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 Summer 2006

Cover Story


The Kingston Division of the Surrey Beekeepers Association moved to the Hampton Court Way allotments in the late 1990s. The apiary is enclosed in an area of five allotments and in succeeding years membership has increased from fifteen to forty. 

The members are keen to keep this interest growing. In a bid to recruit people who might want to explore beekeeping, an annual Open Day is organised. During this event people are able to see the apiary and suitably protected, to talk with the beekeepers as they work their hives. This gives those interested, who might like to take up the craft, an insight as to whether it could be the right hobby for them. A training programme has been set up under which four local applicants are offered a free course over one year. This covers the important aspects of beekeeping and "hands on" instruction on activities in sequence from April to the following April. All others who remain interested are given the opportunity to attend the apiary when the regular weekly meetings take place in the summer months on Saturdays from 2 pm. They are allocated as "observers" to members operating their own hives. The following year they will have the opportunity to apply to join the training programme. The club lends new members protective clothing and hive equipment until they are confident that they wish to continue. They then buy their own veil, gloves, smoker, hive boxes and glass jars (for all the honey their own bees are going to produce!)

Thames Ditton resident, Michael Evans, has just finished the first year with his own hive, under supervision. Michael will still have to wait until the end of the summer before he can take home jars of his own honey as the first years crop was left in his new hive to enable the bees to get through the winter. He has learnt to be sensitive and gentle with the bees and has gained a great deal of respect for them and joy from his new hobby. The experienced Kingston Beekeepers will continue to pass on their knowledge to Michael and the other new members enabling them, if they wish, to set up hives in their own gardens.

Bees fly up to three miles to collect nectar and pollen, so any honey bee you see around Thames Ditton will be from the Hampton Court Allotment apiary or even a local hive. In a good year the yield of honey from a hive can be an amazing 100lbs. The Association sells the honey to the public at the allotment apiary. It costs £3.50 for a 1 lb jar and is sold on Saturdays in the summer months, at 2 pm. Not only is it delicious to eat but if you have hayfever, it is said that local honey helps lessen the symptoms. I don't know whether this is true but it will certainly be an enjoyable experience testing the theory.

The Kingston Beekeeper Association has a website, where you can read more about its activities.

Marie Gale


The Association has had another successful year, with perhaps fewer major issues attracting public attention - normally a good thing. However, the Association has continued to fulfil its main objective of protecting the amenities and furthering the interests of residents in the Thames Ditton and Weston Green areas, unfettered by party political constraints.

Thames Ditton Community Centre

Elmbridge Council has bought the Community Centre from Surrey County Council and Elmbridge has earmarked funds for refurbishment, so we can look forward to a revitalised centre for the benefit of the wider community. Thames Ditton Community Hospital The financial failings of the local Primary Care Trust has meant that the future of the NHS beds in the George Tickler Wing at Emberbrook is still uncertain, despite the campaign by the Friends of Thames Ditton Hospital, whose efforts we continue to support. With the reduction in beds in neighbouring community hospitals, it is all the more imperative that the Primary Care Trust continues to fund our 4 NHS beds at least and preferably more.

Flooding and Sewerage

Under Councillor Edward Rowe's leadership, our lobbying and pressure finally bore fruit with the new pumping station and sewer work in Speer Road, with work starting in Thames Ditton village and expanded capacity at the Esher treatment plant. We hope this will alleviate flooding and sewage back-up problems. In Weston Green, localised surface water flooding is kept to a minimum thanks to the efforts of our RA ward councillors, Maureen Sheldrick and Tannia Shipley, to make sure the culverts are kept clear.


While we have a relatively low level of serious crime we must be vigilant and the Association maintains links with Surrey Police and our new neighbourhood officer P.C. Andy Grapsas and his colleagues who try to attend our Open Meetings wherever possible.

Traffic Highways and Parking

The vexed question with parking remains, particularly around Thames Ditton village, Basingfield Road, the station and near schools. Elmbridge has taken over enforcement of controls over on-street parking as well as car parks where, in common with all neighbouring boroughs, charges are being brought in. Management of on-street parking is Surrey's responsibility and we are told proposals will be put forward this summer. Surrey's difficulties with its maintenance contractor, Carrillion, are plain to see with the long delays in filling potholes.


