Did you know…you can take part in the Surrey Hills AONB Boundary Review

By Craig Freeman
26th January 2022

The Surrey Hills AONB is one of 46 nationally protected landscapes in England & Wales. Whether you live, work or spend your leisure time within the Surrey Hills you will know how beautiful this landscape is and understand why it has the same status and protections as a national park. 

Covering a quarter of the county of Surrey, the landscape features a huge variety of countryside. The Surrey Hills AONB spans a 422 km² area of North Downs and Greensand Ridge landscapes on the doorstep of major towns including Aldershot, Guildford, Goldalming, Dorking, Leatherhead, Reigate, Caterham and Oxted. From chalk downs to flower rich grasslands, acid heaths and box woodland the boundary of the Surrey Hills already covers a large area of some of the South East’s most beautiful and accessible countryside. Well known beauty spots include Box Hill, Leith Hill and the Devil’s Punchbowl with a network of footpaths, open commons, inspiring views and attractive market towns on offer for visitors to the Surrey Hills. More unusual sights include the Tillingbourne waterfall, Wilberforce memorial and the Atlantic Wall. There’s plenty of history on offer at Reigate Fort and at the oldest wooden building in Surrey at Wanborough Great Barn.

As you know, we’ve been supporting the AONB boundary review by Natural England in the form of petitions and through the collective lobbying efforts of many individuals and organisations across the county.  An extension to the boundary of Surrey Hills would support the conservation and enhancement of the countryside and its natural beauty, protecting and celebrating it for residents, visitors and the generations that follow us.

How can I help?

An AONB is an area of countryside in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland that has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value. The original boundary of the Surrey Hills has not been reviewed since original designation in 1958 and local campaigners have repeatedly called for this to be reconsidered. There are some areas of countryside outside of the boundary that are designated as Areas of Great Landscape Value (AGLV) by local authorities at a county level and Natural England has appointed consultants to undertake assessments on the current boundary and the ‘Area of Search’ which is the starting point for the boundary review work. The Area of Search can be seen alongside the current boundary on the map below from Natural England.

Surrey Hills AONB Area Of Search

The boundary review process has a strong emphasis on collaboration and engagement so that anybody with an interest in the Surrey Hills landscape has the opportunity to contribute to the process.

Here at CPRE Surrey – The Countryside Charity, we’ve been encouraging locals to join in the call for evidence. 

Using the Survey123 App or via the online form, you can play your part in the evidence gathering for this boundary review. As a visitor, resident, enthusiast or other interested party you can submit evidence that supports the evidence of one or more of the natural beauty factors. This could be its condition, scenery, wildness, tranquillity, natural and cultural heritage. It’s as simple as providing a location point on a map and a photograph with descriptive text related to what you feel makes a place special in terms of natural beauty. For example:

 


 


 


 


 


Additionally, if you are able to, you can provide further information such as supporting comments, documents, photos and evidence that may also detract from the natural beauty factors. FInd out more about how to submit evidence as part of the Surrey Hills Boundary Review at: https://www.surrey-hills-aonb-boundary-review.org/share

 

Why should I get involved?

The Surrey Hills AONB is home to 37,000 people. 40% is made up of woodland and 14% of this is ancient woodland.There are seven market towns, 51 parish councils and it was recently named the best place to live in the South East in 2021 by the Sunday Times due to the combination of rural and town life. Some interesting facts you might not know about Surrey HIlls AONB:

  • Leith Hill Tower, which features 75 steps, is actually the highest point in South East England standing at 1,029 feet high.
  • Box Hill features in the Jane Austen novel, Emma, as a location for a beautiful picnic. It was also used in the 2021 Olympics for the cycling road races.
  • Devil’s Punchbowl had a terrible reputation in the 1800s due to the activities of local highwaymen and robbers. The most famous story is of a murdered sailor who is buried in Thursley churchyard with a memorial stone erected near the scene of the crime.
  • 1% of the Surrey Hills has remnant chalk grassland cover and this unique environment is home to the Bee orchid which is a  small orchid that features relatively large flowers with pink sepals that look like wings, and furry, brown lips with yellow markings which mimic bees.
  • Built as part of a 72 mile defence line protecting London from French invasion, Reigate Fort on Reigate Hill was never needed for this purpose but was reportedly used for storing ammunition in the First World War and for wartime communications in the Second World War. 

If you do make a submission or have already made a submission we’d love to see your photos. Tag us on Instagram or Twitter @cpresurrey.

Fungi on a moss covered log in the Surrey countryside
Protect the Surrey Countryside