Conservation, heritage and volunteers in Cobham - Notes from a Small Village

PUBLISHED: 18:27 23 March 2017 | UPDATED: 19:06 23 March 2017

Cobham Heritage Day (Photo: Clive Friend)

Cobham Heritage Day (Photo: Clive Friend)


In her latest column, bestselling author, Miriam Wakerly, considers the key words conservation, heritage and volunteers in the thriving, picturesque village of Cobham.

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine March 2017


Share your Cobham photography at


The reformed Cobham Conservation and Heritage Trust launched in 2005. Nearly 500 people joined forces to express concern about the rapidly changing face of Cobham. While recognising the need to move with the times, residents wanted to do more to both safeguard their local heritage and make it accessible.

Cobham began with an Iron-Age settlement on Leigh Hill. Signs of Roman occupation were found at a bathhouse excavated at Chatley Farm and Abbot Chertsey, who owned the manor, laid out a medieval village, developed around the ancient parish church of St Andrew, Cobham’s oldest building from the 12th century.

Well-known landmarks include Cobham Mill, the gardens of Painshill Park and the restored semaphore tower on Chatley Heath. Visit the website to find out about other historic buildings and Cobham’s famous past residents.

Over 100 volunteers

Once you realise the wealth of history that makes up Cobham, you see the need for those key words. Sir Gerald Acher, chairman of the trust, told me about two special volunteers. He says that Katie Banfield has spent the majority of her adult life volunteering, raising funds for schools and other organisations.

“She has been a prodigious fundraiser and chairman of the PTA of St Matthews School in Downside, where recently she raised £25,000 towards the cost of a new extension,” he explains.

She was the trust’s first membership secretary and took a key role in their annual Heritage Day, setting up a Duck race which raises £7,000-£9,000 for the trust every September. She is now organising the duck event for the 11th time.

The community wanted to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. “Few came forward to help other than Katie, who co-ordinated all aspects of the lunch and ensured it was a great success, despite the dreadful weather. Katie takes on an event and just delivers… bags of energy and enthusiasm and never lets you down,” Sir Gerald adds.

David Bellchamber was elected to the committee in 2005 and leads the planning team, responding to planning issues affecting the community. He submits detailed reports to the local authority and speaks at gatherings on conservation and heritage, but David can also be seen working alongside others clearing a footpath.

“He is patient,” says Sir Gerald, “a good listener, and for this he is respected both in the voluntary and statutory sector.”

Also co-ordinator of Transition Cobham, his most recent project is the community garden. “David takes a lead as co-ordinator but gets his hands dirty with the rest. He takes on many tasks using his skills and background in law to help other groups… he has a great love for the outdoors, keeping a watchful eye on our community here in Cobham.

“I’m thrilled that Elmbridge has recognised Katie and David in this year’s volunteering awards and they are thoroughly deserved. Katie and David volunteer in quite different ways but their contributions are invaluable.”

- To find out more, visit and


Miriam Wakerly’s novels are set in the ficticious Surrey/Hamsphire village of Appley Green. Read more at or follow @miramwakerly.

Latest from the Surrey