The Domesday Survey
The Hurtwood given to Sir Reginald Bray in 1485 was probably deciduous forest as the Scots pine was not introduced until the 18th century. The Domesday survey described the manor as ‘as much woodland as produced to the Lord’s share 50 fat swine’ and it was the movement of pigs across the hills down to the forests of the Weald that produced many of the deep ‘sunken lanes’ so typical of Surrey.
Winterfold and Pitch Hill are dotted with old quarries. The honey coloured Hurtwood Stone is a high quality sandstone from the Hythe Beds, similar to Bargate Stone but a little bit softer, and it has been quarried in Surrey since the 12the century. It was used to build many of Cranleigh’s older building such as the old National School that is now Cranleigh Arts Centre and Shere Medical Centre. It was also a popular choice for church and listed building restorations. The last quarry to be worked was at Pitch Hill.
The heather moors of the Blackheath and Farley Heath area were traditionally grazed, keeping them clear and the trees at bay, and Blackheath in particular was known for its goats. The open nature of the heath and the fact that the 22nd Surrey Royal Volunteers had their rifle range just off Littleford Lane in Blackheath were probably the reasons why the area was chosen for a royal review of military might. The Volunteer Review took place on March 28, 1864, on the Blackheath edge of the Hurtwood. It was a massive event, drawing spectators from all over the South East, London and South Coast but the battle was pretty muddled and the vicar of Blackheath was accidentally killed by one of the soldiers.
The grazing of the heaths finally ended during the Second World War when the whole area was saturated with troops in the run-up to D Day. Since then, the heather has been forced out by invading pine trees that self seed liberally. By the 1980s the open land had largely become forest and conservationists were anxious to recreate lowland heath as historic landscape and wildlife habitat, as it had become so very rare. As a result in recent years there have been concerted efforts to clear the trees and scrub and allow the heather to regenerate. This requires constant management as birch and pine trees self seed liberally and with no animals grazing the heath, the seedlings have to be controlled by man.