view of West Horsley Place in SpringLike everyone else we are in a state of suspended animation and frustration, as there is so much to do and to get on with at West Horsley Place. However any frustration we may all be experiencing pales into insignificance beside the heroic work of our health and care workers, and the often desperate challenges faced by so many people who have suffered the impact of COVID-19 either personally or on friends and family. We are already thinking hard about how we can help; the calming, beautiful and tranquil atmosphere of West Horsley Place and its beautiful gardens can be offered as a place of refuge and recuperation to people who have been in the front line of the health service and care sector following on from COVID-19, when we are at last able to open our doors. It is, sadly, a particularly graphic and specific example of the opportunity which we want to offer at West Horsley Place as a nurturing and healing space for people who have suffered emotional and health challenges in their lives.

The impact of COVID-19 on the West Horsley Place Trust has been considerable. Financially, the second half of this calendar year is a washout in terms of cancelled or postponed events and like everybody else we are praying for as early a resumption of normal life, whatever that proves to be, as possible. We have had to dig deep into our reserves for this year although thanks to Bamber and Christina Gascoigne's philanthropy which has funded the present phase of works, those are funded. We have had to furlough half the small team at West Horsley Place and expenditure to keep the place running is being kept to the absolute minimum as we cannot earn income. It is a time both for survival through such difficult circumstances, but also an opportunity to plan for the future.

The recent glorious weather has greatly improved ground conditions, and recent government guidance to the construction industry will soon allow contractors to return to work provided that they follow government guidance on strict site working practices and undertake the necessary risk assessments. We are also being encouraged by Guildford Borough Council to move on with work as soon as possible. We have therefore been talking to our contractors both for the house and barns restoration projects and for the Brewhouse Meadow and Place Farm car parks, and both expect to be able to return to work during the week commencing May 4th having undertaken these essential steps for the safety of their workers, our staff and visitors to the estate. In the car parks, the priorities are installation of field drainage, completion of the protective bunds and levelling and top soiling in preparation for reseeding the grass, which will probably happen in September to get a good take. The grass should then be ready for use to park cars for the opera season and occasional events from spring 2021. There is probably 3 to 4 months work remaining to complete these various projects – subject, of course, both to weather and the progress of lockdown.

young Roe deer at West Horsley PlaceMany people have been taking full advantage of the estate for their daily exercise which we very much welcome (sticking to the footpaths please, taking away dog mess, and of course observing social distancing!) but we would particularly ask that dogs be kept on a lead. This is the season when dogs can do real damage if off the leash, disturbing wildlife and young animals, so this would be much appreciated. We are very much aware that in a number of places fencing is dilapidated and we are working with our farm tenant to put this right as soon as possible, particularly in priority areas such as beside footpaths.

It is a deep disappointment that we cannot host Shakespeare's Globe's travelling players in mid-May in the gardens although we remain hopeful of their return next year. Many other exciting events have had to be cancelled or postponed, too. If one looks for positives as one must at the moment, there is however more time (once contractors can restart) to finish off the extensive programme of work which started in 2016 to get the house and Place Farm ready to receive visitors. We continue to receive, and welcome, enquiries for weddings and private bookings once all this is over, and to make our plans for when we can reopen. This autumn our charity will have existed for five years – let us hope we have the opportunity to celebrate it properly. In the meantime, thank you all for your support which is deeply appreciated.

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