Quite apart from the fact that it is beautiful, we have a wealth of heritage and cultural features, and our wildlife and countryside is precious and full of rare species
We have 6 SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) in and around our parish
• Colyers Hanger – which is also Ancient Woodland (and therefore protected)
• Combe Bottom – which has very rare flora and butterflies
• Hackhurst Downs –with rare orchids
• Sheepleas – which is also a geological conservation site
• Upper Common Pits – which is important for marine fossils (one of the most recently discovered dinosaurs was Baryonyx near Ewhurst in 1983)
There are more SSSIs just a short distance away on Bookham Common, Ranmore Common and elsewhere.
We have rare birds nesting in and around the countryside here. Mistle thrushes and song thrushes are now species of conservation concern but they are present here. We have green and spotted woodpeckers, robins, nuthatches, chaffinches, bullfinches, great and blue tits, barn owls, tawny owls, blackbirds, redwings, buzzards, kestrels, wrens and goldcrests, swifts, swallows, cuckoos and many more.
We have rare beetles, including being a nationally important area for various kinds of beetle, including stag beetles. We have rare fungi, and rare butterflies. The woods near here in spring are full of a cloud of bluebells. We have pipistrelle bats that twitter in the evenings.
History and Culture
We’ve already commented about EM Forster – who wrote Howard’s End, A Room with a View, A Passage to India and Where Angels Fear To Tread – living for years in Abinger Hammer. He collaborated with Ralph Vaughan Williams to write The Abinger Pageant and England’s Pleasant Land (also set in Abinger) – both summer pageants to celebrate and campaign to protect this beautiful area.
But we also have a Roman Temple in the common land at Farley Green. We are close to the major roman road at Stane Street and a spur runs across from there, past the Roman Temple, and towards St Martha’s Hill. Other roman remains include a villa.
We have iron age remains on Holmbury Hill, and bronze age remains too.
Scheduled ancient monuments in the area include:
• Bowl Barrow on Shere Heath
• Hill-forts (simple and complex) at Holmbury and Felday
• The gunpowder mills at Chilworth
• A Mesolithic burial site at Sutton Abinger
• A romano-british villa at Abinger
• Tumuli near Abinger and at Newlands Corner
• The Romano-Celtic temple at Farley Green
Gomshall has the 17th watermill, which is built on foundations which were there when they wrote the Domesday Book; King John House, which is Tudor; 15th century Tanyard Hall (the village hall) and Netley Park, owned by the National Trust which has important links to Charles Darwin. You can visit the National Trust open spaces at Abinger Roughs and Netley Park, which overlook both Gomshall and Shere, (both villages are visible from the hills within the open Park). Gomshall was a Saxon feudal holding, and was in the Domesday Book as held by William the Conqueror. Gomshall was divided in 1154 into 3 parts – Gomshall, Netley and Tower Hill. Those divisions within the village are still there – the boundaries of this village have been essentially unchanged for almost 900 years.
Shere has its Norman church (1190), famous for the 14th century anchoress Christine Carpenter (you can still see the window from her cell into the church). The church and village were used in the film Bridget Jones’: The Edge of Reason. The village has mediaeval village buildings (The Old Forge, The Old Prison, Weaver’s House, Wheelwright Cottage), and many other listed buildings including the restaurant of Kinghams in a mediaeval building. The White Horse pub was filmed in The Holiday together with many parts of the countryside around the village. There is High House, Shere (built in 1630), the manor house, which is next to the open fields that are proposed for inclusion in the village boundary. Shere is also listed in the Domesday book as Essira – the boundaries of the village are recognisable from that time. Many tourists come to see the beautiful scenery from The Holiday – most of the English filming was done here.
Built more recently, on the Downs facing the villages, there are 2nd world war “pillboxes” – concrete bunkers built in case of German invasion. Of course other National Trust houses and sites – Bookham Common, Clandon Park, Hatchlands, Polesden Lacey, Shalford Watermill, the Wey navigations, Leith Hill, to name but a few – are all within a very short distance.
This is an area of extraordinary richness and importance. We have a duty to preserve this area for future generations as it has been preserved for us. To even think about putting houses on our precious open spaces here is criminal.