Mane Chance’s Jenny Seagrove on her perfect Surrey weekend
- Credit: Peter Robertson
Ever since opening her Surrey-based horse sanctuary, Mane Chance in Compton, weekends have never been quite the same again for actress Jenny Seagrove. But as she goes on to explain here, she wouldn’t have it any other way...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine September 2015
It’s funny how life really can come full circle. I grew up in Malaysia, but at the age of nine I was sent to St Hilary’s School in Godalming. I was one of 20 boarders at what was essentially a day school and this little school set me on my path thanks to its inspirational headmistress, Miss Hiorns. She introduced me to the arts and poetry speaking, and also to charitable giving. I kept in touch with her until she passed away a few years ago. I made lifelong friends there, including Trisha and Liz, who even now live on the outskirts of Godalming, and with whom I used to go and stay during half-term and other breaks.
I left St Hilary’s, went into the big wide world and nearly four years ago found myself coming full circle. I live in London but I find I have one leg in town and one in Surrey – near Godalming. In 2011, I started a charity called the Mane Chance Sanctuary. A non-charitable collection of animals were in trouble and about to be “disposed of” – I couldn’t say no… They were in Kent, but being evicted, and I was offered 40 acres in Compton, near Godalming. I grabbed it and the rest, as they say, is history. Mane Chance is now safely settled in Compton and we were recently chosen as St Hilary’s charity of the year.
Getting to know St Hilary’s again has been a joy. All the values of education, the arts and community are flourishing there. It is a jewel of a school that I get to enjoy from an entirely different perspective. We have our charity carol concert in the same church that I used to as a pupil, and I have played the nearby Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, many times – I saw my first play there as a youngster, and my love of theatre was ignited. Cinderella with a revolving stage and real ponies…
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So, many a weekend is spent down at the sanctuary, in this little area of Surrey that I am so very familiar with, and that I love! Our farm is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and, despite the constant drone of the A3, is a place of great peace and tranquillity. We are still such a young charity that it’s hard to really savour the peace as there are never-ending meetings to be had and tasks to be performed. But we now have an amazing and totally dedicated team of staff and volunteers who oversee our 25 on-site and five off-site residents, and welcome the human visitors to the farm – very sick children, and special needs and underprivileged young people who come and interact with the horses.
And then there are the fund-raisers that we do – a lunch at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, a quiz at The Keep pub, to name just two – both in Guildford and both wonderful supporters of the charity.
I have made new friends and kept old friends thanks to Mane Chance. Other friends of the last 15 years are James French and Shelley Slingo, who I knew through reiki and animal communication. They live and work in neighbouring Chiddingfold and three years ago, as fate would have it, became deeply involved in Mane Chance – coming in to help a couple of feral and very frightened mares, and ending up running the whole place. Another full circle. Or are they ever-decreasing?
There is also the wonderful Watts Gallery here in Compton. As I said, I live in London, and every day I walk my dog in Kensington Gardens where stands the imposing statue Physical Energy by GF Watts. I have admired this piece for 20 years and now my sanctuary is two minutes from Watts Gallery, wherein sits the cast for this magnificent piece. It truly does feel as if I have been drawn back to this special part of Surrey – as if I have come home.
• For more information on the Mane Chance Sanctuary and how you can support them, visit their website at manechancesanctuary.org