Footprints: eco-storytelling in the Surrey Hills

Last Spring I was very lucky to be given a three-month work placement with Surrey Hills Arts, funded by Techne Doctoral Training Partnership, to develop storytelling performances about the impact of human activity on the Surrey Hills through the centuries. And I’m really thrilled to announce the results!

Working with local historians, archaeologists and more, I researched the history and folklore of three sites in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. From Ice Age hunter-gatherers, through forests cleared for farming, to urban development and industry, I sifted and shaped stories from the area and the wider world, to reflect on how humankind has shaped the environment in each place, and how our predecessors have looked at the non-human life beyond the garden wall.

The project was given the name Footprints, and the three sites we chose were Hindhead Commons, Frensham Little Pond and Hascombe Hill – each stunning places to walk and explore, with a rich hidden history still showing through the surface if you take a moment to look. The first fruits of the project were two guided walks on a History Day at Hindhead Commons in July 2021, which were a fantastic chance to share the stories underneath the soil with local residents and visitors alike. And now, there are podcasts where you can hear the stories and history of each location, from the comfort of your home OR while walking at each site!

The podcasts for Hindhead and Hascombe can be listened to any time at the links below; and WHAT’S MORE, QR codes have been installed on trails at both sites, so that you can access the stories via a mobile device as you walk through the landscape. Go to the links for a listen, and do visit these amazing places if you can. And a podcast for Frensham Little Pond will follow as soon as possible too, and will also be available to listen to on-site via a QR code.

And wherever you are, I hope that these stories will make you look again at the places around you, and think about the effect our ancestors’ actions, and our own, have had on the world.

Thanks are gratefully given to the following for their support and help during this project: Ali Clarke and Surrey Hills Arts; Anne Sassin Allen and Surrey Archaeological Society; James Brown and The National Trust (Hindhead and Frensham Little Pond); Jim Pinchen at Surrey Arts; Guy Singer; Janet Dowling; Jeremy Harte at Bourne Hall Museum; Prof William Tate; Gillian Devine; Matthew Alexander; the Rural Life Living Museum, Tilford; Techne DTP and my PhD supervisor Craig Jordan-Baker.

And if you’re interested in digging a little further, a full list of sources consulted for the project is given beneath the links below.


Matthew Alexander, Tales of Old Surrey (Countryside Books, 1985)

  • The Fair Maid of Guildford and other Surrey tales (Countryside Books, 2003 [1986])
  • A Surrey Garland: Customs, Traditions and Folk Songs from the Surrey of Yesteryear (Countryside Books, 2004)

Christopher K Currie and Neil Rushton, An archaeological and historical survey of the Hindhead Common estate, Hindhead, Surrey, Vols 1 & 2 (CKC Archaeology, 2005)

Sioned Davies (trans.), The Mabinogion (Oxford World’s Classics, 2007)

Janet Dowling, Surrey Folk Tales (The History Press, 2013)

Alan Garner, “Oral History & Applied Archaeology in East Cheshire” in The Voice That Thunders (The Harvill Press, 1997)

Audrey and David Graham, “Mother Ludlam’s Cave, Farnham” in Surrey Archaeological Society Bulletin 360 (Aug/Sep 2002)

  • “An early Roman ritual site on Frensham Common” in Surrey Archaeological Collections 100 (2017)

Elizabeth A. Gray (trans.), Cath Maige Tuired: The Second Battle of Mag Tuired, available at, accessed 9th Oct 2018

Miranda Jane Green, Celtic Myths (British Museum Press, 1993)

Rose Hooker and Judie English, Hascombe Hillfort: Analytical and magnetometry surveys (Surrey Archaeological Society, 2009)

  • “Analytical surveys of Holmbury and Hascombe hillforts” in Surrey Archaeological Collections 99 (2016)

Rex Morgold, A Glimpse of Frank Mason’s Churt (Runcimann Press, 1988)

Michael O’Leary, Sussex Folk Tales (The History Press, 2013)

Bob Pegg, Argyll Folk Tales (The History Press, 2015)

Matt Pope et al, South East Research Framework Resource Assessment and Research Agenda for the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods (South East Research Framework, 2019 [2011])

Mike Seager Thomas, “A recontextualisation of the prehistoric pottery from the Surrey hillforts of Hascombe, Holmbury and Anstiebury” in Surrey Archaeological Collections 95 (2010)

Guy J. Singer, Fascinating Farnham (, 2021)

  • Fascinating Farnham: The Walks (forthcoming)

Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson, The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends from Spring-Heeled Jack to the Witches of Warboys (Penguin, 2006 [2005]), accessed 10th May 2021, accessed 1st July 2021

… and all the wide world of stories and storytellers, whose gifts have supplemented and supported and given settings to all the above, for all that I can’t remember where and when I first heard the tales!

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