10 facts you should know if you live in the Surrey Hills
- Credit: Beata Moore
Covering a quarter of our county, the rolling countryside of the Surrey Hills is one of Britain’s most beautiful landscapes – and now a stunning new book has just been published about the area. Written and photographed by local author Beata Moore, to mark its release, here she shares ten fascinating facts from the book...
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1 Stretching from Farnham in the west to Oxted in the east and extending all the way to Haslemere in the south, the Surrey Hills is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and has an equal landscape status and protection to a National Park. As well as its thriving wildlife, the area is also a home to many plants including rare orchids.
2 Today, the boundaries of the Surrey Hills are marked by the distinctive wooden sculptures of renowned chainsaw artist Walter Bailey. Erected in 2002, there are two types of sculpture: small wooden signs with the Surrey Hills logo and 12 totem-pole-like sculptures with varied designs, which have become something of an icon for the area.
3 One of the key waterways in the Surrey Hills, the River Wey was the first British river to be successfully canalised for commercial traffic, made navigable for barges in 1653. The idea of the navigation was commenced by Sir Richard Weston, an avid agriculturalist who had witnessed the controlled flooding of pastures in the Netherlands.
4 The house at Loseley Park, near Guildford, replaced the earlier medieval one that Queen Elizabeth I declared inadequate for her visit. To build the mansion, stone from the nearby Cistercian Waverley Abbey was used. The Great Hall contains panelling from the demolished Nonsuch Palace and painted canvas from Henry VII’s banqueting tents.
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5 During the Second World War, near the village of Dunsfold, the Canadian Army built an emergency landing airfield. Operating from Dunsfold were Mosquitoes, Spitfires, Mustangs and B-25 Mitchell Bombers. After the war, it was used as a flight test centre and development site for Hunter jet fighters among others.
6 Equally unexpectedly, an extensive gunpowder factory was once situated in the village of Chilworth, in the valley of the River Tillingbourne. The gunpowder estate was established here in 1625 by the East India Company. Today, it is a very interesting English Heritage Scheduled Monument and well worth a visit.
7 The lovely Silent Pool near Albury was where the mysterious disappearance of Agatha Christie took place in 1926. Following a marital row, the famous novelist wrote to the Deputy Chief Constable in Surrey claiming her life was in danger. Her abandoned car was found, but she was discovered later, safe and sound, in the Swan Hotel in Harrogate.
8 East Horsley was transformed in the 1800s by the first Earl of Lovelace who was quite eccentric in his architectural ideas. The houses in the village were built in a unique style using flint and terracotta bricks and tiles. His wife, Ada, Lord Byron’s daughter, was a writer and mathematician of some note.
9 Witley Park was once home to a manor house that had many royal connections, but only in the 19th century did it gain notoriety. Then owner, James Whitaker Wright, developed it into a 32-bedroom mansion with three artificial lakes and a spectacular underwater ball- room. Although the house burned down in 1952, the abandoned ballroom survives.
10 The highest point in south- east England, Leith Hill is famed for its stunning views. From the top of its tower, built in 1765 by Richard Hull, you can even glimpse the sea. But did you know that Hull requested to be buried on the hill in an unusual manner – under the tower itself.
Published by Halsgrove Publishing, The Surrey Hills by Beata Moore is priced at £16.99 (RRP) and available now at all good bookshops or from halsgrove.com. To celebrate its release, Surrey Life has teamed up with the publishers to offer readers £2 off the RRP and free postage (usually £2.99) so a saving of £4.99. To benefit from this fantastic offer, simply call 01823 653777 and quote ‘Surrey Life Reader Offer’.
Meet the author
A professional outdoor photographer and writer, Beata Moore was initially interested in recording nature, attaining a postgraduate degree in botany. As time progressed, her interests widened, and now she enjoys taking pictures of landscapes, architecture and general travel. She has written a number of books, including most recently The Surrey Hills.
“The scenery of the area is simply stunning, with a landscape of rolling hills, wooded hillsides and many interesting waterways,” says Beata. “As my first love in photography is landscape, I took my first steps into the beauty spots like Leith Hill, Box Hill, Holmbury Hill and the Devil’s Punch Bowl – all of which have the most stunning open vistas, especially at first light. The woods around, on the other hand, presented some extraordinary potential for intimate nature photography.
“My favourite places in the Surrey Hills, however, are winding country lanes with high banks enclosed by ancient trees. The very narrow, sometimes single truck lanes, a result of the erosion of sand and chalk over the centuries, can be difficult to drive on – but the magic of the warm, intense colours, golden beech leaves, steep banks often covered in flowers and the continuously changing light deliver a visual treat.”
As well as her own books, Beata’s photographs have also been published in numerous magazines and books and her work has been exhibited at galleries across the UK. She lives in New Malden with her husband John.