A glorious few weeks of weather has just brought to an end the third Grange Park Opera season at West Horsley Place and its feast of creative art and entertainment.  In the house, opera guests have much admired the blend of crisp modernity and 15thcentury fabric in our new lavatories for visitors and guests which are a real showstopper.

Less visibly, new pipes, wires and radiators are now in place through much of the ground floor and now that the Grange Park Opera team have left, we are able to return to our work programme in the house. This includes carrying on with the installation of heating, lighting, power, asbestos removal and works for fire detection and suppression, all work which was paused for the opera season.  This programme will carry on through the rest of this year and will be dovetailed with our commitments for filming, events and house tours; our priority is to complete this phase of work and as a result we are unlikely to be able to accept any new commitments which might conflict with it. 

Meanwhile, the Place Farm Barn complex is a hive of activity, with internal soundproofing being installed following structural strengthening to the interior timber roof trusses and completion of the reroofing in traditional handmade clay tiles, reusing all the sound original ones.  Later this year, we will be implementing our planning permission to create the Place Farm car park adjoining these buildings.  This will mean that, in late spring next year, Place Farm will be open and available for the community to use and enjoy, and as a venue for concerts, recitals, talks, exhibitions, weddings and private bookings.

To improve safety on the busy A246 and comply with the conditions of our 2017 "Arts Planning Consent" for all the West Horsley Place Trust's activities at West Horsley Place, a new turning lane will be created into the main drive at West Horsley Place.  Other improvements will include a new bus shelter and a reduced speed limit.  This work is funded by the Trust, not the taxpayer. We have been working over a long period with Surrey County Council to achieve the necessary consents and, subject to the conclusion of those, hope we are now very close to starting work.  We will be contacting local schools and other organisations to give as much notice as possible of the start date, to complement Surrey County Council's own public notice process.  We apologise in advance for the short-term inconvenience this may cause as the works will necessitate single lane alternating traffic controlled by lights, probably for at least an eight-week period.  The work will necessitate the removal of approximately 120 yards of the hedge along the south side of the A246 to provide sufficient road width of the new turning lane, and a new replacement hedge will be planted linking at either end to the existing hedge.  We are working with Surrey Wildlife Trust who will be undertaking a preliminary survey for nesting birds and dormice. The end result should be a significant improvement to road safety particularly when there are events at West Horsley Place.

We are also planning to improve the screening for our neighbours to car parking areas with landscaped earth bunds planted up with indigenous hedgerow plants on the eastern side of both Place Farm and the Brewhouse Meadow, together with other landscape improvements.  Subject to consent, this work is planned for later this year before the winter.

One of the priorities for the Trust has been to improve the basic infrastructure and services at West Horsley Place and to that end, jointly with Grange Park Opera, a new sewage treatment plant taking advantage of the best of modern technology has been installed to serve all the buildings on the site.  This will replace the elderly septic tank installed by Lord Crewe in the 1940s which currently serves the house and other buildings and which is at the end of its life.  The new treatment plant's outflow, which once operational will be of water which (according to the system's manufacturers) is of a quality clean enough to drink, will discharge into a local water course.  Currently (and from its installation) this plant is sealed with no outflow at all, pending an application currently being considered by the Environment Agency, and is instead being emptied as and when necessary by tankers.

The next project which we are currently planning is the restoration of the listed early 18th century stableblock and its conversion into a centre for history and interpretation, spaces to enable schools to visit and make the most of the rich stories at West Horsley Place, and studios for the teaching of crafts and arts.  This important and beautiful building is in a very poor state but perfectly situated close to the house for these exciting activities.  We need to raise the funds to make this happen and that will be an important campaign for the coming months.

Out on the estate, we are working with the Surrey Wildlife Trust to learn more about the rich natural history of our landscape which includes ancient woodland and interesting archaeological remains such as the mediaeval fishponds.  We are currently awaiting the results of a biodiversity survey from the Trust which will help us to plan a programme of works and interpretation both to care for the estate and its features of interest, and to help and encourage local people to enjoy them. 

In the gardens, much has already been done this spring and summer and a long programme of improvement lies ahead.  Borders are being cleared of perennial weeds, the soil improved and replanted, and paths and border edges tidied and straightened. The most urgent cracks in the early eighteenth century brick garden walls have been repaired, although the £50,000 needed to prop, buttress and repair or rebuild one dangerously leaning wall supported by scaffolding remains at present beyond us. If you would like to join our brilliant band of volunteers to help in the gardens, we would love to hear from you!