A Rewarding Time and a New Champion

As usual, during the summer, we worked hard on our sites to make sure all was well for the In Bloom judging in July. This year those preparations had a new edge to them because the Middle Bourne Lane garden had been entered in the ‘Its Your Neighbourhood’ competition for the first time as well as contributing to Farnham’s entry in the Large Town category.

In recent days we have found out the results. In the case of ‘Its Your Neighbourhood’ this meant sending a team of four to the Wisley Garden Centre where we were delighted to learn that we had been awarded the top grade of ‘Outstanding’.

Our rewards did not end there because overall Farnham had its best ever year in the competition, earning gold medals and ‘Best in Category’ in all sections they entered including a Gold for Biodiversity. We had of course played our small part in those achievements and were able to attend the town’s evening event at Badshot Lea Garden Centre to be presented with a Certificate of Excellence. Additionally Martin Angel was made Farnham’s Biodiversity Champion.

Noel Moss, Myung Hye Chun and Martin Angel receiving the Outstanding Award at Wisley.

We are very pleased indeed at the results this year and acknowledge that they are due to the hard work of members on all our sites throughout the year. THANK YOU ALL! 

The Creative Bourne

The national theme for Heritage Open Days 2023 was” Creativity” and our Group decided to support this by giving a Talk on the subject and conducting a Guided Walk both of which took place in the week commencing 11th September. Advertised by the Farnham Society in their HODs leaflet, both were well attended and all the indications are that they were well received by members of the public who attended.

A good deal of research was necessary for both the subject matter and the ideal route for the Walk in the general area of Bourne Wood. It soon became apparent that historically The Bourne has been a very creative place and continues to be so today. This was described in detail in the Talk which, appropriately, was given in the Church of St Thomas –on-The Bourne, itself a good example of creative architecture which directly led to the creative music of the fine Choi that is still keeping the tradition alive today. Another musical example concerned the nationally famous Rock Choir created by Caroline Redman Lusher in The Bourne in 2005.

Creativity of a collective nature for the community included the building in 1892 of Taylor’s Hall (today often called the Scout Hut) as a social club for young people, and the setting up of Woodlarks Campsite followed later by the Woodlarks Centre, both aimed at easing the lot of disabled people. In 1940, when our nation was in grave danger, a different sort of creativity came into play with the construction of a line of defences against a possible invasion, the results of which can still be seen in the Wey valley in the area of Waverley Abbey and elsewhere.

The Talk concluded by clearly demonstrating that creativity is still alive and well in The Bourne as shown by the Garden Designs of Cathy Stewart, the history books of Bishop Christopher Herbert, the paintings of Yasmin Osborne and the wildlife photography of Heather Angel.

The Creative Walk commenced on a warm Saturday morning at the busy Cricket Pavilion area and set off along Dene Lane and into the calm of Bourne Wood, taking in along the way Lobswood Manor,the former home of Sir James Barrie, and a tremendous view of the RSPBs Farnham Heath reserve. A stop was made to view and discuss the use of the Wood for filming and there was another stop in Sable Wood to hear from the owner, Bruce Callander, about how it is managed for the benefit of the environment and members of the public. On return to the Green a final stop was made in the Church of St Martin- By -The Green where Brian White had kindly provided some welcome refreshments and also introduced the walkers to this delightful village church.

The Group’s thanks go to all who helped prepare and deliver these two events including Simon Bradbury, Charles Fearnley, Noel Moss, Myung Hye Chun, Wendy Scoble and Clinton Bradshaw.

St. Martin by the Green
Taylor’s Hall
World War II bunker

A Busy July

Bright and early on the morning of 1st July our Group was on the move towards the Green in order to set up for The Bourne Show 2023. That set the pace for the rest of the month which included the usual preparations and Inspections within Farnham’s In-Bloom programme.

For the Show, all our arrangements worked very well and our stand was fully set up and functioning well before the official start time. Once again we had attractive displays and leaflets in the Information Tent and a vast stock for sale on the Book Stall, for which we have to thank the generosity of all who donated their unwanted volumes.

It was an enjoyable day in the sunshine with a spot of excitement when the roof of the Information Tent blew off in a strong gust of wind. Fortunately no damage was done and brisk business continued. Many useful contacts were made and several new members signed on. Sales were good on the Book Stall which made a useful profit which will bolster our funds for the coming year.

Our thanks go to all our members who took part and also to the Show organisers for staging another fine local event.

At 6.30 AM on the morning following the Show early risers would have seen our regular waterers at work at The Bourne Crossroads as part of the on-going process of keeping the flower displays at that important local hub fresh and attractive. By now it was also part of preparing for the RHS judging due on 7th July. Needless to say, on that day there was not a blade of parched grass out of place or the smallest piece of litter on view thanks to the work of all the volunteers involved then and throughout the year.

The same was also true in the Middle Bourne Lane Community Garden. There the
judge was as usual greatly impressed by the moths caught the night before by Martin Angel and our new committee member, Myung-Hye Chun. This had to be repeated a few days later because this year MBL was also entered in the “Its Your Neighbourhood” completion. In preparation more watering was done and more moths caught. This time we had one hour to show the judge around which allowed a full explanation to be given about all the features of this popular garden, including the new prototype bug hotels created by Wendy Scoble. We hope for a good result in this new competition.

All that was in the first 10 days of July. Time for a slight breather now but very soon we shall pick up where we left off on our other sites such as Underdown and our footpath tasks, where much work awaits.

An Easter Review

Our Group is just coming to the end of a busy period of work and activities and so the Easter break is a good to time to review what we have been doing and what lies ahead.
This year we have so far kept up to date with the maintenance of all our sites starting with a good (if rather wet) session in Burnt Hill Wood in January. More recently we have swept up the last of the autumn leaves in Middle Bourne Lane and planted some rose bushes there and given the Crossroads site a good clean up prior to Easter. We also paid great attention to the Old Church Yard in preparation for Palm Sunday when the Church once again opened its morning service there. Before processing into the Church. We were delighted when the new Vicar, the Reverend Sandy Clarke opened the proceedings by drawing attention to the role of our Group in keeping the site looking so lovely, which it was thanks to the daffodils and primroses giving a fine show.
We have also been busy throughout the month of March with Toad Watch on Boundary Road in Rowledge. This involves not only our members but also other local conservationists who have been thanked separately for their efforts on all those cold nights. The figures for toads, frogs and a few newts this year were increased from 2022 which is a good sign at this time when our wildlife needs all the help it can get. Those who saw David Attenborough’s recent Wild Islands broadcast on Wet Lands will have noted that he gave an honourable mention to Toad Watchers nationwide.
Along with other groups in the town we were honoured on Monday 20th March to be invited to Riverside by the Wey to meet HRH Prince Edward, the newly appointed Duke of Edinburgh. There was an account of this event is event in the Farnham Herald last weekend but in addition to that article this photograph appeared in the Electronic Daily Mail the same day. It captures well the easy way in which HRH showed a keen interest in what we and other volunteers in the Town are doing for the environment. Our small group was located alongside the Farnham Biodiversity Group stand and included some committee members as well as new members. The Duke ended his short visit by planting a tree by the river,
unveiling a memorial plaque and saying a few well chosen words. We were delighted to be part of this.
The following week we took part on the Saturday morning in a small Farnham in Bloom Fair on Gostrey Meadow. It was a blustery day and we had to hold onto our display panel but it was good to be part of this opening of the In Bloom season and we also got a free cup of coffee.
We are beginning to think seriously now about the In Bloom competition as we shall be competing in our own right this year in the case of the MBL site. One of our next tasks there is to get the annual wildflower seeds down.

We intend to be present at The Bourne Show as usual this year on Saturday 1st July. We shall again run a Second Hand Book Stall. Please save up all your unwanted books for us and we will collect in due course. They need to be in good condition and preferably works of fiction because they sell well.
Our next Sunday Work Session will be on Sunday 30th April.  A good chance for our Duke of Edinburgh candidates to get in some more hours.

Chairman’s Message at Christmas 2022

The past year has been a remarkable one for our country, with many events that will
be remembered for a long time. This is also true for our Group. We achieved the
milestone of 20 years working for the community and environment of The Bourne
and were able to celebrate that in good style with a splendid gathering in St. Thomas’ Church at the end of September. That was a memorable evening when, with a goodly mix of members and residents, we were able to review our life story and also listen to a talk with a historical theme by a well-known local personality, Bishop Chris Herbert. It made a pleasing contrast to the practical work that has occupied us throughout the rest of the year but, there also, the achievements have been considerable. They included contributions to the very successful In Bloom programme as well as to Heritage Open Days.

