Ellie Harrison discovers what makes Surrey special, beginning with a trip to the home of the greatest flat horse race in the world and ending at Watts Gallery in Compton.
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Today, I'm on a journey through Surrey,
that most English of counties,
beginning here on the racetrack at Epsom Downs
and ending at one of its hidden gems, the Watts Gallery in Compton.
My journey starts just 17 miles from the centre of London
and home of arguably the greatest flat horse race in the world,
Then it's onto Wisley,
flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society
and where forensic detective work
is helping to protect Britain's best loved plants and trees.
-It's really small.
-It is, yeah.
It's remarkable in a sense
that such a small and insignificant looking pest
can do so much damage to a very substantial tree.
I then travelled to one of Surrey's most sought-after addresses -
It shares a postcode with millionaires but you have to be
a cash-strapped pensioner to live there.
Even if I won the pools, I don't think I'd want to move out.
My journey ends at Compton and a national treasure, Watts Gallery.
It was built more than a century ago to bring art to all,
but a leaky roof and crumbling walls spells disaster
unless they could win a pot of money from the BBC's restoration programme
but did they win?
I will be finding out what happens to the gallery, the cash
and the paintings.
Along the way, I'll be looking back at the best
of the BBC's rural programmes from this part of the world.
This is Country Tracks.
The Epsom Downs are spread across 600 acres of green, open countryside,
right on the doorstep of London.
It's just as popular with dog walkers as horse riders.
On a day like today, the City couldn't feel further away.
Every June, the Epsom Downs here are packed with spectators,
many of them enjoying a flutter.
The Derby and the Oaks,
both held annually at Epsom are more than just sporting events.
They're proud traditions.
Generations of racing fans have packed into the grandstand
and crowded the Downs, cheering their horses to victory.
It's a carnival atmosphere
and Derby Day prides itself on being down-to-earth and open to all.
So much so, it was nicknamed the Londoners' Day Out.
Today, it attracts the largest crowd
for a one-day sporting event in the UK.
The first race was held in 1780 between Lord Derby
and Sir Charles Bunbury.
Legend has it that they tossed a coin to decide what to call the race.
Lord Derby won and the name stuck.
Flat racing is designed for young horses.
They're fragile creatures bred solely for speed.
Many are trained here at Epsom Downs.
By 6am, the stables are a hive of activity -
feeding, watering, grooming and of course,
gearing up for a hard training session.
The horses here at Clear Height Stables on Epsom Downs
are exercised every morning
to improve their fitness and test their potential.
Trainer Simon Dow is on the lookout for trophy winners.
He gives the riders a leg-up and the horses a final once-over
before heading out to the training gallops.
It's just the same as any footballer or a runner or swimmer
doing their morning workout, so as long as the horses are fit,
that's these guys' job to make sure
they're as fit as they can possibly be
when they get to the track.
I want to win top races. I want to have as many wins as I possibly can.
Realistically, my moral obligation is to develop the horse's potential
who are in my care for their clients.
We're all looking for champions
and you have to kiss a lot of frogs
to find the princes in this business.
Obviously, it's like anything.
If you find a good athlete, it's an animal that's got speed,
presence, courage and energy.
For the stable lads and lasses, riding the horse is is as much
a part of the job as grooming or mucking out.
Today, Gemma Paddock is riding one of the most promising horses,
Sotto Voce, a three-year-old filly.
Simon has big plans and high hopes for her
and it's down to Gemma to unleash that potential on the track.
Training over and it's back to the stables.
It was a great gallop and certainly thrilling to watch.
Both Simon and Gemma seem pleased with Sotto Voce's performance,
but has she got the makings of a champion?
She was amazing this morning.
She went very nicely. We're very pleased with her.
She's hopefully going to run at Epsom in a couple of weeks' time
and she's certainly going in the right direction.
It's nursery school stuff still at the moment,
but she's the equivalent of a 16 or 17-year-old young lady,
so she's got the whole of the rest of her life in front of her.
Indeed. It's early days then but are you able to say
whether you think she might have the makings of a winner of a major race?
I don't know about a major race but she's definitely going to win
and the thing is, they're like young athletes at this stage.
You just keep going through the training regime
and progressing them up through the ranks.
-She's been second a couple of times, hasn't she?
Gemma has been riding her for about four or five months
and she's certainly noticed her getting stronger all the time.
-So what's Sotto Voce's temperament like?
-She's a very sweet filly.
She's very suspicious, as you can see in her stable.
It's taken me a long time to build the bond with her.
She trusts me now.
So how do you build up the trust you have developed here
with Sotto Voce, with a racehorse, when they can be quite skittish?
I think it's important you've got to spend the time with the horses.
They just get to know you.