We continue to monitor all significant planning applications, to keep a balance between the need for housing and the need to ensure that we oppose overdevelopment. We support residents at planning appeals, such as that in Station Road where the inspector rejected plans to build thirteen houses in back gardens going back to Ashley Road.

We were less successful at Imber Cross, next to the Vera Fletcher Hall, where an alliance between Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors approved a developer's plan for redevelopment with only 35% affordable and sheltered accommodation, ignoring the need for much more housing of this type (up to now it was 100% sheltered accommodation).

In Weston Green, the persistence of our ward councillors paid off when the unauthorised car wash at the Lamb and Star was closed, since it created a great nuisance for local residents. While not strictly a planning matter I would like to thank Councillor Maureen Sheldrick for her sterling work in representing local interests when the new licenses were approved for local pubs, in order to ensure opening hours and noise were kept within reasonable limits.

Thames Ditton Today Magazine

This is our main means of communication with residents and I thank Terry Ford and all who contribute to, distribute and deliver the magazine, not forgetting our advertisers and all the hard work by our new advertising manager, Verity Park.

Other Matters

The Association again worked with local businesses to put on the second Christmas Fayre in the High Street which was a great success. We now have our own website, produced by Keith Evetts, and we are grateful to Keith for this. We also have a new "Welcome Letter" for new residents so if you know of new neighbours, please let us know.

Committee and Councillors

I am normally reluctant to mention individuals because everyone does as much as they can, but we welcome our new Treasurer Keith Baldwin, who took over from Eric Austin. Peter Haynes is our new Membership Secretary and he has worked hard to overhaul our records and improve our subscription collecting. Our five councillors all devote a great deal of time in representing your interests, much of it behind the scenes, unsung and unacknowledged. We were very pleased that last year we saw our first RA County Councillor, Peter Hickman, elected as we recognised that we needed better representation at County where so many decisions are made, not least on highways. Our grateful thanks are due to all who contribute to the well-being and success of the Association in so many ways.

Martin Wilberforce - Chairman


Update of Residents' Association activities since March Annual General Meeting

Thames Ditton Ward
DAVID LOWE (R.A.) 1228 Elected
Graham West (Conservative) 393
Roger Hughes (Labour) 92

This result shows that in Thames Ditton the non-party policies of our Association and the qualities of our candidate have the strong support of the local electorate. Our thanks go to all the tireless workers who made this success possible - the manifesto deliverers, the tellers, those who put up posters and last, but not least, our agent Peter Hickman.

In the rest of the borough, however, Residents' candidates were not so successful and the Council is now made up as follows:

Residents and Independents 26
Conservatives 26
Liberal Democrats 8

At the Annual Meeting of the Council the Conservatives took power following the abstention by Liberal Democrats who did not wish to join Residents' councillors in a joint administration.

Campaign to save Thames Ditton Hospital

We are supporting the Friends of Thames Ditton Hospital in their continuing campaign to prevent the East Elmbridge & Mid Surrey Primary Care Trust from closing all 14 beds in the George Tickler Wing at Emberbrook.

On 28th March supporters of Thames Ditton Hospital led by Chairman Karen Randolph and Elmbridge Councillors Ruth Lyon, Tannia Shipley and Peter Heaney joined the national rally outside the Houses of Parliament together with 1000 other campaigners from 39 hospitals across England. The rally, organised by the campaign group CHANT (Community Hospitals Acting Nationally Together) was to protest against closures and cutbacks to community hospitals throughout the country. Campaigners from Cobham, Molesey, Walton, Weybridge and Surbiton hospitals also joined the rally and handed in petitions to local MPs Ian Taylor, Philip Hammond and Edward Davey.

Following the rally, a new world record of 45 petitions on one day were submitted to the House of Commons in recognition of the vital role played by community hospitals in providing local community based care and in protest at the continued threat of closures and cuts to services. 

The Government’s White Paper “Your Health, Your Care, Your Say” published in January proposed a new generation of hospitals to provide a wider range of health and social care services in a community setting. It stressed the potential of releasing acute hospital beds by using intermediate care beds eg for hip fractures and recognised that the provision of more local care helps with transport problems.

