Surrey Hills Society chairman Christine Howard on her perfect Surrey weekend
PUBLISHED: 09:59 15 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:19 15 January 2015
As the chairman of the Surrey Hills Society, Surrey Life columnist Christine Howard likes nothing better at the weekend than getting away from her computer to enjoy the spectacular countryside of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine January 2015
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During the week, I seem to spend my life in and out of board meetings or staring at a computer screen. I am a director at Visit Surrey, the destination management organisation for the county, vice chairman of Surrey Hills Enterprises and a freelance business development consultant. In my free time, I am the chairman of the charity formed to support the Surrey Hills. I am also lucky enough to live in the Surrey Hills, in Shamley Green. This is the village where EH Shepard, the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh, lived and worked. Some of the pictures in the book are of real places in the area.
I was fortunate to discover the Surrey Hills on what was supposed to be a young Australian’s backpacker working holiday. I took a map of England, stuck a pin in it and ended up in the picturesque village of Shere. I just fell in love with the place and the people and have never moved more than five miles from my first little flat in the attic of a beautiful Arts and Crafts house by the Tillingbourne River.
I later discovered to my surprise that the Surrey Hills was my grandparents’ favourite location before they emigrated to Australia after World War Two. In fact, they had their honeymoon in Shere! Now isn’t that a coincidence!
I feel very privileged to have spent my life in the beautiful Surrey Hills countryside and getting out and enjoying it at the weekend is my ultimate de-stress. At least one Saturday or Sunday a month, I enjoy an outing with the Surrey Hills Society, which is run almost entirely by volunteers. I have learnt so much about Surrey by being part of this organisation, the stated objectives of which are ‘to enjoy and protect the Surrey Hills’.
Use it or lose it
My feeling is that if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t protect it. The pressures to build on the open spaces in Surrey are becoming greater and greater because of our proximity to London. The need to raise awareness of this special landscape is so important to its ultimate protection, as well as our population’s health and well-being.
If I am not out enjoying the Surrey Hills, then I am usually volunteering in it. I love taking off the suit, pulling on a pair of old jeans and jacket and getting my hands dirty in the countryside. There are opportunities to volunteer with the National Trust, Surrey Wildlife Trust or with your local council, who between them manage a significant proportion of Surrey’s countryside. There are opportunities to do hedge-laying, scrub clearance, habitat creation, species counts and footpath repairing, to name but a few.
My other favourite weekend pastime, when not out in the countryside, is to enjoy its produce. The Surrey Hills has the highest concentration of vineyards in the country, as well as some award-winning boutique breweries. We also have some rare breeds of cattle and sheep grazing our rolling hills, which produce some really high quality meats. My favourite restaurant, partly because the owners are such champions of local foods, is The Jolly Farmers in Buckland. Their talents were recently recognised at the Surrey Life Food and Drink Awards.
I also enjoy visiting our Surrey’s farmers’ markets and country shows and have a cupboard full of local honey, sauces and jams that the talented foodies of this county have created.
Then finally, on Sunday evenings, I like to curl up by the TV and watch my favourite programme, Countryfile, of course!
• In 2014, Christine Howard’s voluntary efforts supporting the Surrey Hills were recognised by a Point of Light Award from Prime Minister David Cameron.