Despite the ongoing challenges of going out and then back into lockdown again, and the subsequent delay to so many of our plans, things have remained really busy for the Team at West Horsley Place.

Our Steering Group was able to meet again (digitally at least) before Christmas, with attendance from Guilford Borough Council, Historic England and other stakeholders, and here we reviewed the progress we had made as a Trust over the past year in respect of our building conservation and redevelopment work. It is easy to forget with the day-to-day pressures and logistical barriers we have faced, but it really was nice to look back and reflect on achievements in 2020.

The highlight for many of us so far this year has been the completion of our works to Place Farm Barn. This new, multi-purpose events-space will be able to host activities from talks to recitals, to classes and family events. We would like to thank our builders, our architects, project managers, surveyors - and all of the professional team and contractors who have also really become part of West Horsley Place over the past few years, and who are already very much missed!

With funding tight and the need to think carefully about the next phase of conservation – our attention will now turn back to the House. We are delighted to report the support of Historic England towards the conservation and repair of our Geraldine Room ceiling; a financial boost to help us complete the final surveys and analysis needed before the repair schedule is finalised - and conservation work can begin. Grants from Historic England, via the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, are designed to protect heritage sites and ensure that specialist jobs and access to culture and heritage can still happen in the months ahead.

Alongside this, we will soon be able to take forward part of our NLHF-funded project, Heritage without Barriers, with heritage volunteers from The Arts Society. This will see us collaborate with their East Surrey Area group to record many of the c. 10,000 books that are held in our Library. With expert guidance from leading conservator, Caroline Bendix, the volunteers will also learn how to assess their condition, clean them and how to make minor repairs so that the books are protected for the future.

In recruitment news, we were pleased to welcome Marcus Cribb as our new House & Operations Manager this month. With a wealth of experience across operations and events in places such as Apsley House, Wellington Arch and HMS Victory, Marcus’ skills and knowledge will be a great addition to the Team as we respond to the Government ‘Roadmap’ and move towards a delayed, smaller but exciting reopening this Summer! We expect to have further job opportunities at the Trust later this year, which we will list on our website when ready.

On the Estate, Matt and our contractors have completed a much-needed phase of path, bridleway and ditch maintenance. This work is done with biodiversity in mind too, to not disturb species and in many cases to encourage more back. Later in the year, we will augment this with a project together with Surrey Wildlife Trust to reintroduce more hedgerows across the Estate. Some of these historic boundaries (and wildlife corridors) have been lost over time and it will be great to reinstate where appropriate, as well as preserving and improving others. We have spotted more of you enjoying walks through our accessible paths during lockdown, for exercise and general wellbeing and are really glad to see local people enjoying them. As a small charity, the level of maintenance is however huge and growing, and so we do ask for your help, to respect the Countryside Code, take litter home and keep to permitted routes. If you would also like to donate to help maintain our beautiful Estate for the community, we would welcome your support: