Celebrating 60 years of the Surrey Hills AONB at Loseley Park

“What a super evening you organised with such very interesting showcases of what goes on in the Surrey Hills.  Delectable canapes too! “

This was just one of the many emails and comments received following our event at Loseley Park, Guildford on 26th June to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Surrey Hills Society and the 60th anniversary of the Surrey Hills AONB.

Having had such a successful, high profile, event at Speakers House, Westminster on 8th May (the actual anniversary of the AONB designation), we wanted to hold a further event that enabled more of our active volunteers, local partners, parish councils and other affiliates to join with us in celebration of all that has been achieved.  And what a lot there was to celebrate.  It was only when one looked along the length of the Loseley Tithe Barn, that the breadth of our network and partners became apparent.  We could have filled the space twice over!


In addition to the Surrey Hills AONB’s own stands, showcasing the many and varied projects we are involved in, there were displays by partner organisations including Surrey Wildlife Trust with their Hedgerow Heroes project and the GASP Motor project.  GASP is doing incredible work helping local youths become competent mechanics, across the Surrey Hills and beyond. Also included was a display of the current AONB promotion of vintage-style posters by local artist Louise Dunckley, which evokes an earlier period when the Surrey Hills first became a leisure destination of choice for rail and other visitors.


We also had a display promoting our HLF funded projects – the Tales of the Tillingbourne, which highlighted the industrial heritage of the area, plus the recently launched book “Our Changing Landscape” which was written specifically to celebrate the anniversary.  (See separate news item.)

As for the canapes…  we were privileged to have sponsorship from Playle and Partners, who have been providing clients in the public & private sectors, with construction and property advice for 60 years. Their support enabled us to put on this special event.  With support from Greyfriars Vineyard, the event was able to include Surrey wine and showcase our growing number of vineyards in the AONB.  The Loseley & Guildway Charitable Trust also supported the event.  Great thanks are due to all these organisations.

An enormous thank you must also go to Michael More-Molyneux, Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, for hosting us in the Loseley Tithe Barn and for supporting our work throughout the years.



It was a great pleasure to have the company of actress and charity champion, Dame Penelope Keith, Patron of the Surrey Hills AONB, for the evening and to have the opportunity for her to meet with the now large group of people that volunteer for the Surrey Hills Society. The setting up of a charity dedicated to supporting this special landscape was a legacy aspiration from the AONB’s 50th anniversary.  The Surrey Hills Society, now a thriving charity, celebrated its 10th birthday as part of the evening.

With wonderful weather on the evening, a fascinating range of displays, an incredible venue, excellent food and drink – plus well received musical entertainment by Phillipa Reed and David Maxfield – it is small wonder that we have received the plaudits noted at the start of this item.

Congratulations to everyone who made the event such a success!


Book Launch to mark 60 years of the Surrey Hills AONB

When the Trustees of Surrey Hills Society started thinking about ways of celebrating the 60th anniversary of the AONB and the 10th birthday of the Society, our vice-chairman, Ken Bare,  suggested that we produce a book recording how the AONB came about and how it had changed over 60 years.  Once he had agreed to be the primary researcher and author, with Diane Cooper (our PR & Communications lead) acting as editor, the project gained its own momentum.  The book had to be written!

We discovered that we could apply for an HLF grant and, fortunately, they decided to give us the full £6000 that it would cost to design, print and distribute 4000 copies of the book.  In exchange we agreed to match this with volunteer labour doing all the work.  Several hundred man-hours later we have reached launch – so a big Thank-you to HLF for underpinning the project.

Ken Bare launching the book at Speaker’s House

What we were aiming to achieve was a product which would act as a legacy to the anniversaries but, just as importantly, would support our Societies aims of promoting and protecting the AONB.  We think we have achieved that goal in that the book is informative whilst being an easy read.

Part of the research involved interviews with a number of farmers, foresters, landowners, planners and so on.  We give a very special Thank-you to them – not only for sharing their wealth of knowledge with Ken but for taking time out of their busy lives to welcome him into their homes and offices.  A key message that came back from all of them was that the AONB designation was very important – and that the work of the Society is pivotal in helping the general public to understand more about their wonderful Surrey Hills and hence why they need to look after them.

And that is where the book starts to do its work.  ‘The Surrey Hills – Our Changing Landscape’ book was launched on 8 May 2018 at Speaker’s House, within the Palace of Westminster as part of a high profile reception to mark the actual 60th anniversary.  In front of an influential audience, Ken launched the book and copies were given to each of the attendees.

SHS volunteers helping with book distribution

The rest of the 4000 will be distributed widely.  Each of our memberships will receive copies as will all local councillors – from County to Parish level – to help them in their decision making.  The remainder will be distributed to the general public at events including the Surrey County Show and various other talks, fetes and so on.  We’ve also been working with the local media – who have been very receptive and are helping with promotion of the book and the anniversaries.

Additional copies can be obtained via the “Shop” page of our web site.

North Downs Way Anniversary celebrations on May Bank holiday weekend 5/6th May

The Surrey Hills Society joined forces with Mole Valley Ramblers, as part of the Mole Valley Walking Festival to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the North Downs Way being designated as a National Trail over the May Bank holiday weekend.  On Saturday 21 people walked from Dorking to Reigate, while on Sunday 26 people walked from Guildford to Dorking in glorious sunshine.

Over the weekend several walks were planned as part of the NDW celebrations in both Surrey and Kent.  More walks are planned throughout the summer.  See www.nationaltrail.co.uk/north-downs-way for more details.  For more Surrey Hills Society walks see our events page.

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.