Music masterclass at King Edward’s Witley

Pupils at King Edward’s Witley were treated to an exceptional learning opportunity when Alexandra Vaduva, the celebrated pianist, delivered a music masterclass to pupils in Years 9-11. The inspiring coaching, followed by a short recital to students and staff, was made possible by the generosity of The Countess of Munster Musical Trust, founded by The Countess of Munster, a concert pianist herself, to support young musicians of professional calibre to achieve their aims.

Romanian-born Miss Vaduva started playing the piano at the age of four and has performed all over the world, winning numerous accolades, including first prize at the ‘Vienna International’, ‘Pro Piano’ and ‘Carl Filtsch’ International piano competitions. After completing a Bachelor of Music, Master of Arts and Advanced Diploma courses at the Royal Academy of Music Miss Vaduva is now studying for a PhD there. After spending time sharing her skills and knowledge with the pupils, Miss Vaduva’s recital, which took place in the School’s Recital Room, included Kinderszenen by Schumann; two sonatas by Scarlatti and a Suite by Bartók and concluded with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

Commenting on the special occasion, Stasio Sliwka, King Edward’s Director of Music, said: “It has been a huge privilege for our pupils to be afforded the opportunity to spend time with the incredibly talented Miss Vaduva, and indeed for the whole school to have the chance to attend such a rousing performance. The school enjoys a special relationship with The Countess of Munster Musical Trust, as the Countess kindly financed the building of our Music School which bears her name, and which she personally opened on 29 May 1963. Music has always played a central role in school life at King Edward’s and we remain committed to offering musical tuition of the highest calibre to enable our pupils to maximise their potential. As a result, we regularly welcome talented professionals to inspire our pupils with their talents – indeed the first performance in our Recital Room more than 50 years ago was given by world-class violinist Yehudi Menuhin accompanied by his pianist sister Hephzibah.”

Alexandra Vaduva with King Edward’s pupils at the Masterclass


Remember, remember hedgehogs in November

With fireworks night on the horizon, Surrey Wildlife Trust is appealing to all bonfire builders to think about hibernating hedgehogs when constructing and lighting their wood piles. Unfortunately bonfire night coincides with the season when small mammals are looking for cosy places to hide, which can be disastrous.

Picture by Jon Hawkins

“A stack of dry wood and leaves piled up for a bonfire might look to a hedgehog like the perfect place to overwinter and sadly we fear many animals do perish in fires every year,” said Dawn Fielding, the Trust’s Wildlife Gardening Officer.

“Gardeners love these adorable prickly creatures, as they eat bugs and slugs and are great for natural pest control. But hedgehogs are undergoing an unprecedented decline, with some experts recently warning of possible extinction within ten years! So it’s vitally important we all do what we can to protect them.”

The Trust wants bonfire night to be a safe night for all concerned – but especially hedgehogs. So it’s put together these top tips to help protect these prickly visitors:

  • Consider piling material near the site of your fire and building your bonfire just before lighting. This will give small creatures less chance to move in.
  • Check your bonfire carefully before setting it on fire and remove any small inhabitants – rehome in a safe area away from dogs or cats, such as under a hedge or large bush and well away from your bonfire.
  • If you do have to build your bonfire beforehand, consider constructing a fence around it made of chicken wire, to help deter any mammals looking for a cosy home.

Hedgehogs were voted as the UK’s national species in 2013 but since the 1950s their numbers have seen a startling 95% decline. They’re disappearing from our landscape as fast as tigers are worldwide and there are thought to be fewer than a million left in the UK.

The declining quality of hedgerows, over-management of parks and the loss of gardens to paving and decking have been partly to blame for the hedgehog’s decline. The increased use of chemicals in gardening and farming means there are fewer insects, slugs and snails for hedgehogs to eat.

Surrey Wildlife Trust is working to improve habitats for hedgehogs and trying to raise awareness of their plight. It’s launched a new ‘Adopt A Hedgehog’ pack to help support conservation work, which includes an adorable cuddly toy hedgehog, official adoption certificate and a fact sheet for £25.

The Trust has also set up a Hedgehog Hotspots campaign to survey numbers of hedgehogs in the county. Animal lovers are asked to keep an eye out for the prickly mammals and report their findings on the Trust’s website, which is hosting a map of recent sightings.

Adult hedgehogs travel up to two kilometres a night hunting for food and they need to be able to move between gardens and green spaces.  You can help them by cutting a hedgehog-sized hole in your garden fence.  Or why not build your own hedgehog house out of a wooden box or pile of logs or sticks with some warm dry straw or leaves inside?