Who knows what the future has in store for Sotto Voce?
One thing's for sure, as a filly, she will never be a Derby winner.
Only males get to run in that race.
But she could make an appearance on Ladies' Day. Keep an eye out for her.
Surrey has enduring links with wealth and aristocracy.
Even an all-inclusive race like the Derby has its roots in nobility.
But unlike horse racing, historic homes and landed estates
all over Britain are struggling to make ends meet.
Many are in dire need of restoration.
John Craven explored a Surrey success story.
This garden the size of a small farm
was designed in the 18th century by Charles Hamilton.
It's Painshill Park in Surrey.
Charles Hamilton never made the park his home.
He lived some distance away.
But he did build this as a ruin -
a romantic image of a ruined abbey.
It became even more of a ruin than he could have ever imagined.
In fact, for various reasons, his once immaculate park
was more or less abandoned until about 35 years ago,
when it was rediscovered by a local resident almost by chance.
I took a walk down here and approached this spot
through the woods and all of a sudden,
you come upon the view just behind me,
and I was absolutely staggered by what I saw.
I needed no further convincing that
one of the greatest landscape parks in the world was right here.
Even in its overgrown state,
Norman Kitz knew he'd stumbled on something special.
It has survived almost untouched more than two centuries,
so the layout as you see it today,
is very much as it was in the 18th century.
I would like to see it preserved as part of Britain's national heritage.
That's what happened.
A charitable trust was formed
and £12 million raised to awake Painshill Park
from its long slumber.
And this is how it looks now. An amazing transformation.
If Hamilton could be around now,
I'm sure he'd be very pleased indeed.
Now, what do you make of this?
It's limestone in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
Weird ones, but in fact, it's natural.
It comes from the Cotswolds
and Hamilton brought it here to create his very own grotto.
All this limestone is placed on top of a brick construction.
Just wait until you see what's inside.
Thousands upon thousands of man-made stalactites. Crystals, really.
Most of them have been here since the grotto was first built
250 years ago.
Just further up the cave, there was disaster.
What happened was around about 50 years ago
when this grotto was still all but forgotten,
a huge section of the roof collapsed
and everything underneath was destroyed.
Now, what looks like a big reconstruction job is underway.
Is that so, Warwick?
This was completely open to the sky originally.
The new roof had to be designed to fit in with the existing walls.
-This is green oak here?
-It is indeed.
I'm told it came from Windsor
where they'd used a lot of it for the repairs after the fire.
Every single piece is different,
it's tailor-made and quite complicated.
And now the mammoth task is just starting
of coating the whole frame with limewater and then sticking on
hundreds of thousands of crystals to recreate the stalactites.
-This is going to take a lifetime to do, isn't it?
We haven't yet devised a machine to do it.
And how long do you reckon it will be before this whole cave
has been restored?
It could be five or ten years, quite easily.
When it's finished, it should look quite spectacular, should'nt it?
Indeed. It is one of the finest grottoes we know of.
John Craven exploring the restored beauty of Painshill Park.
The good news is the grotto has recently been rewarded
a Heritage Lottery grant of £750,000.
The work is due for completion in 2013.
I've moved on from Epsom Downs racecourse to Wisley,
home of another very English passion.
Wisley was gifted to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1903,
and has become its flagship garden.
If you're not much of a gardener, as I'm not,
it's easy to take for granted our more common and familiar flowers.
After all, a daffodil's a daffodil, isn't it?
In fact, there are so many different types of daffodil
you need an international registrar to keep track of them all.
That job belongs to Sharon McDonald.
So, Sharon, how many different types of daffodils are there?
What we have here is
the international daffodil register and classified list.
In this book alone, we have between 26,000 and 27,000 unique daffodils.
There was a big daffodil conference in 1884
and the RHS asked Peter Barr, who was a nursery man of the time,
to produce this list.
So, this is essentially the first daffodil register.
You can see we go from page 32 to page 48,
-so it's a good list.
-That's plenty of daffodils!
There's some wonderful pictures in here.
-Obviously, now, we have this.
I'm staggered by how many there are. But that's not species, is it?
What this is is cultivars, so it's selections from species
and then eventually, these have evolved
so that we can see the daffodils we're looking at here
are very different to the species daffodils,
most of which are quite small.
Mostly yellow and orange, the odd white.
Obviously, the range of colours has come out in the cultivars.
It begs the question, why record all these different daffodils?
This reason we do it is because there are so many
and if we didn't do it, it would be anarchy, basically.
You'd just have three or four different daffodils
all with the same name, possibly all looking very similar.
If you went to a garden centre
and wanted something called Silver Standard, for example,
how would you know that the one you wanted was the one you were buying?
That's why we do it, so that people are absolutely sure
that what they're buying or what they're growing in their garden
is what it says it is.
