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Ockley: Surrey village life

PUBLISHED: 19:09 12 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:58 20 February 2013

Ockley: Surrey village life

Ockley: Surrey village life

One of Surrey's most idyllic villages, there's more to Ockley, however, than just picture-perfect views...

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2011

One of Surreys most idyllic villages, theres more to Ockley, however, than just picture-perfect views...

Photo: Pete Gardner


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Did you know
Charles Darwin conducted some of his experiments at Ockley. He was a frequent visitor to Leith Hill Place, home of his sister Caroline who had married Josiah Wedgwood (grandson of the famous potter). As a young man, Darwin had been fascinated by the fact that objects dropped on the ground gradually become covered with soil and disappear from sight. He felt this might be due to the action of earthworms turning over and loosening the soil, thus causing objects to sink further below the surface. At Leith Hill Place, he recruited his nieces to help with his observations.

Village voice
Ockley, Okewood and Forest Green are a triumvirate of villages nestling under Leith Hill with an unparalleled community spirit, says Elaine Pearman, who has lived in the village for 16 years and works on the local village hall committee. Each village has its own delightful country pub or pubs, cricket greens, beautiful churches and village halls. Despite having three village halls in a small radius, each hall is well used and has its own purpose our very own big society.

Date for your diary
The annual Flower Show & Summer Fair originated in 1893 and now involves all the parish villages of Okewood, Ockley and Forest Green and is held at the Okewood Hill Cricket Ground, which is about a mile off the A29 south of Ockley. It will take place on Saturday August 13 and gates open at 12noon.

Did you know 2
The Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden, located on the edge of Ockley, is world renowned and has hosted visitors including Ringo Starr and Prince Charles, as well as various movie stars and musicians. Visitors from all over the world come to see the outdoor sculpture gallery, which houses nearly 150 contemporary works from artists all over Europe in an ever-changing collection.

Making the headlines
In 1983, an amateur fossil hunter called William Walker noticed an enormous claw sticking out of the side of a clay pit at Smokejacks Brickworks. Excavation revealed the almost intact skeleton of a previously unknown species of dinosaur, subsequently called Baryonyx walkeri (Baryonyx meaning large claw and walkeri after its finder). Baryonyx was a carnivorous, mainly fish-eating, dinosaur, about 30 feet long and with a long pointed jaw rather like a crocodile and large bear-like claws. The skeleton of the Ockley dinosaur is displayed at the Natural History museum.

Grab a bite
Ockley is very well served for restaurants for a village of its size and Bryces (01306 627430), The Kings Arms (01306 711 224) and The Inn on the Green (01306 711032) all draw people from a wide radius. Some describe it as a gastro-village.

Something to take home
Spotting his chance to move away from the accountancy world, James Dampier opened the Village Greens Farm Shop in Ockley with wife Catherine. Now in their fourth year, the venture has already picked up national awards, and offers a hub for the areas best local producers.

In the spotlight...
The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams grew up in Ockley at Leith Hill Place. He lived there from the age of three when his mother was widowed and went to live with her Wedgwood relatives. Other famous residents have included Oliver Reed, Mollie Sugden (of Are You Being Served fame) and her husband, actor William Moore, Jim Davidson, Will Carling and Katie Price.

Getting there:
Ockley is seven miles south of Dorking off the A24. It is served by its own railway station with, usually, hourly trains.

Get in touchwith what you most love about Ockley, as well as your photos, below.

NEXT MONTH... we visit Peaslake

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