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The Fernhurst Society

Newsletter no 37, October 2011


Programme Autumn 2011

Thursday 27th October
Talk on th Wey and Arun Canal
Fernhurst Village Hall
7.30pm for 8pm start

An illustrated talk by David King on the history and restoration of the Wey and Arun Canal – London’s Lost Route to the Sea.

Thursday 24th November
AGM and Talk/Slide Show
Fernhurst Village Hall.
7.30pm for 8pm start  

There will be a short Society AGM, followed by a talk and slide show by Fernhurst Society committee member Peter Monger  ‘Hong Kong to West Sussex: an 80’s Train Journey'


Archive Report October 2011

During the summer all the team were occupied with helping Dr Sarah Rutherford, an independent historian specialising in historic gardens and landscapes, who had been commissioned by Comer Homes to write a Historic Landscape Analysis on the Highfield and Longfield sites. This necessitated about 20 hours work on our part providing information and photographs before, then checking and suggesting additions and alterations after. She kindly made a donation of £40.

Information was sought on the Latvian refugees who worked at Plant Protection in the early 1950s, and we were able to provide a few names and details.

Paddy and John Burrow are continuing to excavate the former mill stream, sluice and associated stone and metalwork on their land (Cooksbridge) and were interested to see our 1874 OS map, which clearly showed the footprint. Darren Wells, ‘our’ metal detectorist, is going to help explore the site with his equipment. He has also been turning up other finds around the Van Common area, including a dog tag and a lady’s powder compact! A visitors’ book from the original Spread Eagle was donated by Chris and Ralph Lines. Entries covered 1922-1939 and included several original poems, sketches and much praise for the pub’s owners, Mr and Mrs John (‘Jack’) Edwards.

In recognition for our help, author and former journalist, Peter Day, has sent us a signed copy of his book, “Franco’s Friends”, published to coincide with the 75th anniversary in July of the start of the Spanish Civil War. We were able to help with information on Dorothy Watson and Major Hugh Pollard, who in the 1930s were living at the Spread Eagle, Fernhurst, and Hoewyck Farm respectively, and a photo of the Spread Eagle. A fascinating tale has emerged of Dorothy being persuaded by Major Pollard and his daughter, Diana, to join them on a flight to the Canary Islands, masquerading as tourists, in 1936. The plane that they travelled in was then used to transport General Franco to Morocco where he led the Spanish Foreign Legion against the Republican forces.

Review of Recent Activities

Talk on the South Downs National Park – Thursday 14th April

The Society was lucky to have Phil Belden, operations manager from the Park Authority. give a talk only 2 weeks after the official inauguration of the Park.

Phil outlined the long history leading up to the creation of the South Downs National Park. In the 1930’s the government set up a number of committees looking at preservation of the countryside but it wasn’t until 1949 that the National Park Act was created, designating 12 National Parks around the country. The South Downs was on this list but was never created. The in 1956 the criteria for a National Park was changed to cover wilderness areas rather than areas of natural beauty – and this excluded the South Downs, which were highly populated.

In the 80’s and 90’s, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) began campaigning for a National Park again and in 1990, the Countryside Act formalised the area as an AONB. Finally in 2002, the South Downs was designated as a National Park and after two inquiries defining the area of the Park, it was inaugurated in April 2011.

The park is different to most of the others in the country in that it covers an area with high population and intensive agriculture. However it covers a wide range of habitats including:

  1. Chalk grassland – with the richest flora in Europe but now down to 3% of the Downs
  2. Lowland heath, again quite rare
  3. Farmland
  4. Woodland
  5. Wetland
  6. Coast

The overall purpose of the National Park is:

  • Conserve, enhance and restore the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area.
  • Promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the Park.

In addition, working Local Authorities and other organisations, it is the duty of the Park Authority to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities.

The Park has overall responsibility for planning, but has delegated responsibility for the majority of decisions to the 15 local authorities within the Park boundaries, and will only deal directly with major applications.

Walk along the River Wey – 25th June

The walk was led by Adrian Bird from the River Wey Trust. Starting at Hatch Farm, Standford, the walk followed the river upstream passing Passfield Mill, Passfield Manor and Bramshott Court finishing at Bramshott Mill.

Along the way Adrian told us about the southern River Wey which rises on Blackdown Hills. The quiet nature of the river today belies its history as the scene of intensive industrial and agricultural history. The six miles of river between Haslemere and Headley supported over a dozen watermills, one of which still survives in its original state, though currently not working.