I'm going to be incredibly vain now
and see if there's one named after me.
-Okay, there could be.
-You never know.
-Does everybody do this?
-Yes, oh, yes.
We're all terribly vain.
Eleanor. That'll do. I'll take one of those.
I think there's an Ellie something or other. Let's have a look.
Here we go!
Ellie Ney. Well, well, well.
But no Ellie, so it's still possible.
If you could find somebody who's got a daffodil without a name.
And a lot of time to go and create one for me.
They take a long time to come to flower from seed.
Well, if anybody's interested, I should be very grateful.
Thank you very much. Little Ellie Harrison daffodil. Wonderful.
Although there are thousands of different names for daffodils,
they all come under one species name - Narcissus,
which comes from Greek mythology.
Narcissus was a handsome young man who rejected the love
of a nymph called Echo.
The gods decided to punish him by condemning him
to fall in love only with his own reflection.
He was forced to gaze at himself in a clear pond
and pine for a love he could never have.
Eventually, he disappeared and in his place grew a lovely flower
with its head bent looking down into the water.
Wisley it isn't the only centre of excellence around here.
Matt Baker got a look behind the scenes
at one of Britain's most illustrious military academies.
Sandhurst is the home of the Royal Military Academy.
There's been a military college here for over 200 years,
and the list of ex-cadets is a real who's who,
from the explorer Chris Bonington to Winston Churchill.
Even Princes William and Harry trained here,
so we're talking the real top brass.
700 cadets come through the gates each year to be trained as officers
in the British Army.
And before they leave, every single one of them
will get to know this landscape really, really well,
because this is their training ground.
I'll be seeing more of that training in a little while, but first,
I'm off to find out about life as a trainee officer here.
So, Tim, how do you actually get to Sandhurst?
Do new recruits turn up here
or do you have to have done training first?
They will have gone through a selection process
at the Officer Selection Board down at Westbury,
where we're really looking at them to see what potential they have got.
They go to the selection process any time between the ages of 17 and 28.
How long do they stay here then?
They're here for a year, most of them.
Our core business is what is called
the regular Army Commissioning Course -
that's those cadets who are wanting to join the regular Army.
They come to us for a year in which they work bloody hard -
oops, shouldn't say "bloody"! They work extremely hard.
We're trying to really judge whether they've got the potential
to have that fantastic honour of leading our soldiers on operations.
Ultimately, we need to have the confidence
that they've got the ability to make the right decision
on a really difficult day.
It is quite a place, isn't it?
Standing here now and looking back at these buildings,
there's some atmosphere.
It's a spectacular environment.
I mean, 600 acres inside the wire here.
In the middle, as we are, fairly suburban, built up Camberley Surrey.
It's a wonderful site and we've been here for 200 years,
pretty much doing this.
Life at Sandhurst revolves around
the spectacular Old College, built in 1812.
Over 700 officer cadets, male and female,
all live on site during their year-long course.
As well as being their home,
it's also where they learn leadership skills
and tactics in the classroom.
But it's out here on the 1,400 acres of heathland
that surrounds the Academy
that Officer cadets are put through their practical paces.
-Is it what you expected it to be?
There's a lot of sleep deprivation, that's the main thing, I think.
It's been OK, I think. Not too bad.
It's a pretty harsh environment out there.
Can you put into words what it feels like out there training?
We went on an exercise last week
and I think the most we got was about four hours' sleep all week.
That was quite amazing, people staring off into the distance
-thinking they could see things and definitely couldn't.
Obviously, you all met six months ago, you go through your training.
When you leave, do you still all stay together
and do you get posted out to different parts?
You disperse across the army into all your different regiments
and units whether it's infantry, Air Corps. Anything like that.
Obviously, most of us are going to remain friends.
Speaking to people who've been commissioned before,
they stay in touch and meet once a year.
It's probably hard not to if you are going through all of this.
As well as training,
this landscape is also the venue for serious competition.
A gruelling endurance race that's part of the annual contest
to find the best platoon.
Every cadet will have done this in his time at Sandhurst.
It's over six miles,
over the common, uphill, down dale, across country.
Those who are yet to come will always be told
this is the worst possible thing that can never happen to you.
It will take them about an hour, probably,
with a really good hard sweat.
The race starts at dawn.
First, the three platoons face a straight run
from the base on to the heathland.
The platoons are now 1.3 miles into the course
and they're carrying these stretchers now for just over a mile.
We'd better stand out the way because they don't stop.
The makeshift stretcher actually weighs 60 kilos
and each platoon has to stay together for over a mile
and deposit it at the top of the hill.
Then there's a recovery period.
A one mile march which has to be covered in 13 minutes.
Keep it tight. We're on camera.
