Surrey is a county in the South East of England and is one of the Home Counties. The county borders Greater London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire, and Berkshire. The historic county town is Guildford. Surrey County Council sits at Kingston upon Thames, although this has been part of Greater London since 1965.
Surrey is divided into 11 boroughs and districts: Elmbridge, Epsom and Ewell, Guildford, Mole Valley, Reigate and Banstead, Runnymede, Spelthorne, Surrey Heath, Tandridge, Waverley, Woking. After the elections of 3 May 2007, the Conservatives are in control of nine out of 11 councils in Surrey.
Surrey has a population of approximately 1.1 million people. The historic county town was Guildford, although the county administration was moved to Newington in 1791 and to Kingston upon Thames in 1893. The county council's headquarters have been outside the county's boundaries since 1 April 1965 when Kingston and other areas were included within Greater London by the London Government Act 1963. Recent plans to move the offices to a new site in Woking have now been abandoned. Due to its proximity to London there are many commuter towns and villages in Surrey, the population density is high and the area is more affluent than other parts of the UK. Surrey is the most densely populated county after Greater London, the metropolitan counties and Bristol. Much of the north east of the county forms part of the Greater London Urban Area. In the west, there is a conurbation straddling the Hampshire/Surrey border, including in Surrey Camberley and Farnham.
Most English counties have nicknames for people from that county, such as a Tyke from Yorkshire and a Yellowbelly from Lincolnshire; the traditional nickname for people from Surrey is 'Surrey Capon', as it was well known in the later Middle Ages as the county where chickens were fattened up for the London meat markets.
Surrey contains a good deal of mature woodland (reflected in the official logo of Surrey County Council, a pair of interlocking oak leaves). Among its many notable beauty spots are Box Hill, Leith Hill, Frensham Ponds, Newland's Corner and Puttenham & Crooksbury Commons. It is the most wooded county in Great Britain, with 22.4% coverage compared to a national average of 11.8% and as such is one of the few counties to not include new woodlands in their strategic plans. Box Hill has the oldest untouched area of natural woodland in the UK, one of the oldest in Europe.
Much of Surrey is in the Green Belt and is rolling downland, the county's geology being dominated by the chalk hills of the North Downs. Agriculture not being intensive, there are many commons and access lands, together with an extensive network of footpaths and bridleways including the North Downs Way, a scenic long-distance path. Accordingly, Surrey provides much in the way of rural leisure activities, with a very large horse population. Towards the north of the county, the land is largely flat around Staines and bi-sected by the River Thames.
The highest point in Surrey is Leith Hill near Dorking at 965 ft (294 m) above sea level.
Significant landscapes in Surrey include Box Hill just north of Dorking; the Devil's Punch Bowl at Hindhead; Frensham Common, heathland with a variety of plant, animal and birdlife plus the Great Pond and Little Pond dating from the Middle Ages when they were constructed to provide food for the Bishop of Winchester's estate. Leith Hill to the south west of Dorking is the highest point in south-east England. Witley CommonNational Trust, heathland south of Godalming, is run by the National Trust and Surrey Hills is an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB).
More manicured landscapes can be seen at Claremont Landscape Garden, south of Esher (dating from 1715). There is also Winkworth Arboretum south east of Godalming which was created in the 20th century. Wisley is home to the Royal Horticultural Society gardens.
Surrey has important country houses such as Clandon ParkHistoric House, an 18th century Palladian mansion in West Clandon to the east of Guildford. Nearby there is Hatchlands ParkHistoric House in East Clandon, east of Guildford, was built in 1758 with Robert Adam interiors and a collection of keyboard instruments. Polesden LaceyHistoric House south of Great Bookham is a regency villa with extensive grounds. On a smaller scale, Oakhurst Cottage in Hambledon near Godalming is a restored 16th century worker's home. There is a museum at Rural Life Centre, Tilford.
The county is linked to the sea by the River Wey and the Wey and Godalming Navigations. Dapdune Wharf in Guildford commemorates this and is home to a restored Wey barge, the Reliance. Furthermore on the River Tillingbourne, Shalford Mill is an 18th century water-mill.
There are many typical English villages including Holmbury St Mary which lies in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, close to the Greensand Way and North Downs Way. It was developed in the 19th century and still has a mainly Victorian character as on the whole no new building is allowed. The youth hostel, constructed in the village in 1935, was the first purpose-built by the Youth Hostels Association.
Runnymede at Egham is the site of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Waverley and Chertsey Abbeys were very significant in medieval Surrey.
Guildford Cathedral is a post-war cathedral built from bricks made from the clay hill on which it stands.
Brooklands Museum recognises the motoring past of Surrey. The county is also home to Thorpe ParkAmusement Park, a sister theme park of Alton Towers.
Surrey has been mentioned in literature: in the Harry Potter series, Harry's only living relatives, the Dursleys, live in Little Whinging, a fictional town located in Surrey. The character Ford Prefect from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy claimed to be from Guildford in Surrey, but in actuality he was from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelguese. Surrey was mentioned often in Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World. Much of H. G. Wells's 1898 novella The War of the Worlds is set in Surrey with many specific towns and villages identified. The martians first land on Horsell Common on the north side of Woking, outside the Bleak House pub, now called Sands. In the story the narrator flees in the direction of London, first passing Byfleet and then Weybridge before travelling east along the north bank of the Thames.
The late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman mentions Camberley in his poem "A Subaltern's Lovesong". In contrast, Carshalton forms the literary backdrop to many of the poems by James Farrar.
The county has also been used as a film location. Part of the movie The Holiday was filmed in Surrey: Kate Winslet's character Iris lived there and Cameron Diaz's character Amanda switched houses with her as part of a home exchange. In the 1976 film The Omen, the scenes at the cathedral were filmed at Guildford Cathedral. The film I Want Candy follows two hopeful lads from Leatherhead trying to break into the movies. Surrey woodland represented Germany in the opening scene of Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe; it was filmed at Tilford near Farnham in Surrey.
Wording courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org/
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