Our M.P. Ian Taylor (Con) has written to the Chief Executive of the PCT pointing out the widespread support for local community hospitals providing care for local people and asking him to consider how the PCT will meet these needs in view of the proposals contained in the White Paper.

Railings and Wheelbarrows

We were delighted to see the new railings on the ramps at Thames Ditton station.

Ron Cox, the Thames Ditton station master received six old wheelbarrows from residents after our appeal in the December issue of Thames Ditton Today. They are now planted out and will beautify the station this summer, reaching their peak in time for the Hampton Court Flower Show.

Tuk to the Road


On May 20th Antonia Bolingbroke- Kent and I will attempt a Guinness World Record- to drive overland from Bangkok to Brighton in a bright pink Thai tuk tuk and hence complete the longest ever journey by auto rickshaw. For those of you who have never been to Asia, a tuk tuk is one of the ubiquitous three-wheeled taxis that you see thronging the streets in many Asian cities. We will drive over 12,000 miles and pass through twelve countries, including Laos, China and Kazakhstan. The ultimate aim of our adventure is to increase awareness about mental health and to raise £50,000 for the mental health charity Mind.

The idea for this trip first came about a few years ago when I was travelling in Thailand with some friends. Tuk tuks are the main form of transport in Bangkok and as we were bombing around the tourist sites I decided that one day I would drive one back to the UK. Having graduated from university last year with a one year break ahead of me before starting a second degree in medicine this September, I saw that this was my chance to turn my dream into reality. If I didn't do the trip now I would never do it, so I convinced Antonia to give up her job and come with me on the ultimate threewheeled adventure.

Why Mind? Well firstly, the statistics relating to mental illness in this country are shocking; one in four of us will suffer mental health problems during our lives, 40% of all GP consultations are mental health related and over 140,000 people try to commit suicide in Britain every year. Yet somehow it is an issue that is still pushed under the carpet with people afraid to speak out about it or even to support it. Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. Its work is carried out in a number of different ways, from advising the government on related issues to setting up over 200 local Mind centres throughout the country and providing a crisis helpline. Whilst the centres provide counselling, advocacy, befriending and training schemes, the Mindinfoline offers thousands of callers confidential support on anything and everything to do with mental health. Since sufferers are often both afraid to speak out and have no idea where to turn, this service can be a vital stepping stone to recovery.

I also have a personal reason for supporting Mind. I suffered from depression during my adolescence and spent over two years in psychiatric hospitals, and was personally helped by Mind when I was unwell. Antonia also feels strongly about supporting Mind, after a close friend of hers committed suicide last year.

The last three months have been incredibly intense and a very step learning curve. We have been on medical training courses, survival weekends, passed our motorcycle tests, learnt Russian and organised the complicated logistics that such a trip requires. Our biggest challenges are yet to come - the trip itself and reaching our fundraising target. 

To find out more about our trip and to make a donation to Mind please visit our website. If you do not have access to the internet and wish to make a donation, then please make cheques payable to 'Mind' and send them to 5,Station Road, Thames Ditton, Surrey, KT7 0NU.

Many thanks.

Joanna Huxster, Thames Ditton resident for 27 years

Your Local Press - Campaigning in the 21st Century

... from keeping local magistrates courts to community hospitals

This article is an abridged version of the talk by Sean Duggan, Editor of the Surrey Comet, at our AGM in March.

In 1854 a local printer, Thomas Philpott, founded the Surrey Comet. A deeply religious man, he believed God had called him to launch a newspaper "to expose the bad and promote the good". One hundred and fifty two years later the paper, now the oldest surviving newspaper in Surrey, is still going and still holds true to its founding father's campaigning principles.

Mr Philpott's Surbiton connections are well-known as he started the newspaper there, and he is buried there in St Mark's Church, but throughout the 1840s he lived in the Salt Box in Thames Ditton - which still exists (see photo). He married Mary, who came from Esher, and they had four children while in Thames Ditton. At the time he was an overseer at the Seeley print works in Weston Green and during his day off he preached and ran a Sunday school in Claygate which, at the time, had no church. In fact it was largely through his efforts that the village finally got a church.

