CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Surrey Life today CLICK HERE

6 people who work in the Surrey Hills

PUBLISHED: 11:55 15 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:55 15 May 2018

Peter Arnold leaving a map reading course

Peter Arnold leaving a map reading course


A lot of work goes into making the Surrey Hills AONB an enjoyable place for visitors to enjoy. We speak to six people who live and breathe the hills as part of their working lives

Peter Arnold, Surrey Hills Society and National Trust volunteer

“I am a founder member of the Surrey Hills Society. I started volunteering for it and also for the National Trust in 2012 as I approached retirement. I am on the Surrey Hills events committee and I’m currently organising training courses in map reading so that people feel confident exploring the countryside with map and compass,” Peter says. “The society tries to get access to places not normally easy to visit and I am still finding new places to go exploring and discovering new things. I’m very much a country person and the Surrey Hills is a fantastic area. It is particularly well supported and loved because of its close proximity to London, and this means we need to spread the visitor load. Places like Polesden Lacey and Box Hill are very busy at weekends, so it’s good to introduce people to parts of the AONB they haven’t seen before. Even on summer weekends there are many areas within the Surrey Hills that you can visit and feel well away from the crowds.”

Amanda Smith, Stockman for Manor Farm, Wotton

Amanda looks after the cattle at Manor Farm, which is in Higher Level Stewardship, with conservation high on the agenda. There are two herds – Friesians and a suckler beef herd of pedigree Belted Galloway, instantly recognisable for their thick black coats and broad white cummerbunds. Part of the farm runs along the slope of the North Downs where the ‘Belties’ are a familiar sight.

“It’s a beautiful area to work in,” she says. “I came from Hampshire and I thought Surrey would be a concrete jungle with no animals! But the views and scenery here are outstanding and I love living and working here. We do conservation grazing for the National Trust on the North Downs from April to September.”

The open meadowland on the downs is an endangered habitat for many rare plants and butterflies and this fragile ecosystem depends on grazing.

“Without farming the grassland on the downs would simply disappear,” adds Amanda. “It would very quickly revert to scrubby woodland. The cattle knock the scrub back and eat plants that are struggling to compete. As they pass through their system their seeds are spread and the rare plants increase. Farming this area with livestock is really important for plant diversity.”

Kevin Heath, Gamekeeper near Box Hill

Kevin has been a gamekeeper since leaving school and has worked for an estate at Mickleham for four years, looking after the pheasant shoot. “Until I came to Mickleham I’d never heard of the Surrey Hills,” he says. “I had absolutely no idea how beautiful it is. I do an awful lot of woodland work, thinning and coppicing and planting trees and hedgerows. For pheasants, woodland needs to be nice and warm so you coppice the trees to encourage undergrowth. Song birds like to nest in the undergrowth so there are a lot of benefits for wildlife. We use some wood for logs but we leave a lot on the ground for the benefit of beetles and larvae and that in turn helps the hedgehogs. We have a lot of hedgehogs here because of that. If it wasn’t done, the trees would grow up, block out the light and there would be no understorey, so I’m keeping the woodland healthy for birds, hedgehogs and other wildlife.”

Dr Jim Jones, Surrey Wildlife Trust Hedgerow Hero

Jim is one of the people responsible for the stretches of beautiful laid hedging in the AONB. It is an ancient craft with its own distinctive vocabulary and it is enjoying a renaissance.

“I am a hedgelayer of sorts, although not a professional. I have an interest in all things hedgerow from the biodiversity in them – I used to be hedgerows for dormice officer for the national charity the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) – to their use as a wood fuel and flood management tool,” he says. “I’m currently responsible for a new citizen science project called Hedgerow Heroes where I teach people hedgerow surveys and hedgelaying. The principal aims are to rejuvenate hedgerows in poor condition and to connect people with this disappearing traditional rural skill and their local landscapes.

“We have just applied for some lottery funding for the project with support from the AONB and local hedgelaying groups, such as South of England and Surrey Hedgelaying Group among others. I am also involved in other projects in Canada and France focussing on the creation or restoration of hedged landscapes.”

Sean Grufferty, Grazing officer for the Downlands Partnership

Sean is based at Carshalton and manages sheep, cattle and goats across the North Downs from Nork to Tatsfield, where the AONB brushes up against Greater London and countryside is most precious.

“I’m an Epsom townie but I started volunteering in countryside conservation when I was at university and I have been grazing officer for the last three and a half years. It’s such an inspiring place to work and it’s so important because we have only got one per cent of the chalk grassland that we had at the end of the war – 99 per cent has been taken over by secondary woodland and scrub,” he says. “Yet chalk grassland is called our UK version of the Amazonian rainforest because of the diversity of species found here.

“Over thousands of years, traditional farming practices made an incredibly rich ecosystem on the chalk grassland. All you could do with the poor soil was graze sheep but that is no longer economically viable so we do conservation grazing using mainly sheep but where there is a risk from dogs we use Sussex cattle and to get scrub under control we use goats.

“I absolutely love working in the Surrey Hills. It’s awe-inspiring. There’s nothing like chalk grassland especially in the summer. It’s full of flowers and butterflies and you don’t need to have money to enjoy it. It’s there for everyone.” 

Margaret Barlow, Furnace Place Estate, Haslemere

Margaret has lived in the Surrey Hills all her life. Her late husband John inherited the family’s Furnace Place Estate at Haslemere, a former hunting estate with woods, farms, streams and lakes, and Margaret has been running the estate with the help of her daughter Emmalene.

She is also the founder of Imbhams Farm Granary, which supplies freshly milled grains sold at farmers’ markets.

“The estate had been in the family since 1902 and until the 1970s was run as a hunting and shooting estate. It’s absolutely beautiful countryside here,” she explains. “When John came back to farm it the land was refenced and beef cattle were brought in. I was made a partner 20 years ago to help manage the estate and I have been farming it on my own for quite a few years now.

“It’s very important that people understand about the countryside and I am keen to expand the educational projects I run here as well as work on my pedigree flock of Jacob Sheep.”


Surrey Hills AONB celebrating 60th birthday - As this extraordinary piece of protected countryside celebrates 60 years since being designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we look at the Surrey Hills through the ages

More from Surrey Life

Thu, 10:52

Surrey is full of secret hideaways and hidden gems. Slades Farm on the Wintershall Estate is definitely one of them

Read more
Wed, 16:05

The new hotel is set to open in spring 2019 and will be located in the heart of the vineyard, offering sweeping views over the North Downs Way.

Read more
Tue, 10:53

From Santa’s Grottos, to Victorian Christmas markets and late-night shopping, we’ve covered what’s on in Surrey this season

Read more
Tue, 10:47

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Tue, 10:41

Having bloomed in Brighton’s restaurant scene over the past decade, The Chilli Pickle opened its second site in Guildford this summer

Read more
Mon, 14:32

Historic Royal Palaces and IMG have announced that Kylie Minogue is the first headliner confirmed for Hampton Court Palace Festival 2019. These will be her only London shows of summer 2019. Here’s how you can get tickets

Read more
Mon, 12:56

Enjoy this linear rail to ramble section of the Thames Down Link route taking the short train-ride from Box Hill & Westhumble to Ashtead before walking back

Read more
Mon, 12:13

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (16, 17 and 18 November): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

It’s that time of year when our beautiful countryside is alight with the colours of autumn. Here, we pick out some of her favourite spots to enjoy the seasonal splendour – as well as some perfect places for a post-walk refresher

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Found on the stretch of the River Thames between Weybridge and East Molesey, Sunbury-on-Thames is blessed with a village feel where it meets the water. From antique hunts to the joys of river life, here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit

Read more
Monday, November 5, 2018

Verity & Violet are Loui and Jess – a singing duo from Surrey who specialise in blending vintage classics with modern favourites. The two have achieved success in the capital, but are now hoping to attract an audience closer to home

Read more
Friday, November 2, 2018

With the Christmas celebrations seemingly starting earlier every year, it all feels a little too ‘soon’ sometimes, but what if you want to look your best for Christmas & New year celebrations and are considering having cosmetic non-surgical procedures? The Bella Vou Pantiles Clinic offers surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures and treatments from a purpose-built private clinic in the heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells

Read more
Thursday, November 1, 2018

Living in England’s most densely wooded county, it’s always a pleasure to witness Surrey donning its autumn finery. Here’s some of the best places to do just that - plus a few pub pit stops to enjoy on route!

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

We are regularly reminded of the high cost of housing with statistics revealing that only one in three millennials will be able to afford their own home during their lifetime and that most will remain in the category known as Generation Rent

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search