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‘The Open Spaces Society and the Haslemere Society(1) have common roots—and they are embedded in the Surrey commons, said our general secretary Kate Ashbrook, who was guest speaker at the Haslemere Society’s annual general meeting on Friday 27 November.
‘Robert Hunter, who was the honorary solicitor of the Commons Preservation Society soon after its formation, went on to found the Haslemere Society in 1884. Later, he founded the National Trust.
‘With local people, he campaigned to buy the threatened commons around Haslemere so that they were protected for ever. We owe him a huge debt of gratitude.(2)
‘The wonderful commons of this area—at Thursley, Witley, Hindhead and Devil’s Punchbowl, as well as Black Down and Marley, Lynchmere and Woolbeding, to name a few—are immensely important for quiet recreation and enjoyment as well as for nature conservation.
‘This year the Haslemere Society celebrates its 125th anniversary, and the Open Spaces Society its 144th. The Open Spaces Society today takes as much interest in the commons around Haslemere as it did in mid Victorian times. They are a vital resource for us all.
‘For instance, we have been consulted by the National Trust on the management of many of its commons and have given our advice. Our aim is for the commons to be as open as possible, and for fencing to be kept to a minimum because it is a physical and psychological barrier to people’s enjoyment of these ancient places.
‘We congratulate the Haslemere Society on its 125th birthday, and for its vigilance and defence of open spaces in and around the town. It has a proud history, and it still does a wonderful job today,’ Kate concluded.
2. In 1905, 750 acres of common land at Thursley and Witley Commons, came on the market. They commons had suffered from gravel digging and from fires. The Commons Preservation Society’s Haslemere Branch (the forerunner of the Haslemere Society) called a meeting of residents in October 1905, formed a committee and raised money to buy the commons for £3,620. Subsequently the land was passed to the National Trust.