For Mr Philpott a newspaper was not something which simply reflected what was happening in society. He saw it as a powerful tool for helping society progress. He railed against the inhuman sweeps who illegally employed local boys, some just five years old, to clean chimneys. He also campaigned to improve the unsanitary conditions that existed in Kingston at the time. He wrote: "When the air is impregnated with filthy smells, when the houses of the poor are crowded with unwashed human beings, often not less than six in a room to eat in, to lie in, to die in, there will be diseases ever raging."

The strain of running the paper singlehandedly no doubt contributed to his early demise. But his commitment to campaigning did not die with him. A century and a half later the paper still takes up cudgels against those in authority when it sees something in local life that needs to be changed. One recent example was last autumn when the paper organised a 7,000 signature petition against plans to winddown Surbiton Hospital. The campaign was so successful that the local primary care trust, desperate to save money at all costs like so many others around the country, has been forced to start a public consultation on how to improve the hospital to meet the needs of the 21st century.

Last month (May) the paper was able to announce victory in its campaign to save Magic Roundabout, a unique project in Kingston providing advice to teenagers about a wide range of issues. Another battle honour on the paper's standard is Kingston Magistrates Court. When the now defunct Greater London Magistrates Court Association decided it wanted to rationalise the local court out of existence the Comet begged to differ. It helped organise a powerful lobby against the plan - based on the long held concept of local justice for local people. In a town with both a crown court and a county court, and where the magistrates court is located right next to the police station, it made no sense - except to a faceless and distant bureaucrat with no understanding of the local community.

Another successful campaign was to save Alfriston Day Centre in Surbiton. Even when all the authorities and political parties had written the centre off as a lost cause, the Comet battled on. And thanks to an unlikely alliance with the Kaleidoscope drug and alcohol project in Kingston the day centre was saved - to the joy and relief of its elderly users.

Sometimes campaigns stretch out over a number of years. When the paper learned that a taxi driver in Surbiton had convictions for violence it launched a campaign to get minicabs in London licensed. Despite publicising the details of the taxi driver widely the man was subsequently employed by other taxi firms and went on to kill a woman whose body was found in woods near Wisley. It took years to achieve, but now all mini cab drivers in the capital have to be licensed - which involves police checks on criminal records. In addition their vehicles have to be roadworthy.

On top of these campaigns the paper has been involved in many fundraising appeals. Current ones include raising money to build a new cancer unit at Kingston Hospital, fundraising to create a psychological rehabilitation centre for victims of the Pakistani earthquake and raising £10,000 for the Maple Children's Centre which works with children with disabilities in this area.

As the current editor of the Surrey Comet I am very proud to walk in the footsteps of Thomas Philpott and of the fact that his newspaper is still serving this community.

Sean Duggan - Editor, Surrey Comet


Fun and Adventure Afloat


With the focus firmly on the water, Thames Ditton based Ajax Sea Scouts provides non-stop fun and adventure for boys and girls aged six to eighteen. Ajax operates from a purpose built Water Activities Centre on the River Thames and from a coastal base at Chichester Harbour.

Opportunities For All Ages

For those aged six to ten, Ajax Beavers and Cub Scouts offer fun-packed learning activities and the chance to make new friends. From the age of eleven, Sea Scouts learn to row, canoe, sail and handle motor boats - all to the highest standards of instruction. Because Ajax is a recognised Royal Yachting Association Training Centre, it is able to award nationally recognised boating qualifications. For those aged 14 or more, the Ajax Explorer Sea Scout Unit offers even more adventurous boating activities and, because Ajax is an accredited Duke of Edinburgh Award Unit, members can also gain these valuable qualifications from within the Group.

Coastal and Offshore Boating

As well as plentiful local boating, Ajax also organises frequent weekends at Chichester Harbour where the Group maintains its coastal fleet. These weekends enable members to gain valuable tidal experience and to extend their technical skills. Ajax Explorers can also take part in trips with the London Sailing Project - a charitable organisation that provides low cost opportunities for offshore yachting. Many Ajax youngsters go on to become Watch Leaders and take part in the Transatlantic Tall Ships Race.

