Surrey Wildlife Trust on saving Tyting Farm, Guildford

Set in some of the finest downland countryside in southern England, the land at Tyting Farm, just a mile or so from the centre of Guildford, has been farmed for centuries. Without determined campaigning, however, it could have been lost forever

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine June 2007

Set in some of the finest downland countryside in southern England, the land at Tyting Farm, just a mile or so from the centre of Guildford, has been farmed for centuries. Without determined campaigning, however, it could have been lost forever

Words by John Rennie

One of the most treasured parts of the Surrey Hills landscape, Tyting Farm, just to the south of Guildford, is made up of some 120 acres of spectacular countryside. Located in what is now the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the land also makes up an important part of the view from the much visited sites of Pewley Downs and Newlands Corner. Small wonder then that when the borough council announced plans last year to sell off the land, they had a revolution on their hands. "There was a lot of opposition to the sale of the land," says Andrew Jamieson, countryside manager for Surrey Wildlife Trust. "Many people were desperate to safeguard its future. Even the Guardian did a story on it at one stage." Fortunately, thanks to the massive efforts of local residents, conservation organisations, farming representatives, the Tyting Society and the Save Tyting Farm campaign group, its future is now secure. Last autumn, Guildford Borough Council took the decision to keep the farm in public ownership and lease it to Surrey Wildlife Trust in association with local charity, the HALOW Project. Now the farm will stay in agricultural use and, in due course, the HALOW Project will utilise the farm buildings as a residential unit offering assisted-living to young adults with special needs. "We were absolutely delighted when Guildford Borough Council decided to lease Tyting Farm to Surrey Wildlife Trust," says Nigel Davenport, chief executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust. "Not only does it give us the chance to manage 115 acres of valuable grassland, it also allows us to move into a fascinating and immensely rewarding area of community work." A working farm for hundreds of years, Guildford Borough Council originally bought the land in 1942, with assistance from Surrey County Council and London County Council. Sadly, the historic buildings were taken down in subsequent years and replaced with more ubiquitous farm buildings. More recently, the farm went through a troubled time in the 1990s, when it fell into disrepair, and its future had been uncertain ever since the last agricultural tenancy ended in June 2005. By the time Surrey Wildlife Trust took on the lease last autumn, it was in a totally neglected state. Now, however, the Trust is making good in-roads into reversing that decline and the first outcomes of their work can be seen. With the introduction of new fencing and a 20-strong herd of cows now grazing the land, Tyting Farm is once again a working farm, a wonderful preserved rural scene and landscape. "It's been a busy winter preparing for this stage," continues Andrew. "But it's good to see the farm being brought back into action and we are grateful for the invaluable input from the Save Tyting Farm Campaign and the HALOW project, along with the other organisations and individuals who have been so enormously supportive. "Our aim is to use the farm in conjunction with our other sites, so as to help us deliver conservation grazing on ecologically important sites throughout the county. This farm also links us to other local sites we manage such as St Martha's Hill and Newlands Corner. "The work is far from over in making Tyting Farm into a real asset for the Trust, the Council and the community, but at least its future is now secure."

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The verdict from those in the know Ward councillor Sarah Creedy, of Guildford Borough Council, says she is delighted the future of the farm is secure... "Tyting Farm is within green belt and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is heavily protected because of this. Our position has always been to safeguard it from inappropriate development and ensure it has a viable future. The Wildlife Trust's plans are a fantastic way of protecting Tyting's future and preserving this beautiful area of Guildford." John Rigg, chairman of the Save Tyting Farm campaign, says the victory is an important one in safeguarding the future of the Surrey Hills landscape... "Our campaign demonstrated the enormous public support for protecting this outstanding landscape of the Surrey Hills, keeping land in agriculture and preserving working farms owned by the council. Guildford Borough Council's response has been a great example of local democracy in action." Tim Oliver, of the HALOW Project, is looking forward to the opportunities the farm will bring for everyone involved... "We hope to provide residents with work opportunities to complement other activities that will be aimed at encouraging creativity through the arts, responsibility and social enterprise. Our aim is to attract the local community, particularly the young, to become involved and to participate in the vibrant life of this project as it develops."