The next load is an 11 ft long log.
You just hear all the guys screaming
with those that are carrying the log.
Because they've got a rope around it,
they have to keep in front of it.
It's the most important thing, just to keep the momentum going.
It's a crisp and cold autumn morning and for the cadets,
it's also going to get wet.
Safely through the bog and up the hill, it's back down to base
and in front of Sandhurst's New College,
the final team make it home, cheered on by the other platoons.
-That was impressive! How was it?
-It was really good.
-How do you feel now?
-I bet you do.
-Longer strides for you, mate!
-What was the hardest bit?
-Probably the logs.
-You set off at an incredible pace.
You must think, we've got a long way to go, how do you pace yourself?
That's the problem really.
Bravado sets in
and the camera's here as well so we had to dig in more.
Keep smiling, grit your teeth, but it was incredible.
Pulling them bits-and-pieces through the bog.
Not fancy jumping on a log and giving us a hand?
-I was cheering you on.
-We felt it.
-Listen, huge congratulations.
I must admit, I'm also wondering why Matt didn't get stuck in.
Anyway, I'm at Wisley Gardens in Surrey
where the Royal Horticultural Society is fighting a frontline battle
to save the nation's trees and flowers.
Imagine a CSI for plants.
Dead or dying specimens are sent in to the scientists here at Wisley
and their job is to put together the clues
and try and figure out what is wrong.
There are two categories of offender - disease and pests.
Mostly it's an open and shut case
but sometimes the team are faced with a real mystery.
Dr Roger Williams is head of science.
-Hi there, welcome to the plant pathology lab.
Thank you very much.
Can you talk me through the process of what you do here
-and how you identify what's wrong with the plant?
For every year we get about 60,000 advisory inquiries from RHS members.
Of those, about 6,000 come into this lab and this is fairly typical.
This is a box plant
and it's not very well.
On one side of it, all the leaves have fallen off -
that's a giveaway, is it?
That is a giveaway because we know about this disease now
but from the 6,000 inquiries that come through every year,
there are usually two or three new diseases to the UK.
Sometimes, we've got some heads-up on what they are
from other organisations but on some occasions,
we're the first people to identify them.
This little fellow here, box blight,
this particular disease is an example
where we were the first to correctly identify it in the UK.
So the box were coming in and there was clearly something wrong with them
and you had to identify what it was and you managed to do that?
We did. These sorts of diseases are caused by fungi
and they're microscopic.
What we'll start off doing is taking a piece of diseased material
and examining it down a microscope.
Sometimes you can tell just from the shape of the spores
or the mycelium - the fluffy growth of the fungus - what the disease is.
Obviously, if it's something new you haven't seen before, you can't.
What we sometimes have to do is basically extract the DNA.
Just to step you through the processes there.
We scrape a bit off a diseased leaf
and plate it out on to this jelly-like growing medium.
You can see here that whole surface
is now fluffy from the mycelial growth.
You have to let it grow out
-and then there will be loads of it to identify.
We then scrape off some of that mycelium
and move to a very high-tech piece of equipment -
the pestle and mortar.
Basically, we grind that up with liquid nitrogen
and then we purify the DNA using these special kits.
When we've done that, we can sequence it
rather like the sequencing of the human genome.
From the specific sequence,
we can then begin to identify what fungus it is.
It sounds incredibly labour-intensive
and you have thousands of inquiries every year.
Are you able to answer all of them?
We do answer all of them.
Fortunately, a lot of them are very common diseases
we get frequently and we can identify very quickly.
Sometimes, like this, it requires a lot of work, DNA extraction,
incubating the fungus and so on.
In that case, we often have to get back to the RHS member
who sent the sample in and say we're working on it
but it will take six weeks, we will get back to you as soon as we can.
The RHS members have their very own panel of experts at their disposal?
-They absolutely do.
-It's a great resource, isn't it?
It's fantastic but it's also really useful for us
because these members around the country, effectively,
are sampling material from their gardens very frequently,
sending that in.
We get to be the first to hear of these new pests and diseases.
We are, if you like, on the front line of garden plant health defence.
Up in entomology,
insect experts have exposed a threat to one of Britain's favourite trees.
So the horse chestnut's had a bit of trouble in recent years, hasn't it?
In 2002, an RHS member sent in a horse chestnut leaf sample
to us saying, what this?
This particular pest had been spreading across Europe
for some time so we were on the lookout for it.
We got a sample in that looked rather like this
and our entomologists had a look at it under the microscope
and fairly quickly figured out it was horse chestnut leaf miner.
So what's a leaf miner look like?
Well, we've got some specimens in here.
This is horse chestnut leaf mining moth.
Here's an adult with its wings open
and here's an adult with its wings closed.
