High Sheriff of Surrey Sally Varah on her perfect Surrey weekend
As High Sheriff of Surrey, SALLY VARAH finds that no two weekends are ever the same. Here, she explains why she loves visiting the people and places of England's most wooded county
Originally published in Surrey Life August 2008As High Sheriff of Surrey, SALLY VARAH finds that no two weekends are ever the same. Here, she explains why she loves visiting the people and places of England's most wooded county GRAPEFRUIT and a bowl of muesli are the only common denominators in my Surrey weekends since I was installed as High Sheriff in April. That and fretting - as I dash in and out - that my beloved garden isn't getting the weekend LC it expects, and will have to wait until my shrieval year is over and normal horticultural service resumes! I was asked to take on this role when my late husband Michael - who had been nominated as High Sheriff because of his work in the criminal justice system and as chief probation officer of Surrey for 16 years - died suddenly in April 2007. He considered the nomination an enormous honour - and I am similarly privileged to have the opportunity to put his plans into place. Our children, Kate and James, persuaded me that I should accept and take over the year in Michael's memory. So my weekends are all about visiting the people and places that support the initiatives he knew to be so important. This role is confirming to me just how many genuinely good people organise activities that benefit communities in Surrey. Early on, I was faced with the daunting task of judging hundreds of furry contestants at the teddy bears' picnic, raising funds for the Village School Trust at Abinger Hammer. The next weekend it was across to Hurst Green in Tandridge, presenting a cheque and certificate to the local Scout group, whose hut had been burnt down. They applied for funding to the High Sheriff Youth Awards - the scheme that's all about 'Helping young people make Surrey safer'. We give financial support to groups of young people whose projects help to reduce or prevent crime in a whole range of ways. To me, this awards scheme is one of the most tangible ways that each High Sheriff can demonstrate the modern relevance of what is a Sovereign appointment and the oldest secular office in the land (dating back over 1,000 years). In term time, I drop into the University of Surrey and its Saturday morning sports session at UniSport. It's impressive to find so many volunteers helping eight to 16-year-olds, who have a range of learning or physical disabilities, from across Surrey. If this is how the university shares its existing facilities with the community, it's exciting to think what sporting opportunities will be available to us all once the Surrey Centre for Sport is built on the campus in 2010.Encouraging young people to engage in sport in ways that build self esteem and lead to healthy, fulfilled lives was hugely mportant to my husband, who was an international athlete in his twenties. So in June I was at the Surrey Youth Games, supporting the Active Surrey Sports Partnership. It works with the boroughs to enable over 50,000 young people each year to get involved in sports programmes. Throughout the year, there will be weekend fundraising events organised by Kate and James for the Michael Varah Memorial Fund - the charity they set up after their father's death. To date, they have raised more than �60,000 to continue his transformational work, helping those whose lives have been marked by crime, and showing them a way towards a different future - in Surrey and beyond. When I do have a few hours to myself, my favourite place (and Michael's) is Painshill Park at Cobham, one of the finest 18th century landscape parks in Europe. It's where I welcomed 300 guests to my garden party as High Sheriff. As a trustee, I'm actively supporting the Painshill restoration appeal. It deserves to be better known as a jewel in Surrey's crown. And when my year as High Sheriff is over? I have just signed up as a founder member of the new Surrey Hills Society to help protect this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that Michael loved so much. I shall head for the hills!
My Surrey Weekend is a monthly guest column in Surrey Life magazine, where we discover how some of the county's high profile characters spend their weekend. To catch up with the series, click here.