Please don’t put bread and milk out for hedgehogs; you can make them very sick this way as they cannot digest lactose. Cat food is ideal if you want to treat them, and help little ones put on weight ready for hibernation.

The Trust is also working to conserve and create habitat for hedgehogs with its new ‘Hedgerow Heroes’ citizen science project. Volunteers are needed to help survey, monitor and conserve hedgerows and plant new ones. Why not help hedgehogs where you live by signing up as a volunteer?

For more information about all the Trust’s work to help hedgehogs, including Hedgehog AdoptionsHedgerow Heroes and Hedgehog Hotspots, visit

First Churcher’s Junior football festival

The first Churcher’s College Junior School U7 football festival took place in October.

With an emphasis on fun and participation, 60 children took part in 45 matches over the course of the afternoon.  Each team played nine games and everyone enjoyed the opportunity to play teams from The Royal school and Brookham.  Everybody was thoroughly exhausted at the end and shared a match tea to end the afternoon.


Butser Ancient Farm near Petersfield is proud to reopen the Roman villa after a major restoration project over the summer. It’s 14 years since the villa was completed for the TV documentary Rebuilding the Past in 2003. Since then it’s been seen by around half a million people when they visit Butser Ancient Farm.

The renovated Roman villa at Butser Ancient Farm, Chalton


The newly whitewashed interiors have made the rooms brighter and the floors have been re-laid with opus signinum (Roman concrete) inlaid, in the Roman tradition, with broken pottery. These are real fragments of Romano-British pottery, giving a fantastic new touchstone to the past for Roman-themed visits.

The building is based on original excavations of a Roman villa at Sparsholt, near Winchester, and more than 30,000 school children and 7,000 members of the public come to visit every year.

Over this weekend, visitors will have the chance to join a short guided tour of the villa and discover how people lived in Britain 1600 years ago.

Maureen Page, one of the Directors at Butser Ancient Farm, is delighted with the results, “This has given the villa a new lease of life. It is now accessible to disabled visitors and it means that we can prepare for next year when we are planning to paint frescos on the villa walls and lay mosaics on the floors.”

Butser Ancient Farm  02392 598838

School reveals rich history at Heritage Open Days

King Edward’s Witley opened its doors to the general public last weekend to share its rich history with visitors, as part of the established national Heritage Open Days initiative. The event marked the first time the school has taken part in England’s favourite heritage festival and was particularly apposite given this year’s focus on the 150th anniversary of the school’s move to Witley.

Led by the School’s Archivist, Marilyn Wilkes, around 40 people took part in two tours on Sunday, September 10, providing a unique opportunity for visitors to behold the local landmark architecture as well as the imposing Bridewell and Selborne Rooms, which both house original paintings of historic interest. The Bridewell Room, part of the original 1867 complex of buildings housing the Schoolis used for receptions, Governors’ meetings and meetings of the School’s pupil council. The Selborne Room – originally built in 1876 as the Dining Hall –  was named after the 4th Earl of Selborne, (Treasurer of Bridewell Royal Hospital from 1972 to 1983) and is now used for exams, conferences, seminars and other functions.  Guests also had a private view of Charter Hall, the scene for all school productions and awards ceremonies, which was formally opened by the President of Bridewell Royal Hospital, HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, in 1958,  and which houses the original and enormous 17th Century Charter Portrait.

Other highlights of the tour included the beautiful on-site Chapel, first consecrated in 1868; the School’s own museum which houses numerous original artefacts and photographs (including a real hammock used by boarders until the 1940s); the War Memorial erected in honour of the Masters and former pupils who fell in the 1914-1918 war; and the statue of the young King Edward VI, who originally granted his palace at Bridewell, on the banks of the Thames, to the Lord Mayor of London, creating the School’s parent foundation (Bridewell Royal Hospital), as a place for the training and education of poor children in 1553.

Throughout the tours, Mrs Wilkes, provided a potted history of King Edward’s Witley, from its original origins as a Tudor orphanage in the City of London through to the world-class school it is today.

Mrs Wilkes said: “We are immensely proud of King Edward’s long history and it was wonderful to provide our visitors with an understanding of the School’s exceptional heritage. Even for those living locally, many were surprised at the size of the school behind the road-side façade and all enjoyed hearing about the fascinating journey from 1553 to the current day.”


