Monday, 20 January 2014

The Surrey Hills

The Weir by the Bridge, Tilford, Surrey – acrylic on paper
©2001 Heather James
I regard London, the capital of the United Kingdom, as my home. I have lived here since my 23rd birthday so that is a lot more than half my life. I find it a vibrant and interesting city where there is always something going on and there are also quiet, serene places too, for instance in my living room right at this moment.

I have to admit though that in one respect it is a bit dull. The terrain is mainly flat until you get up to Hampstead in the north and it is largely built on clay that has a lot of underground springs in it which makes it difficult to dig if you have a garden. There is, however, some interesting common land left to explore on foot that can't be built on. The Surrey Hills on the other hand are quite different. Just south of London there exists this fascinating area largely made from chalk which is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty including some areas which are of Special Scientific Interest.

House in Tilford ©Heather James
I can remember my father telling me that when he was a boy scout in the 1930s he would leave his home in south London and go camping and cycling in Surrey at weekends. It was close enough to home to get to easily and far enough away for you to feel transported to another place. You could journey by tube train and bus -  you can see an example of a poster advertising this type of jaunt here - or travel all the way by train from either Waterloo or Victoria stations. Box Hill is a popular destination for cyclists and walkers and is very close to the highest point in southern England, Leith Hill.

Waverley Abbey
I spent a couple of days this week visiting friends who live in Tilford near Farnham. I've often visited this village over the last 20 years and occasionally done some drawing and painting. One place I would like to return to is the ruins of Waverley Abbey. This site is walking distance from Tilford so long as you don't mind risking being run over by drivers of Land Rovers or BMWs - pedestrians are an unknown species in this part of the world. The monastery at Waverley was the first Cistercian house to be established in Britain and it was founded in 1128 and like many sites of historical interest it deserves more than one visit to really appreciate it.

While I can never imagine wanting to live in the Surrey Hills many people do and I had a friend who, for a while, rented a converted barn here and the drawing below is the view from there.

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