10 things we love about Surrey
PUBLISHED: 12:06 11 February 2016 | UPDATED: 12:25 11 February 2016
It's Valentine's Day this month, so in the spirit of the season, here we speak to a few well-known Surrey residents to find out what it is they love most about living here
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine February 2016
The rolling Surrey Hills
“I think Surrey is absolutely amazing, with its history, quintessentially English countryside and the extraordinary people who live and have lived here,” says chairman of the Surrey Hills Society, Christine Howard. “It makes me very proud to call Surrey my home. Here, I have the best of both worlds: easy access to one of the best cities in the world, London, and the stunningly beautiful Surrey Hills. I fell in love with Surrey the first moment I saw its green fields, as I was flying into Heathrow on my gap year from Australia.
“It is the place, the people and even the individual businesses that have made Surrey so special to me. I am really excited about Surrey produce, like Silent Pool Gin, which really captures some of the Surrey story. I also love the local characters, such as Barrie Arminson from Kingfisher Farm, with his knowledge of working the historic watercress beds at Abinger Hammer. Best of all, though, is my love of the Surrey Hills.”
Walks on Reigate Heath
“I have loved Surrey for as long as I can remember and have always been proud to live here,” says television and radio presenter, Nicholas Owen. “When I was eight, I went to boarding school in Sussex where we used to sing Sussex by the Sea and I recall always feeling slightly resentful because I felt I belonged to Surrey.
“People often think Surrey is just a few towns and an awful lot of traffic, but we have so much countryside, which I adore. The county is hilly in the right places with masses of places to walk. I especially love Reigate Heath and live close to it. I walk and play golf there and it’s a terrific place on a summer’s evening: you can sit near the windmill that dominates the heath and admire the view; undoubtedly one of the finest in the country.”
Guildford’s High Street
“I first came to Surrey on a date one weekend in 1979,” says head of tourism for Guildford, Diana Roberts. “We went to Guildford and Compton, and I fell in love with the county. What struck me was how green it was and I remember that my first comment was how much greener the leaves are here than in Essex, where I am originally from. We later moved into Surrey in the 1980s.
“My favourite thing about the county has to be Guildford High Street, for its shopping. The shops are fantastic with something for everyone. I love Guildford: I live there and work there and, as a town, I genuinely do adore it. That’s why my job is so easy for me; I love the place that I am supposed to promote!”
Our vibrant arts scene
“I moved to Surrey from the ‘big smoke’ around 15 years ago and was amazed to find such beautiful countryside here,” says Surrey Life art editor, Tinx Newton. “I think I fell in love with the county the first time I saw the sea from the top of Holmbury Hill. If the light is right, it appears as a thin shimmer of silver and, in the foreground, the mist rolls across the flat plains of Cranleigh and beyond. On a clear day, you can also see London’s skyline in the other direction.
“I also love Surrey’s thriving arts scene. I am fortunate, in my role as art editor, to meet a fantastic and diverse range of creative people. Not just the artists who are constantly exploring new mediums and crafts but also creative businesses such as ARTHOUSE Meath (arthousemeath.com) and Creative Minds (creativemindsan.co.uk), who are sharing the joy of art with less able communities.”
Taking to the river
“The River Thames was my magnet to Surrey,” says television presenter and Surrey Life columnist, Donal MacIntyre. “As a member of the Irish Olympic canoe training squad, the river from Hampton Court to Richmond was my playground. Over the years, I have followed the ferries, spied seals frolicking, spotted Seb Coe on the towpath and even caught a glimpse of Bamber Gascoigne swimming.
“There is nowhere further from, or closer to, the buzz of modern life than Surrey. You are as close to the solitude of the countryside as you can be and yet still within 15 minutes of most of our big towns. That, for me, is its magic.
“Immersed in the Surrey Hills, surrounded by protected woodland, the open countryside and our beautiful rivers, is where I am happiest. I always marvel at the good fortune that brought me here.”
The county’s beautiful walks
“Part of my soul will always belong to south-west Surrey,” says television presenter and One Show reporter, Nick Wallis. “I’ve travelled all over England and I still don’t think I’ve found any part of the countryside to be so immediate and inviting. I used to love walking around Witley, Sandhills, Godalming, Haslemere and Hindhead. The ghosts of Bertrand Russell, Tennyson and Arthur Conan Doyle stalk some of these paths and give the landscape its sense of Victorian romanticism. Its colours and contours, especially during autumn, can be breathtaking. I live by the Thames now and work outside the county, but I’d love to head out west again and spend more time wandering around the hills and lanes.”
Our village life
“The arrival of our first child prompted a permanent move to Surrey, as my wife and I didn’t want to raise our children in London,” says Deputy Lieutenant and former High Sheriff of Surrey, Peter Lee. “I fell in love with the county when we moved to our idyllic cottage in the village of Hascombe, with the White Horse Pub (which almost became our second home!), the church where my children were christened and the Greensand Way leading to bridleways through the most beautiful countryside. Walking became a whole new pleasure. I also enjoy visiting the county’s pubs.
“All in all, I love the fact that there is so much to be explored here: so many places to visit, so many things to do and genuine communities where good work and philanthropy are thriving. I have become enormously proud of Surrey. Proud to have served it as High Sheriff and proud to continue to do so now as a Deputy Lieutenant.”
The local community
“My ancestors first arrived in Surrey in 1509, having fallen in love with Loseley,” says owner of Loseley Park and Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux. “Having lived here all my life, it is difficult to say when I fell in love with Surrey but I think it was when I became old enough to appreciate the beautiful countryside, the history, as well as all the county has to offer in the way of art, culture, sport and other amenities, including its beautiful villages and country lanes.
“In my role as Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, I have the privilege of meeting so many wonderful volunteers throughout the county and, without their time, energy and commitment, our county would not be such a rich place. To me, the most important of all Surrey’s assets is its balance between its one million inhabitants and the stunning countryside; very few people know that we are the most wooded county in the country.”
Our green open spaces
“When I first starting dating my now husband, Stewart Castledine, he would drive me around Surrey looking for nice pubs to lunch in, Thames Ditton being our favourite!” says television presenter and Surrey Life columnist, Lucy Alexander. “We would walk around Bushy Park too and, being a London girl, I was wowed by the green open spaces. The shopping in Kingston is also amazing and the schools, which my kids now go to, are excellent. As a family, we enjoy taking our kayaks out and walking Teddy, our dog, along the river by Hampton Court.
“We looked long and hard to find some- where suitable to build a home and have settled on Thames Ditton because village life is perfect – but I love knowing that a 20-minute train commute takes me to Waterloo, if I need a London fix. I will probably never move – Surrey ticks every box for me and my family!”
Surrey’s spectacular scenery
“Here in Surrey, I believe we are blessed with some of the most beautiful countryside of anywhere in England,” says Surrey Life editor, Caroline Harrap. “I love the way that the tiny, Tolkien-esque lanes wend their way through the fairytale-like woodlands and all against the spectacular backdrop of the Surrey Hills. There’s nothing like that moment when you turn a corner out of dense, dark forest and arrive blinking in the sunshine as a pristine panorama of valley and hills unfolds before you.
“As a magazine, I see our role almost as a custodian of our countryside, and that is why, alongside the CPRE, we will always campaign for the protection of our Green Belt – something that is under threat like never before. To find out more about what we can do to help, visit the CPRE’s website at cpresurrey.org.uk.”
Do you only have eyes for Surrey?
What do you love most about our fair county? Which Surrey landmark has your heart? When was the moment that cupid struck you with his arrow? Drop us a line at email@example.com