We also took part again in The Bourne Show for the first time since the easing of the Covid Pandemic. Another major task completed late in the year was the clearance of the 39 Steps near the Bat and Ball pub on which our Duke of Edinburgh Award candidates made an invaluable contribution. With that recent record behind us we are well placed to resume work in the New Year and are already gearing up for another session in Burnt Hill Wood on the 8th January.

Other milestones awaiting us in 2023 are the start of Toad Watch at the end of February and Palm Sunday on 2nd April when we need to have the Old Churchyard in tip top condition. A new challenge for the whole year ahead will be participation in the “Its Your Neighbourhood” scheme for Middle Bourne Lane and The Bourne Crossroads which will mean a slight difference in the way we contribute to the In Bloom programme for the Town. That is all to look forward to.

In the meantime, on behalf of your excellent Committee, elected at our AGM in October, I wish All Members and Friends;

A Very Happy Christmas

And all Good Wishes for a Healthy, Fulfilling and Successful New Year

The Bourne 39 Steps

The 39 Steps, in the splendid novel of that name by John Buchan, are located at the fictional town of Bradgate which is generally thought to be modelled on Broadstairs on the Kent coast which the author knew well.  What is not so well known is that The Bourne has its own 39 Steps leading down to the stream near the Bat and Ball hostelry. Although these steps do have an air of mystery caused by the deep shade in which they lie, they have not so far featured in any novel but they did become a centrepiece for the work of our Group on Sunday 20th November 2022. 

The valley of The Bourne Stream is very steep sided which has resulted in several flights of steps being built over the years to accommodate the network of footpaths that is such an attractive feature of the area. Our Group has helped to maintain most of them but had never before until Sunday worked on this particular flight. The reason that work was needed can be seen in the first photograph which shows that the steps were largely hidden under a layer of compost formed by generations of fallen leaves. This was not a safe condition for pedestrians especially in view of the poor light conditions. 

  Before                                      After

The team on Sunday was well equipped with spades and, under the leadership of Bryan Snashall and Clinton Bradshaw (who thoughtfully came armed with a wheelbarrow) set about the task with gusto. They soon found that this was not a trivial undertaking. Each step had to be dug out and the spoil loaded into large plastic bags which then had to be transported down the hill, across the stream and onto the pub car park to await disposal. For this the wheelbarrow was most useful.

This proved to be very good, healthy exercise for the team members who included three Duke of Edinburgh Candidates Felix, Max and Al who kept up a running commentary throughout which enlivened the proceedings. They and the rest of the team did an excellent job as can be seen by the difference in the steps shown in the second photograph. Pedestrians using the steps complimented the team on their work. The bad news is that the job was not fully completed in the available time so we need to return soon to finish it.

Remarkably we had a second team at work on Sunday at the Underdown Nature Reserve which is close to the 39 Steps. Under the leadership of Wendy Scoble they also did a fine job trimming the hedge, removing an unwanted bramble patch and dealing with a very untidy, fallen fence. That team included Duke of Edinburgh Candidates Alex, Annabel and Ellie. The latter did well to spot very interesting Earth Star and Lion’s mane fungi. Things to add to our species list.

Well done everyone for a good morning’s work keeping The Bourne’s landscape in good order.

Thanks also to the Bat and Ball staff who allowed use of their Car Park, and to Surrey County Council Footpaths staff who removed all the bags of soil.

Annual General Meeting 2022

On Sunday 30th October Members assembled at the home of the Chairman for the Group’s AGM, the first such occasion since 2019 because of the disruption of normal routines by the pandemic. It was therefore a good opportunity not only to catch up on routine business but to discuss subjects of concern to the Group including two “hot topics.”

It was a lively meeting with many good points being made from the floor within the framework set by consideration of the Combined Report for 2019-2022 circulated before the meeting. A number of good ideas were put forward that might aid future recruitment as well as providing more hands on experience for Duke of Edinburgh’s Award candidates. In this context it was good to see one of our current candidates taking part in the debate.