That's really small!
It's remarkable in a sense
that such a small and insignificant looking pest
can do so much damage to a very substantial tree, but it can.
Absolutely. I saw this around last year.
I didn't realise it had been around as long as it has been,
it's been quite some years.
It has been spreading through the UK,
but typically the symptoms you see are
this kind of autumnal colour appearing in late June or July,
several months before you'd expect it.
During the course of the summer, in many cases,
the whole tree by the end of August will be looking like that.
How does the leaf miner do so much damage to the tree?
If you look at these blotches here, normally this would be green
when this sample came in but if you look at these blotches here,
this is where the larvae have eaten out the inside of the leaf.
So will it kill the tree?
We don't think it will kill the tree but clearly,
if you have most of the leaves damaged in that way
early in the season, it's going to be able to photosynthesise less.
It's going to be weakened.
We would expect it to produce smaller and fewer conkers.
Probably make the tree more susceptible
to other fungal diseases.
It could weaken the tree.
I think people are quite sentimental about horse chestnuts.
We love out conkers after all.
-Is there any cure, anything that can be done about it?
If you have an isolated tree in your garden,
you could gather the leaves together and if you burn them, that will help
to destroy the larvae and you will have less adults the following year.
But in most situations, that's going to be entirely impractical,
-so I'm afraid it's not very good.
Other pests on the most wanted list included the berberis sawfly.
First confirmed sighting was in 2002
and it spread across England like a plague of locusts.
It will strip a berberis shrub and devour the leaves.
Look out for the larvae -
they're creamy-white with black spots, instantly recognisable.
The lily beetle - it's been on the loose in Britain
since the 1930s and spreading ever since.
It's a bright red bare-faced offender,
both the adults and larvae will feed on the foliage.
As for the quickest way of dealing with these menaces,
pick them off and discard them.
Surrey has another non-native visitor to its gardens.
Parakeets have colonised many a bird feeder across the county,
but unlike the pests in the labs at Wisley,
these colourful birds are being welcomed by some gardeners.
If you'd expect a typical London bird to be a pigeon
or perhaps a raven, then think again.
Parakeets are alive and well in suburbia,
but you don't have to take my word for it.
They've been coming to my garden in western London
for over 25 years, certainly.
Originally, it was just one here and maybe you'd see it
and not see another one for three weeks or so.
So there were moments of excitement.
I rejoice in the parakeets. They are glamorous Oriental strangers.
In the wild, ring-necked parakeets are found in the Himalayas,
much of India and parts of Africa.
But they've been breeding in the UK since the '60s.
In those days, you just saw one maybe once every few weeks.
Each time it appeared, it was an excitement.
Over the past few years, they've suddenly increased hugely in numbers
and now I get regular parties of a dozen or so coming in.
So how did they get here? There are a number of interesting theories.
This is that they escaped from the set of The African Queen,
filmed at Shepperton Studios in 1951.
Whilst at his girlfriend's flat in 1968,
Jimi is believed to have released a breeding pair
of ring-necked parakeets as a gesture to world freedom.
Parakeets are very noisy birds.
So much so, that some owners were believed
to have left cage doors open in the hope of a quieter domestic life.
Parakeets are gregarious and social birds
and escapees would naturally flock together.
So, they're here, thriving in the south-east
where they've been delighting some Londoners for over 30 years.
How I attracted them into the garden
is because I've got the peanut feeders up there.
They love them. I've got about two peanut feeders.
They know where to come and I see them zooming over
and they go straight for the peanut feeder.
I think they get to know where they are.
The total number of parakeets is hotly debated.
Nora's got her own opinion.
This paper says 6,000 and another paper says 3,000 over at Esher.
How can you count 3,000 in a tree? I'd have a job to count 20.
So that's wrong for a start.
If there are so many thousands of them as they say, you don't see.
The only time I see them is when they come on my peanut feeder
and they're only there for a few minutes and off they go,
so I really can't see what the problem is.
Nora might be surprised to learn that
there are over 30,000 wild parakeets in the UK.
The RSPB estimate the number will rise to 50,000 by 2010 -
that's an awful lot of peanuts, Nora.
Known locally as posh pigeons,
they are now among the 20 most commonly seen bird species in London.
You can just step out here with a camera, look up at the tree
and one or two and sometimes dozens of them squawking away.
You see the heads popping out looking at you quizzically.
They are very entertaining and such great subjects.
They're extremely rumbustious characters.
They come swarming into the tree here, they decimate the tree,
take all the cherries.
I don't think I've ever had a cherry from this cherry tree.
They do so well in this country because of the thousands of gardens.
But they don't just survive on peanuts and cherries.
In India, they are a serious agricultural pest
which is bad news if you happen to be a British fruit grower.