Summer Camps - UK and Abroad

One of the highlights of the Ajax year is its annual Summer Camp - either at a UK coastal boating venue - or this year in the Netherlands where, together with Sea Scouts from many other countries, Ajax will participate in a National Sea Scout Camp.

Fun For All

As well as an action packed programme of activities for the youngsters, Ajax also organises fun events for everyone including barbeques at the Water Activities Centre where parents and their offspring boat together, rowing in dinghies, paddling kayaks and sailing in a range of craft.

Fund Raising

Beyond its income from membership subscriptions, Ajax depends heavily on fund raising to maintain its facilities and boats. All parents help in fund raising which includes an annual plant sale at the Water Activities Centre. This has developed a strong local following as much because of the quality of the plants as the keen prices for which they are sold. The Group's most important fund raising activity is the Esher May Fair which is totally organised by Ajax. This has gone from strength to strength since Ajax took it over. The goal is to create a genuine fun day for the family as well as a valuable focus for numerous local charities. This year in addition to the funfair there were horse rides, a 'Beat the Goalie' competition run by Chelsea Football Club, a juggler, Punch and Judy and a local samba band and dance group and much more!

Royal Navy Recognised

Ajax is one of just 100 Sea Scout Groups in the United Kingdom to be officially recognised by the Royal Navy. This coveted recognition keeps everyone constantly on their toes since the highest standards are required - plus regular inspections by the Navy!

To Find Out More

Because of the Group's excellent facilities and the standards it maintains, membership of the Ajax Beaver Colony or the Ajax Cub Scout Pack has many advantages - not least a guaranteed place in the popular Ajax Sea Scout Troop. If you are interested in joining Ajax - or if you are an adult who would like to get involved, take a look at the Ajax website and contact Alison Derrick on 020 8398 0041 or Mark Marriott on 01932 867402 (email


Thames Ditton Statues to the World

Earlier this year my wife and I were in Penang visiting her family and friends and escaping the worst of the English winter. During our stay we decided to explore historic Georgetown and in particular visit Fort Cornwallis which has been comprehensively rebuilt in its original form over the last few years. The site is where the early English colonialists - working for the East India Company - set up their outpost for what became the first of the Straits Settlements on the Malay peninsula. The Fort and its exhibits give a very good feel for the hardships which those early settlers must have experienced in far away lands, the tropical heat and humidity, the constant exposure to malarial mosquitoes (plus many other ailments and insects), extremely primitive living conditions and almost no communications with home. How things have improved in the last 250 years!

However what really intrigued me and caught my eye was the imposing three metre high statue of the founding father - Sir Francis Light - at the main entrance to the Fort and in particular the plaque which advised that :

"the statue was first sculptured by F. J. Wilcoxsan and Thomas Ditton at Burton's Foundry"

The name Thomas Ditton had a familiar ring about it and after a couple of minutes deliberation I decided the inscription should have read :

"the statue was first sculpted by F. J. Willcocks and Son at Burton's Foundry, Thames Ditton"

It's wonderful how a bit of transformation can change meaning. It set me wondering just how far and wide the products of Burton's foundry had spread themselves around the globe during the days of Empire in the 19th and 20th centuries. The foundry was located on the south side of Summer Road next to Burton's Court - opposite Ferry Works. It was in operation from 1874 until the early 60's.

On my return to TD, I asked a few questions and did some research and found that Martin and Maureen Wilberforce had discovered Thames Ditton statues in Australia and New Zealand this spring. "The Statue Foundry" began as Cox and Sons (becoming Burton's at the turn of the 19th century) and its rapid rise to fame came from its ability to reliably turn out huge castings from models by leading sculptors of the Victorian era. A very early work was the statue of Robert Burns in Glasgow, but size and complexity were achieved almost at once with a statue of Captain James Cook, 16 feet high and 6 tons in weight, which was unveiled at Hyde Park, Sydney, in 1879 . The Duke of Wellington and General Gordon were revealed in London before long. Queen Victoria was, of course, a popular subject. By a lucky chance she was the Lady of the Manor of Esher! Her statue in Auckland, New Zealand is but one example. Other well-known statues coming from Thames Ditton included "Physical Energy", (Hyde Park, London), and "Persimmon", the horse that won the 1896 Derby (Sandringham).