Essential business carried out included Approval of the Accounts which show the Group in a very healthy financial state. Also election of a committee for the coming year as follows:

Chairman Noel Moss
Secretary Richard Sandars
Treasurer Fiona Walberton
Biodiversity & Newsletter editor Dr Martin Angel
Membership & Recruitment Vicky Hill
Footpath Coordinator
David Dearsley
D of E Awards Coordinator Dr Wendy Scoble
Bourne Stream Project Manager Clinton Bradshaw

Among those well-known names it is good to see Wendy Scoble and Clinton Bradshaw joining the committee this time. The Stream Project referred to in Clinton’s title is the projected repair of the footpath by the stream near the Bat and Ball pub with Surrey County Council are hoping to accomplish in 2023.

The Hot Topics discussed were possible participation in the RHS It’s Your Neighbourhood scheme and the current planning application for 146 houses in the area known to the Group as Compton Fields. This is a very unpopular project locally and BCG, in conjunction with the Farnham Biodiversity Group, has recently reiterated its opposition.

Once the meeting had formally closed, members were able to carry on the discussions as well as enjoying some social chat over light refreshments.

Copies of the Combined Annual Report for 2019-2022 are available on request to info@bourneconservation.org.uk

Group’s celebration remembers Sturt

This article appeared in the Farnham Herald of 27th October 2022

The Herald carried a report last month about the 20th anniversary of the Bourne Conservation Group (BCG). It was celebrated on 29th September at a social gathering with pictorial displays of the Group’s work, and a welcome from the Chairman, Noel Moss. The event attracted about 75 people, which was gratifying as the audience included not only BCG’s members and friends but many more people from The Bourne and Farnham generally. There is little doubt they were attracted by the guest speaker, Bishop Chris Herbert.

The speaker’s subject was ‘Change in the Village: Life in The Bourne around 1900’, based on the writings of George Sturt, who wrote under the name George Bourne. His many books drew on his life in Farnham, the second half of which was spent in The Bourne – the source for ‘Change in the Village’. Dr Herbert was able to compare what Sturt wrote with the Parish Magazines of that period, and other sources. The first Vicar of The Bourne, the Revd Thomas Sidebotham, was still in office at the time; he appears often in the book, not always in a good light. The parish magazines show the work of the church to help the poor in a more positive way; perhaps Sturt came later to understand that.

Sturt was writing at a time of great social change; there were wealthy incomers with large houses, brought about by the railway, the Aldershot Garrison and a clean water supply. Their lives contrasted with those of the older inhabitants often living in squalid conditions, leaving behind what he described as a ‘peasant life’. The speaker requested more research into the parish nurse, so important to the lives of the poor at a time when no doctors or hospitals were available: who were they, how were they trained and how were they paid for?  

It is not the purpose of this article to summarise the fascinating talk, for which the speaker had researched extensively. Dr Herbert had investigated several aspects of the lives of the many labourers and their families living in the area and raised questions that need further research. George Sturt should be celebrated both for the quality of his writing and for his contribution to the history of Farnham.

Revd Sidebotham is buried in the Old Churchyard, Vicarage Hill, which is today looked after by BCG to retain its peaceful character and encourage biodiversity. Among the 800 parishioners buried there are the unmarked graves of Fred Grover, Sturt’s gardener, and his wife Lucy. Both were written about in Sturt’s books, as described in information signs placed by BCG.

The Group is very grateful to Chris Herbert for his contribution to a memorable occasion.

George Sturt
Old Church Lane, where Sturt lived in Vine Cottage
Recent BCG working party after hedge cutting, by the Lychgate, Old Churchyard. The lychgate was a gift from the first Vicar’s sister, Miss Annie Sidebotham, paid for with proceeds from her Children’s Hymnal.

Farnham in Bloom Awards 2022

At the awards ceremony on 5th October, the Bourne Conservation Group was given a Certificate of Excellence for our contribution. That recognition was very pleasing; what made the evening memorable was that our Chairman Noel Moss was the recipient of the Mayor’s Special Award for service. The Mayor paid a special tribute to Noel’s great dedication to BCG, the Farnham Biodiversity Group, Bourne Beautification Group and other groups and individuals he has organised, encouraged, supported and generally assisted with over the years to the great benefit of the town and its surrounding villages. The recognition of our Group, and Noel in particular, by the wider Farnham community and the Town Council is very gratifying.