combat this serious issue”.

Reports of antisocial crime can be made to Surrey Police via their online reporting tool; https://www.surrey.police.uk/ro/report/asb/asb/report-antisocial-behaviour/

For further information on the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) visit www.surreyhills.org.

Tread carefully to respect the Surrey Hills AONB














With the past year having drawn more people than ever towards our green spaces in an effort to find fresh air for exercise and to reconnect with nature, the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is calling on people to remember to tread carefully when walking in the countryside.

Current government Coronavirus guidelines stipulate that outdoor exercise should be taken locally, including when accessing open spaces, and therefore people should not be travelling into the Surrey Hills AONB if it is not within walking distance of their home. Those that do choose to walk in the countryside are being urged to do so mindfully of both the environment and the wildlife that calls the Surrey Hills home.

Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1958 and stretching across the chalk North Downs from Farnham in the west to Oxted in the east, the Surrey Hills AONB encompasses a quarter of the county and houses a diverse variety of wildlife due to the unique combination of woodland, downland and heathland. Key species include ground nesting birds that may not be visible but make homes for their young just out of sight, and potentially underfoot, during the breeding season of February to August.

Staying on marked paths and routes is particularly important when it comes to protecting these vulnerable species as disturbing them may lead to the abandonment of eggs or chicks, meaning that the birds fail to nest, eggs to hatch and chicks may die from lack of food, cold or predation. It is also a criminal offence to disturb wild breeding birds.

It is for this reason that the Surrey Hills AONB is asking walkers to remember to follow marked paths and keep their dogs on a short lead during the bird breeding season. Those that may come across young chicks or distressed adult birds should move away quietly and quickly, even if it might mean going back the way they came.

Mike Coates, RSPB Warden for Farnham and Hazeley Heaths explains:

“It is so important to protect our ground nesting birds and other wildlife. If the birds are disturbed, they can abandon their eggs and chicks. People can really help by staying on paths and keeping dogs on leads where they are asked to. It’s a simple thing, but it can make a big difference!”

Rob Fairbanks, Director of the Surrey Hills AONB, says:

“We are passionate about people accessing the countryside for their health and wellbeing but in these difficult times we need to act with the utmost responsibility and be mindful of our impact on wildlife. Our farmers and land managers also need our support by keeping to paths, being careful not to trample on crops, closing gates and ensuring we all practice The Countryside Code values of ‘Respect – Protect – Enjoy’.”

The Countryside Code urges people to play their part in looking after local landscapes by:

* leaving no trace of their visit, including taking litter home with them;
* ensuring dogs are kept under control;
* leaving gates as they find them so as to not disturb farm animals;
* considering the local community when visiting,
* following signs and keeping to designated paths and bridleways

It is a message echoed by The National Trust, which cares for more than 15,000 acres of the Surrey Hills.

Stephanie Fudge, National Trust General Manager for the Surrey Hills explains,

“The numbers and diversity of birds is so important for our environment and the food chain. We see large numbers of ground nesting birds across the Surrey Hills from March until early Summer. Their breeding success is critically dependent on not being disturbed and so we would ask that visitors are considerate, to keep to paths and keep their dogs on leads in sensitive areas. Together we can protect and nurture the success of these nesting families.”

For further information on the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) visit www.surreyhills.org.