A Surrey Hills Harvest

21st September 2022

Connecting our communities to their landscape

This year’s Harvest event on Sat 17 Sept welcomed hundreds of people to the top of Box Hill to celebrate the outstanding Surrey Hills landscape through the arts. Our connection to each other and the countryside is integral to our mental and physical wellbeing. Harvest aims to bring communities together in the landscape through the arts in an inclusive and diverse environment. The event is a partnership between Surrey Hills Arts, the National Trust and Mole Valley District Council, focusing on connecting us with each other and nature. Harvest is the first event of Landscapes for Life week, an opportunity for us to all celebrate our protected landscapes across the UK.

A striking centrepiece by Diana Burch, ‘Seeds of Hope’, was illuminated at dusk on Donkey Green. This sustainable artwork is made purely from sticks and recycled yarns. The colourful ‘seedpods’ are made up of many smaller ‘cells’, where hundreds of local people, of all ages, backgrounds and abilities have contributed to over the past few months, through workshops supported by Mole Valley District Council and the Surrey Hills National Landscape. The mindful act of binding with the wool encouraged contemplation, as well as an openness with others doing the activity.

In a world that often feels challenging, Seeds of Hope demonstrates a renewal of optimism by connecting us with each other and the natural world.
– Diana Burch, Artist

During the Harvest preparations, over 100 Muslim hikers from community hiking group Active Inclusion Network met at Ryka’s Café at the bottom of Box Hill for their first hike in Southern England. This 10-mile hike was facilitated by the Surrey Hills National Landscape team and the National Trust to provide an opportunity for us all to connect, learn about and explore the beautiful Surrey countryside. Active Inclusion Network brings together people across the UK and internationally with a common goal; to champion diversity outdoors. Led by National Trust guides on their Box Hill hike, they had the opportunity to carefully hop across the famous Stepping Stones, and after the challenging steps up to the viewpoint, they could drink in the stunning sights of Box Hill. Their mid-point respite was at Surrey Outdoor Learning and Development (SOLD), where a welcomed vegetarian fire-pit lunch was provided. Upon the conclusion of their hike, the group joined hundreds of local people and communities for Harvest.

As a group trying to bridge the gap between ethnic minority communities and the outdoors, we were so grateful to the Surrey Hills AONB team for reaching out to us. Not just to invite us to the area, but working closely to understand the needs of our community and then working with us over the course of several weeks and months to help us get there. It was such an incredible experience for our community and we can’t wait to return.

– Haroon, Active Inclusion Network

The Harvest event programme began with a vibrant musical set from 5 members of Ukrainian band Atmasfera. These band members are currently living in Surrey as part of the ‘Homes for Ukraine’ programme, and kindly shared their talents to welcome guests to the event. Four poems were recited; ‘Learn from the Oak’ by Elizabeth Barton, ‘Noticed while driving’ by Helen Overell and ‘Poet’s Sonnet on Holmwood Common’. These Mole Valley Poets had created pieces in direct response to this landscape. The final poem by Simon Armitage ‘Floral Bouquet’ was a heartfelt and special recital by Mole Valley District Council’s Councillor, Claire Malcomson, to mark Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s passing.

The voices from over 10 local choirs sung out across the viewpoint, including a round created by Anna Tabbush with the same name as the installation, ‘Seeds of Hope’. The choirs also sang Anna’s song ‘Harbour’, written in response to the refugee crisis and tragedies happening across the UK and world, which had a huge response following its release.

I would like my song to help all those fleeing war zones. Soon we will be welcoming more refugees into our countries and my hope is that my song will help ensure they are met with warmth, compassion, and generosity.

– Anna Tabbush, local composer

Harvest concluded with a breath-taking gentle walk down the famous Zig Zag Road, home of 2012 Olympic road cycling events, which was encouraged to be partaken in thoughtful silence, remembering Her Majesty the Queen. By carrying small lanterns, the attendees celebrated our Dark Skies, one of the many magical sights that the countryside offers. Light pollution not only limits our views of the stars, but also disrupts wildlife patterns and is a signifier of wider energy issues. The procession was a fitting end to a heartfelt, meaningful event.

Photos by Surrey Hills Enterprises member Martin Bamford