They're very accurate timers of when grapes are ready for picking.
Probably more than I am.
They'll be here as soon as the grapes are ready to pick.
Then it's a struggle between waiting for ripeness,
waiting for the weather
and waiting for the parakeets to fill themselves up.
If Mark's lucky, they might leave enough to make some wine to sell.
We can get up to 10,000 bottles in a very good year -
the average being a potential 5,000 bottles.
What we usually get is about 3,000 bottles
because the parakeets have taken the other two.
That's really a serious financial blow to us.
2,000 bottles of wine at £10 each. You do the maths.
I can do that - that's £20,000. Blimey!
We've had as many as 200, 300 in the place.
Most years there will be 50 to 100.
Either way, it's far too many for us.
Mark is not the only one to be concerned.
Whitehall officials have ordered a study
to determine what effects the parakeets are having
and whether the numbers are large enough to warrant a cull.
A cull could be allowed for three different reasons.
Conservation, protecting crops, or health and safety.
That prospect is getting some people into a bit of a flap.
What made me write a letter to the paper was
I saw another letter from another person who wanted them culled.
She thinks they're a nuisance and doing a lot of damage.
I don't think they're any problem at all.
Pigeons are messy things, much worse than parakeets.
Then you get dog's mess all up the road here.
That's more of a public health hazard.
We've had foxes up here last year and their cubs.
The mess they made all up that path here, it was disgusting.
As for safety, they don't come down and try and take a bite of you.
They're timid creatures. If you take a stick near them, they fly off.
I really can't see what the problem is.
I just feel they make this country much more colourful
and I think they bring brightness to the country, quite honestly.
Especially on a dull day.
And if you really want to see parakeets at their colourful best,
the biggest roost is at Esher Rugby Club
and they are so proud of them that they named their junior team,
3,000 parakeets returning to roost
after spending the day feeding on London's bird tables.
Everything about this place suits them -
the mild climate, easy pickings and lack of predators.
I'm on a journey through Surrey, parakeet country.
Its close proximity to London makes it
one of the most expensive places to live in Britain.
I've moved on from the RHS gardens at Wisley heading north
and into a very desirable area.
The Borough of Elmbridge where I am now
is the most expensive area in Surrey and just to give you an example,
in 2009, the average house price was more than £520,000.
I'm told that we are a stone's throw away from A-list addresses -
footballers, rock stars and the like.
Hmm, the people round here don't really look like footballers though.
Or rock stars.
The fact is I'm in Whiteley Village which is full of ordinary people
but it's not an ordinary village.
In 1907, a wealthy entrepreneur called William Whiteley,
famed for inventing the modern department store,
was shot dead by a man claiming to be his illegitimate son.
Whiteley left a million pounds in his will,
not to his son, but for the creation of a village
to provide homes for the elderly and needy.
I'm getting a to with Ian Lansley, the estate manager.
It's so neat and tidy it feels a bit like a movie set.
How on earth do you get to live here?
The residents, once they apply, they've got to hit certain criteria.
British citizen, good character and obviously, needy.
The real lid on that is
have you got access to housing benefit?
There's mention of being of the right character -
how is that decided?
100 years ago, being of good character would obviously
have different meanings from that of today.
Back then, what would it have meant?
Probably no history of theft or any trouble with the law.
These days, all the decisions for the applications
are made by the trustees on the board
before any offers have been made.
If I was on the board it would be just no riff-raff.
No troublemakers allowed.
We're heading slightly out of the village now.
How big are the grounds?
The original grounds purchased over from Burhill estates were 225.
We sold off about 20 acres in order to fund
the renovations within the village.
There's 200 acres just outside London surrounded by celebrities.
How much is it worth?
No one could really tell.
Where it is, in the middle of the stockbroker belt here,
not even Roman Abramovic could afford this one.
That's quite a price tag.
Who are the celebs that live round here?
We've got Cliff Richard, Mick Hucknall, Bobby Davro.
There's a fair smattering around the area.
But to get a real handle on life in Whiteley Village,
I need to meet some residents.
What's the community spirit like here?
I feel I'm very fortunate to live in this place.
It's very happy, you are well looked after
but nobody is poking their nose in all the time.
They're caring people.
I feel I'm very fortunate to live here and I'm very, very happy.
Even if I won the pools, I don't think I'd want to move out.
Arthur, what facilities are there in the village?
We've got the village hall, the bowling green, putting green,
There's all sorts of things. We put events on in the hall, dances.
There's darts in here on a Wednesday.
Your diary's packed, isn't it?
There's always something going on.
This is quite an unusual environment to live in.
How important is it to you and how important is it that it keeps going?
It's very important to me.
I believe this is the only, to my knowledge,
the only village of this kind in the country
because it's a charitable trust.
