The Very Reverend Dianna Gwilliams on her perfect Surrey weekend

PUBLISHED: 16:19 25 September 2014 | UPDATED: 16:39 25 September 2014

Weekends are a busy time for the Dean of Guildford

Weekends are a busy time for the Dean of Guildford

Andy Newbold

As the Dean of Guildford, weekends are a rather busy time for the Very Reverend Dianna Gwilliams, but she still manages to make the most of every spare moment...


I have completely forgotten what a weekend is! Clergy have one day off per week and mine is Monday. However, I very much enjoy my working weekends in Surrey, and we love living in Guildford. My husband Martin and I have been here for just a year. We weren’t sure how we would settle in having lived in South London for more than 30 years. To our surprise, and delight, it took us about one week!

Saturday is a working day for both of us so Martin catches a fast train into London Bridge and I head up to the cathedral for the morning services. I don’t throw myself off the cathedral tower every Saturday but I did so in April as part of my contribution to the cathedral’s ‘Make Your Mark’ Appeal. People very generously sponsored my abseil and through that generosity about £4,000 was added to the £7 million we need for repairs and improvement. Many folk are surprised to hear that we need to save the cathedral. However, our beautiful and iconic building needs much doing to it in order to safeguard it for the future.

We welcome thousands of visitors each year and Saturday is a good day for seeing people of all ages and from different parts of the country and the world. Inevitably, first-time visitors draw a comparison between the outside of the building and the inside. It’s lovely overhearing yet another gasp of surprise, or a child’s delighted ‘wow’ upon crossing the threshold. This is complemented by the welcome from our team of guides and I’m full of admiration for the work of the volunteers who keep our building open, welcoming and engaging.

Because Saturday is often less hectic on the phone or e-mail, I can usually get out of the office and into the refectory for a coffee or even a bowl of soup. I always have a browse around our cathedral shop. Martin will say I almost always make a purchase.

Correspondence, reading and writing will keep me busy for a lot of the time but some Saturdays I can find an hour or so to pop into Secretts at Milford. We are keen gardeners and sometimes I even come home with the same thing that I went there for.

A Dean is senior priest in the diocese, and serving the churches and clergy of Surrey and East Hampshire is a real privilege. As such, I love getting out and about to visit churches and parish colleagues and also members of the congregation who live near and far.

Walks by the Wey

Surrey’s reputation as one of the greenest counties in the UK is certainly proving to be true. Each turn in a road provides a new view of beautiful woodland, architecture or landscape. I love seeing the cathedral from different vantage points as I return at the end of the day. Saturdays almost always finish with the evening service unless there is a concert to welcome.

With the longer days of summer, Martin and I have also been able to make the most of the walks along the Wey. Guildford has so much to offer – we enjoy the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre and G Live too, and there are so many places to have a drink or nice meal.

On those Sundays with a few free hours between the morning and evening services, we use the time to get out and explore. We’re always equipped with our various gazetteers and Ordinance Survey Maps so we may turn up anywhere. We love walking and are members of the National Trust so the Devil’s Punch Bowl is a favourite and not just for the cakes at the café.

We sometimes have the treat of a visit from the grown-up children too. Michael is a teacher, married to a teacher, and Sarah is a paramedic with the London Ambulance Service, almost married to a university administrative officer, so they also have few spare hours but with them we love experiencing what Surrey has to offer.

My 24 hours off begins as the evening service concludes, and on Mondays I think how blessed I am to be Dean of Guildford.


• Guildford Cathedral, Stag Hill, Guildford GU2 7UP. For details of how to support the Make Your Mark campaign, visit the website at, join them on Facebook at and follow them on Twitter at


My Surrey Weekend – how would you spend your perfect weekend in Surrey?

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