The masterpiece was the largest sculpture casting ever done in this country, the "Peace Quadriga", sculptor Adrian Jones, 32 feet high and 38 tons in weight. It took 31/2 years to cast, and went to the arch at Hyde Park Corner in 1912.

Around the world the magnificent statue of Raffles in Singapore and that of Lord Mayo in Calcutta greatly contributed to the Orient and additionally a significant number found their way to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I particularly enjoyed the emerging co-incidences behind the statue of Queen Victoria in Adelaide. In the 1830s when the Colonial powers decided they should have a portrait of Francis Light to hang on the walls of the Governor's residence in Penang they found that no likenesses of him had been made during his lifetime. They concluded that his son should bear a strong family resemblance, so an artist was dispatched to Australia to paint the great man's son. By then Colonel William Light had been quite successful himself, having been appointed Surveyor General of South Australia and almost single handedly laid out and designed the city of Adelaide. Many years later that portrait was used as the basis for the Penang statue which was cast in Thames Ditton.

The South Australians retained their Englishness and in the late 19th century commissioned Burton's Foundry to cast a statue of Queen Victoria for their city - this has stood the test of time although their modern day web designers have also mangled their historical references to our favourite village: "It was cast in England at the Thames and Dutton foundry from a model by Charles Bell Birch."!!

However William Light's city designs flourished and they so inspired Ebenezer Howard with the English Garden City movement that they transported his ideas back to England in the late 19th century and built Letchworth in Adelaide's likeness. I spent my whole career with ICL whose administrative and manufacturing operations were centred on Letchworth and some time later retirement allowed me to start discovering the wonders and history of Thames Ditton. I now know Celestion Ditton speakers were not the only historic things to have been made at the east end of Summer Road, and that well designed streets weren't just a matter of luck and Elmbridge town planning!

Councillor David Lowe


A Visit to Compton Acres

Set in attractive Dorset countryside near Poole Harbour, the role of Compton Acres gardens has changed little since they were laid out in the 1920s to provide pleasure and enjoyment to the owners and visitors. During the past 80 years a series of gardens has been created within a 10- acre landscape with each one providing different settings and growing conditions for a wide range of ornamental plants. Over 3000 species of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants as well as seasonal planting of bedding plants, are cared for by a team of fulltime gardeners, seasonal workers and others for projects of work experience.

In the early 1900s the site was thinly wooded heathland and a house was built in 1914 and was sold in 1920 to Mr Simpson whose idea was to create a series of gardens to embody the vision of his worldwide travels and interest in horticulture. This involved considerable financial outlay as well as the gathering of thousands of tons of stone, rocks and quality soil from far and wide. Rare plants, many of them tropical or sub-tropical, as well as wrought iron gates, bronze and marble statuary, lead figures and vases, fountains and well-heads, lanterns and carved stone benches, were sought worldwide with the key being authenticity. Subsequently, various owners of the property made changes, notably the full restoration of the gardens after their inevitable neglect during the 2nd World War, with the reopening to the public in 1953. Several owners since then have brought improvements and innovations, and significant investment has secured the long term future of the gardens.

Roman Garden, Grotto and Italian Garden

The first path to the left leads to the Roman Garden which reflects the essential element of the Roman domestic environment, for it is here that they would spend much of their time. This garden contains all the indispensable features, the whole being encompassed by a circular wall of narrow Roman bricks. Evergreen planting helps to create a cool retreat on hot days. On going through a Bath stone arch, entry is made from the Grotto which was built to house a collection of ferns and was maintained for many years as a 'living tunnel' with elaborate drip sprinklers to irrigate many hundreds of plants fixed among the stones. This style of 'folly' can be seen underground in many European estates.

From the Grotto one walks onto the terrace of the Italian Garden. The walls at the base of the banks were originally peat blocks obtained when new roads were being built across the heathland and were replaced with Purbeck stone walls partly seen today. The Italian Garden is arranged around the cross of the central ornamental lake with its carved stone fountains, coloured water lilies and shoals of Koi Carp. At one end York stone steps lead up to the terrace on which stand two ornate Venetian bronze lanterns, bearing the winged lions of St Mark, patron saint of Venice. Dominating the far end of the lake is the domed temple of Bacchus. Formal grass bordered beds massed with tulips in spring and rhododendrons form an attractive background with a multiple columns of weathered Bath stone.