It's so important to feel that you're secure.
You can walk out of your front or back door
any time of day or night and you're safe.
When I see some of the pictures of elderly people frightened
to go out of their houses or flats at night, I think how lucky I am.
Listening to Betty and Arthur makes me realise
what a unique place this is.
William Whiteley's million pounds has gone a very long way indeed.
It's easy to forget we're only a stone's throw from London,
just another notch on the commuter belt.
Surrey has managed to hold on to its rural charm
but, as Julia Bradbury discovered, you sometimes have to search for it.
The this is the Surrey market town of Dorking.
It doesn't look much like an agricultural heartland now
but once it was famous for its livestock.
I'm on the hunt for an elusive fowl.
This is a Dorking cockerel, a breed named after the town
and back in the day, the Dorking was bred by the thousand.
Unusually, the Dorking has five toes.
In Victorian times it was hugely popular for its meat.
But today, this is the only one I found around here.
-Do you know what this is?
-Do you know where I can get one?
Do you know where I can get one these days?
-Tell you what, if I rang my daughter up, she'd know.
-At the gift shop.
Do you know where I can find one, that's the question.
I'm not having much luck.
If I'm going to find out what these Dorkings are all about,
I'm going to need some help.
Now, the Dorking is a very handsome bird, Pedro.
What other qualities does it have?
Apart from the five toes, they're very short but long.
-Ideal table birds.
-They're very plump, aren't they?
Because they are short on the leg, they tend to fill out a bit more.
-Why did it fall out of favour?
-They're not economical.
They're very slow-growing and it takes ages for them to mature.
Egg capacity is very poor.
What about the name and the association with this area,
where's that come from?
It's thought that the Romans brought over a five-toed fowl
around about 47 AD, and then in Victorian times,
the breeders around the area - Sussex, Kent and Horsham -
crossed different breeds to produce what we know now as the Dorking.
-That is an old bird.
-A very old bird.
But I still haven't found one.
I'm going to have to widen my search.
Today, the Dorking is a rare breed
and the only place you are likely to find one
is with a specialist breeder or collector,
otherwise known as chicken fanciers.
Poultry fancying has a long tradition.
Competitions to breed the best looking birds
have been held for decades.
With scant prize-money on offer, it's always been a labour of love.
I'm on my way to meet a modern-day enthusiast.
I've located a breeder that specialises in Dorkings
so hopefully I can get a closer look at these beasties.
-Hi, Lana. Hello.
I must say, I was expecting that to be a chicken.
-I am also mad on greyhounds.
-Oh, I see.
-So here we have a live Dorking.
-Yes, these are my birds.
And they are lovely.
Davie is a feisty young cockerel with wonderful silver white plumage
and Hannah is a dark Dorking female.
This is Hannah then. Come on, my darling.
Now, the best way to hold her so that she's relaxed.
She's quite a heavy lump,
you have to have two fingers between her legs -
-see her five toes - and let her breastbone sit on your arm.
Then she'll be completely relaxed and happy to be in your arms.
-Let's have a go - two fingers under there.
-Between her legs.
Support her weight - that's lovely. Then she'll be quite happy.
How did you get into it, Lana?
When I first moved here, I thought I've got into chickens,
I might as well keep a local breed.
I realised after doing some research on them they are quite rare
and I felt it would be a good thing for me to conserve them.
I became one of the Dorking conservers.
-That's your passion now, Keeping them alive.
-It's my passion.
Hannah and I are bonding.
All chicken fanciers need to know how to prepare a bird for show.
Thousands will flock to the national poultry show in a few weeks.
I'm whisking Hannah off for a bit of a hen party
where I'm going to learn the tricks of the trade.
I come prepared with bird. This is Hannah.
I want you to show me how I should get Hannah ready and sparkling.
-It all starts with a healthy scrub.
-Gently start covering her feathers.
You don't want to scare her off.
We're going to put a little bit of shampoo, just rub it in deep.
Well, this is right up there with things I've never done before again.
Washing a chicken. This, though, is just the beginning.
I thought it took me a while to doll up
but this chick's on another level.
I couldn't bear it if someone was doing this to me.
Not so comfortable. Calm down, dear!
Hannah's scrubbing up nicely but she better watch out.
There are other ladies in town.
What are they? They're very cute.
We've got some Plymouth Rocks which are the brown ones
and then we've got some Frizzles.
I've had to take the big girl out
because the little black one was having a go.
There's a lot of feathers over here at the moment. They're looking for a pecking order.
As for Hannah, it's on to the final touches. Look, she's loving that.
You just rub it round her feet and legs.
But is she good enough to show?
Rodney Wood is an experienced judge
and he's dropped by to give our girl the once over.
