Chairman of Surrey Hills Society opens Surrey Hills inspired art exhibition at Watts Gallery

Chris Howard, Chairman of the Surrey Hills Society, was the guest speaker at the opening of the new contemporary art show at Watts Gallery on Saturday 13th January 2018.

Surrey Hills based artist, Diana Croft is inspired by her immediate surroundings. The exhibition features a series of stylised prints derived from sketches of the Surrey Hills and South Downs near where she lives in Dorking.

Chris Howard with artist Diana Croft and Watts Gallery Director Alistair Burtenshaw

When opening the show at the Watts Contemporary Gallery, Chris said she “had come in from a grey January day into all this amazing light, texture and colour. It was truly inspiring and uplifting.”

All prints are for sale.

The exhibition runs from 13 January til 18 February 2018 at Watts Contemporary Gallery, Compton near Guildford.

SHS AGM at Undershaw

We were delighted to welcome 50 members to our this year’s Annual General Meeting at Stepping Stones school at Undershaw, Hindhead.

Our President, Neil Maltby and Chairman, Chris Howard hosted the event and summarised the activities from last year. You can read the Chairman’s report under About us and AGMs tag on the website shortly.

The meeting was followed by an interesting talk about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by local historian Julia Mayo. Undershaw used to be Sherlock Holmes’ creator’s home which we were lucky to be able to visit to finish our afternoon. The old Arts&Crafts building is part of a beautiful school site and we would be very happy to go back again.


Successful talk at the Reigate Society

Our vice-Chairman’s talk at the Reigate Society about the AONB and our Society received a warm welcome and delightful feed back:

” Your talk on the Surrey Hills Society at our Members Evening last Monday 9th October was excellent. We were all greatly impressed with your easy delivery and depth of knowledge as well as your enthusiasm. We all know much more than we did before. Many of the members have told me how much they enjoyed the evening and your presentation and I pass on their thanks.

I appreciate you giving the time to come to our event. We wish you well and also the Surrey Hills Society which is doing such good work for us all.”

Bridget Doughty, Honorary Secretary of The Reigate Society

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.