The Management Plan seeks primarily to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of the area. This section identiﬁes those special qualities and key landscape features that deﬁne the natural beauty of the Surrey Hills. It also identiﬁes some of the issues that are addressed by the Management Plan policies, as set out in Section 3.
Although the Surrey Hills is now one of the most wooded of the nationally protected areas in the country, it is still an intriguingly diverse landscape characterised by hills and valleys, traditional mixed farming, a patchwork of chalk grassland and heathland, sunken lanes, picturesque villages and market towns. It has associations with many of the country’s great artists, writers, musicians and designers. It is often regarded as the ﬁrst real countryside south of London and is a rural retreat for many thousands of daily commuters.
The Hills stretch across the chalk North Downs that run from Farnham in the west, above Guildford, Dorking and Reigate, to Oxted in the east. They contain a mosaic of woodland, scrub and open downland with combes, spring lines, chalk pits, quarries and striking cliffs. To the south are the Greensand Hills that include Black Down, the Devil’s Punch Bowl and Leith Hill, with ancient sunken lanes and geometric ﬁelds that have been enclosed from heaths and wooded commons. In between are the valleys of the Wey, Tillingbourne and Mole rivers, and the heaths of Frensham, Thursley and Blackheath. The Low Weald forms the southern fringe of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with its extensive woodlands and small irregular ﬁelds, hedgerows and wooded shaws.
Although geology, soils and climate have created the bones of the landscape, the appearance of the Surrey Hills has been shaped for centuries by the changing patterns of land use and settlement. Over much of the Surrey Hills the historic settlement pattern remains largely intact: small picturesque villages of Saxon and medieval origin in the valleys; isolated farmsteads on chalk slopes, valley bottoms and in clearings won from the woodland; large country houses with extensive parklands; market towns; and remnants of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century industry. The North to South linear parishes encompass all the landscape types from the chalk in the north through the greensand hills to the weald clay in the south.