The finer points of what we're going to be looking for
is the markings, the colour of her and, particularly,
whether she's got the five toes.
She definitely has. I'm no expert but I can tell you that.
And she's got white legs and all Dorkings have white legs.
This part of the hackle should be a little more straw
so that's just lacking a little bit.
The base colour with the white running down the centre
of each feather is spot on.
-She's not a bad Dorking.
-So I shouldn't be embarrassed?
-Hannah has done Lana and me proud.
I wouldn't be ashamed to show that in any show.
I always knew she was a top flight bird.
Julia Bradbury on the trail of the elusive Dorking fowl.
Meanwhile, I've arrived at Compton.
This is Watts Chapel in the village of Compton.
It's an amazing and lasting reminder of an artist who lived here
100 years ago and who empowered a whole community.
I'll be discovering more right after
the Country Tracks weather for the week ahead.
I'm on a journey through Surrey, from the racecourse of Epsom Downs
to the stunning gardens at Wisley
and, after stopping off at Whiteley Village,
I've travelled the final leg to Compton.
The Surrey Hills became the home of the Victorian painter
and sculptor George Frederic Watts and his wife Mary
when they moved here from London in 1891 until his death in 1904.
Watts was, and still is, a giant of the art world.
His work can be seen at the Tate Britain
and the National Gallery in London.
Yet his gallery in Compton, which opened the same year he died
to house some of his most precious work,
teetered on the edge of collapse.
In 2006, Watts Gallery, dilapidated and impoverished,
appeared on the BBC's restoration programme
to appeal for a much-needed lifeline.
When you look at the damp
immediately above these magnificent paintings,
it would take very little
to just get a cascade of water running across.
This is really putting these paintings at risk, isn't it?
Wherever you look in this building, you see damage from damp
and poor construction.
A whole load of plaster ceiling just fallen down there.
Coming through now into the back corridor behind the main gallery...
God, look at this! This is quite serious here.
An enormous hole, a great lump of plaster fallen off.
Look at the rot in that joist. Terrible!
Unfortunately, it didn't win the prize money
and the fundraisers were forced to look elsewhere for rescue.
And they got lucky.
Generous donations, as well as money from the Heritage Lottery Fund,
helped bring this Arts and Crafts building back from the brink.
£10 million later and the paintings are coming home, to the delight
of the gallery's curator Mark Bills and the director Perdita Hunt.
Can you remember the moment when you found out that the money
didn't get given to the gallery from the programme?
Oh, it was gutting!
But 83,000 people can't be wrong, who voted for us
both in the first round and the second round.
What they saw was that Watts was an extraordinary artist
of the 19th century, he painted right across sculpture,
He founded a unique gallery -
this is unique in being the only purpose-built art gallery
for a single professional artist,
and it was a gallery that they could see was letting the rain in
and was falling apart.
And what's so amazing is, from that moment of despair for us,
losing BBC Restoration Village, we built up,
with support from donors and the Heritage Lottery Fund,
enough support, we built a team to rescue this gallery.
So, Mark, why is it so important to keep the work here in Compton?
It's really important,
because this building was absolutely created just for these works.
Watts was phenomenally famous in his own lifetime,
he had a room permanently displaying his work at the Tate Gallery
and then, not far away at the National Portrait Gallery,
a huge room of his portraits, but he also felt
he needed a gallery that was in the country
and he had a home here in Compton,
and so he wanted to show that personal collection of his own
which had his masterpieces and show the real diversity
of his work and so that's why he created it here in Compton.
But it's not just about the inside of the gallery,
but actually the surrounding, the fact that it's in the village.
It's a national gallery in the heart of a village,
it's a very rare, unique thing.
Having travelled through this beautiful county
on the edge of our capital, it's not hard to understand why Surrey
has always been in high demand.
Watts himself moved here to escape the terrible London fogs in winter.
A million people a year visit the spectacular gardens at Wisley,
but I can't begin to imagine how many have cheered on the horses
at Epsom Downs over the years.
And yet, for all that hustle and bustle,
Surrey remains England's green and pleasant land.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Ellie Harrison discovers what makes Surrey special. Her journey begins just 17 miles from the centre of London, at the home of arguably the greatest flat horse race in the world - The Derby. She then heads on to the flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society: Wisley, where forensic detective work is helping to protect Britain's best-loved plants and trees.
Ellie also explores one of Surrey's most sought-after addresses, Whiteley Village. It shares a postcode with millionaires, but you have to be a cash-strapped pensioner to live there.
Her journey ends in Compton at Watts Gallery, which was built over a century ago to bring 'art to all'. However, a leaky roof and crumbling walls spelled disaster, unless they could win a pot of money from the BBC's Restoration programme. But did they win?