Less obvious are the watermeadows, which once ran almost uninterrupted from the source of the Wey downstream at least as far as Frensham. They were devised to improve the fertility and drainage of the riverside meadows, through a process of controlled irrigation, and so to increase hay production. Water was diverted from the river onto the meadows through a system of channels or “carriers”, then returned to the river through a complementary pattern of drains.

The Wey meadows are known to have been in existence in 1680 and continued in use until the early part of this century, when changes in agricultural practices made them uneconomic. They are now largely overgrown.

Watermeadows are found elsewhere in the country. The most celebrated are in the valleys of the chalkstreams farther west in Hampshire and Wiltshire, but the Wey system differs in underlying geology, in scale, and in the complex arrangements of sluices, hatches, and particularly, aqueducts.

Adrian pointed out several sluices and aqueducts that the Trust had restored. Particularly impressive is the new electronically controlled sluices recently installed by the owners of Bramshott Mill.

It was a beautiful warm summer’s day and the group greatly appreciated the time Adrian took to show us a little known part of the river.

Guided Walk on Iping Common – 28th August

Bruce Middleton, from the South Downs National Park kindly agreed to lead a group of 15 around Iping Common on another sunny day, one of the few this summer!

Iping Common, along with adjacent Stedham Common are outstanding examples of lowland heath, one of the few remaining in the UK, and rarer than rainforest as Bruce pointed out.

Lowland heath requires management or it will revert to woodland with Scots Pine and Silver Birch. The common has been managed by humans since the Bronze Age with heather and bracken used for cooking and grazing. Bronze Age people also used the common for burials, with numerous burial mounds visible on the walk.

With management, the predominant vegetation is heather, with Bruce pointing out Bell and Cross leaved heathers and Ling. Ideally different stages of heather should be present and we saw various stages of heather renovation. Different heights suit different animals and insects.

The Common provides ideal habitat for bees, tiger beetle, field crickets together with a wide range of spiders, mice, shrews and adders. The Common is also home to rare birds such as woodlark, Dartford warbler, nightjar and stonechat and you can see hobbit falcons, buzzards, red kites and ravens.

Bruce is a mine of information and pointed out a wide range of plants and their uses, as well as geographical features such as the Roman Road from Chichester to Silchester, Bronze Age burial grounds and much more. A very interesting walk.


Snippet from the Past


Margaret Hutchinson (1904 – 1977) grew up as part of a large Quaker family at Moses Farm and then spent many years at Yafflesmead (later October House, now demolished and rebuilt) in Kingsley Green. As well as running a school for 25 years, she was also a widely respected amateur naturalist. Here are some of her recollections of life in Kingsley Green.

A regiment of Gordon Highlanders was stationed at Fernhurst during the First World War and on Sundays Phoebe Wheeler, who was nurse to Margaret and her many siblings, would take the children down to Fernhurst Cross to watch the weekly parade. Kilts swayed rhythmically to the skirl of bagpipes as the Highlanders marched and counter-marched before the admiring crowd of villagers.

The centre of village life in Kingsley Green was Mills’ shop and Post Office and the bakery next door, run by another Mills brother. She recalled that while Harold was serving customers at full speed, he was also scribbling down their purchases in a large day book, before transcribing them into individual order books. It could be several months before your bill arrived!

Margaret felt strongly about education and set up a school at the family home of Yafflesmead in Kingsley Green for 25 years. Run on Froebelian lines, the curriculum put great emphasis on Natural History, planned and unplanned, such as the time the children found the egg of a brimstone butterfly on a twig in the woods, took it back, twig and all, to the classroom and successfully reared it. They also reared a pair of owls and Margaret would erect small hides in the woodland so that the children could birdwatch. Many former pupils still have fond memories of Margaret Hutchinson and how she opened their eyes to the world around them.

Extracted from ‘An Edwardian Childhood - The Making of a Naturalist’ by Margaret Hutchinson republished with additions by Penny Hollow by John Owen Smith 2003. Available from Haslemere Educational Museum


Fernhurst Junior Society

The next walk is on Saturday November 12th to The Devil’s Punchbowl. This walk will include some geocaching.

December 17th is the last walk of the year, where we walk locally and finish up with mulled apple juice and mince pies.

Everyone is welcome to join us on our walks. We usually start at 2 p.m. and are out for around 2 hours. As we often have quite little ones with us this doesn’t always mean 2 hours of walking! All children need to be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Our new season will start in March, usually the 2nd Saturday in the month.