Palm Court, Wooded Valley and Wildlife Walk

The symmetry of the Italian Garden is continued into the Palm Court with its stone walls and bedding plants used to provide seasonal colour. At the centre of the garden is a Venetian wishing well and in a semi-circular pool at one end is a fine sculpture of a boy holding a fish carved in white Carrara marble. Walk under the stone arch to leave the garden and go downhill to reach the Wooded Valley. This area houses a collection of tender tree and shrub species under a protective canopy of Scots pine and provides views over a natural chine where sub-tropical plants and shrubs live in sheltered conditions. A second low tunnel leads to the Wildlife Walk which was created from a totally overgrown strip of land in 2003. The area attracts a wide variety of insects and birds with food plants for all stages of life cycle introduced. There is also a rock garden creating hundreds of planting pockets and beds.

Water Garden, Heather Garden, and Japanese Garden

The stone path in the Water Garden area has large pools and waterfalls on all sides with reflections of plants and statues seen from all directions. Beside the summer house there is a look out where another view across the wooded valley can be seen. There are many different paths here, one leading to a splendid sculpture. The sign post directs you to the Winter Garden which has been designed and developed to create all year round horticultural interest and establish new plant collections. There is a view point near here of a wide area including Brownsea Island and the Purbeck Hills. Passing under a thatched roof entrance the Japanese Garden is reached which has strict rules to observe regarding design and construction and this is as accurate to the Japanese style as possible. There are original stone artefacts and a timber Imperial Tea House with a veranda over the water. A flight of steps leads to an authentic temple with stepping stones provided to deter evil spirits !

Compton Acres, Poole, Dorset
Tel 01202 70078



From Glass-plates to Digital Images in 50 years

When a small group of dedicated photographers met in a school hall in Esher Town centre in 1950 they would have had no inkling of the way in which their proposed 'Photographic Society' was to grow; to prosper into a large body and gradually to decline as traditional cameras hecame more complicated and expensive. Now we are in the Digital Age and once again there is a revival of interest in this all embracing hobby.

As The Esher and District Photographic Society - as it was then known - it soon moved to the old Boy's Home in Weston Green Road, (now a Residential Home called The Newlands), and in the mid-50's to the Infants School in Speer Road. The main hall was very suitable for the showing of Slides (31/4" square in those days) through a converted Magic Lantern, but the main problem was the chair size - not conducive to comfort during a long talk on Black and White film development or the like.

There was one memorable evening when a keen member (Ted Telling, a farmer from Claygate) arrived late for the meeting straight from a Market with a bull in his trailer, and this was parked for the whole evening in the school playground. Perhaps just as well it was a dark night and the street lights were not that bright!

With a close conection to the Esher District Council, joint public meetings were organised each year in St. George's Hall Esher with audiences of many hundreds. The Chairman at that time was one Jim Wolfenden who through his contacts as the Principal of Twickenham Technical College was able to bring to the open meetings such luminaries as Sir George Pollock, a one time President of the Royal Photographic Society and well known for his superb photographs of lumps of glass; Alfred Gregory - fresh from being the stills photographer to the successful Everest Expedition in 1953, and W. A. Poucher - the famous climber and photographer of the English Lakes and the Scottish Highlands, and a publisher of many illustrated books on this subject. Jim Wolfenden was also a Trustee of 'Brantwood', the Lakeland home of John Ruskin and the setting for annual visits by members, who had the opportunity of trying out for the first time a new fangled method of making colour prints from negatives. The Society was also active in Slide and Print competitions both within the Club itself and through the Surrey Photographic Association – this, in turn, was part of the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain and national competitions were held. Numerous cups and trophies have been presented over the years to the Club and over 12 are still competitively ‘fought’ for each year.

So to the recent past where film gradually gave way to a somewhat primitive method of printing digitally through the computer, often by the way of a 35mm slide or negative and then came the introduction of the ‘Prosumer’ Digital Camera; at first costing many hundreds, if not, thousands of pounds. Within a few years the quality went from a poor image giving a fuzzy result to prints of over A3 in size and at an ever reducing cost. The more experienced members – and many with less knowledge – can now produce excellent colour prints that exceed the high quality of the older ‘wet’ process; to such a degree that almost all Darkrooms have now been abandoned, the equipment sold or thrown away, and the latest all embracing computer acquired.

Computers may be the central instrument for a successful digital photographer at the present time, but there is movement towards direct printing from the camera with just a wire connecting the two units, and away you go! That system is also beginning to change with wireless equipped cameras and printers with the capacity to receive the image and print automatically. The only thing that does not change with time is the skill of ‘the eye behind the viewfinder’ – and that can be helped by membership of any Camera Club, where experts freely pass on their knowledge to the newcomer. It is with this in mind that the Club has formed a Digital Group catering for members who have moved into this field, perhaps for the first time.

The Club meets weekly on Tuesday at 8.00pm at the United Reformed Church Hall, Speer Road and any experienced or erstwhile photographer can be assured of a very friendly welcome. The programme contains print and slide analysis by ‘experts’; illustrated talks on a variety of subjects, annual outings and the inevitable Competitions. The separate Digital Group meetings are held in The Esher College, Weston Green Road each month (Wednesday 7.00pm) and no experience of computers is really necessary to start getting to grips with this method. 

Further information on the Club and its programme can be obtained from the Secretary – Mrs Billie Buchanan on (020) 8398 3169, or e-mail –


What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?


This is a busy time for all the birds. They have found their mates - perhaps you noticed the doves billing and cooing, or some flirtatious behaviour among the branches. Now with nests built, and eggs laid and hatched, the birds in your garden will be busy feeding their young, or in some cases starting to raise a second brood. So take time to stand quietly at the window. You may be surprised by how many different birds visit your garden, especially if you have been feeding them.

Our resident birds should still be easy to see. The blackbird with his bright orange bill, accompanied by his duller brown mate will be searching for worms on the lawn to feed their young. If the lawn is dry and hard they would appreciate any spare pet food your cat may have rejected. He will reward you by singing his beautiful song loudly from the chimney pot in the evening. His young are also brown like their mother. Another beautiful songster found in the garden is the song thrush. He is particularly partial to snails, and you may see him hammering one on his "anvil". The colourful chaffinch will still be singing loudly. His song has been likened to a bowler running up the pitch then delivering his ball. He and his mate are easy to spot as they fly, by the flash of white in the wing. Indeed, they were once called "Whitewings". If you still have peanuts or seed feeders in the garden the contents will be appreciated by the busy tits. They feed their young on insects and the small green caterpillars that they find in oak trees, but the fat rich peanuts give them energy for all that work. Robins will be readily seen - they sing all the year round. And poking around under the bushes you may see the dunnock, an unassuming little bird with his brown back and grey head, but with a surprisingly loud song said to resemble the squeaky wheels of a supermarket trolley.


A walk in Bushy Park can be very rewarding. In the Woodland garden there are many birds to be seen on the water, both native and exotic, and they all have fluffy little chicks. Mallards can lay up to twelve eggs. The coot, which nests on a bed of twigs on the water, has two or three broods. The chicks have brightly coloured bare heads. Moorhens will also be in evidence. They have a bright red bill with a yellow tip, and long spreading toes which enable them to walk on floating vegetation.

Many birds nest in holes in trees and with patience may be seen. Most obvious are the green parakeets and the numerous jackdaws. Both will take over the old nests of other birds. In the same family as the jackdaws are the crows, the smart black and white magpies and the colourful jays, all to be found in woodland. Jays depend heavily upon trees and may be seen burying acorns in the autumn. The great spotted woodpecker also depends on the trees searching for grubs behind the bark. If you have sharp eyes you may be rewarded by seeing the nuthatch, a pretty bird with a blue back, pink belly and a dark stripe through its eye. Like the jay it collects acorns (or your peanuts), and rams them into the bark before attacking them with its sharp bill.

I have not mentioned the many summer visitors, which come here to breed, like the swallows, house martins and swifts, and all the "little brown jobs" that warble in bushes, trees and reed beds. They will have to wait for a further instalment of "Birds in Thames Ditton and Weston Green".

Helen Hughes