Starry year for Churcher’s sixth form

Churcher’s College sixth form in Petersfield is celebrating yet another starry A level results year.

Headmaster Simon Williams said: “After the quite exceptional levels of success last year we had expected this year to be a little more modest but we are absolutely delighted to note how this year’s group of students have exceeded expectations.

“Durham University and their Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring use various baseline tests to give us a prediction of the A level outcome for the students and, from that, as a year group as a whole. The Sixth Formers here at Churcher’s have exceeded those expectations of them; our value-added score last year was outstanding; it is likely to be similar again this year.

“For the majority of our students, university is the next destination and it is the top, most competitive courses and universities they aspire to. The confirmation of places is still coming in, but with 18% of the A levels graded A* and over 45% A* and A grade, the level of A level success here means that they invariably achieve their aspirations. To be awarded an A* grade candidates must achieve a cumulative score of 90% or more, and with fifteen, of the year group of just over 100, achieve straight A* and A grades there have been many quite outstanding performances but it is not just the academically highly capable who have exceeded expectations.

“With all the changes that have been taking place with A levels, linking one year with another becomes like comparing apples and pears. There has always been a natural variation in ability between year groups but this is being exacerbated by exam structure changes such as no re-take opportunities and the loss of modular exams. What doesn’t change, however, is the Churcher’s students’ determination to give and get the best, inside and outside the classroom.

“Those of us who were lucky enough to witness the Churcher’s orchestra tour’s hugely successful concerts on their tour in Barcelona this summer heard applause aplenty; and there is another, well-deserved, standing ovation for these A level exam results.”



Daubing day at Butser Ancient Farm – wattle lot of fun!

By Kat Wootton

I’m at Butser Ancient Farm in Chalton, south of Petersfield just off the A3, on a hot and humid Sunday morning. Flying ant weather; and good drying weather for some daubing.

Wattle and daub – that ancient method of making walls – is basically a woven latticework of sticks with mud stuck on top to make it draught- and weather- proof.

I’m at the experimental archaeology site to volunteer my services in finishing a new roundhouse, built in the late Iron Age style. Unlike the large roundhouse next door, there’s no central circle of posts to hold the roof up, just a wattle circle wall using willow rather than the usual hazel to weave between the outer posts, a thatched straw roof and two layers of daub.

Mud, hair, dung and water mix – the daub

The inside walls had been daubed the week before by a group on a corporate team building day. Now the volunteers step up to do the outside.

Daub is a mixture of soil (which here contains a fair bit of chalk), cow dung, cow and horse hair, and straw, with water added until it’s the consistency of a wet cake mix. The aim is to splat it onto the wattle so that it coats it in an inch or two thick layer, squishing between the willow stems. Too wet and it won’t stay on, too dry and it won’t envelope the willow. It’s very therapeutic as we hurl clots of daub at the wall, before patting with the back of our hands to smooth it out and weld the blobs of daub together. When it’s dried a little, it can be smoothed with a plasterer’s tool. The bigger stones have to be picked out and we work in panels of three or four upright posts at a time, starting at the bottom and working our way up to the top under the eaves, which is tricky and usually results in a liberal amount of daub in the hair and down your top. It’s well rotted dung so it doesn’t smell. We convince ourselves it is conditioning our hair and skin…

Trevor, who is coordinating the small group of volunteers, gets stuck in too, under the watchful eye of David Freeman, resident archaeologist and proud builder of the roundhouse, as well as the stone age buildings at the other side of the Farm.

One little girl is so absorbed, she doesn’t want to stop even when the lunch call comes. Her younger brother isn’t so keen to get his hands dirty but once he plunges his hands into the bucket of gloop and realises he is actually allowed to sling mud, he gets to work with gusto, singing “splat splat splat” as he does so. There is lots of chat about how people would have built these houses, how long it might have taken them, how many people would have lived in it… a lesson in pre-history as we work. David explains that the walls would have been painted – he’s going for lime white and ochre red, with yellow bands top and bottom and swirling abstract designs painted on top.

David’s very neat daubing

Members of the Anglo Saxon reenactment group Herigeas Hundas walk past, eyeing the dirty work. We are coated in mud. We threaten to see them off by mudslinging and they head back to the Saxon hall, laughing.

Starting at 10am, with a squash and biscuit break and an hour for lunch, the daubing is done by teatime. I’m stiff and covered in dried mud, but I feel fantastic. I can say ‘I did that’ next time I see those bits of wall. I’m seriously considering creating my own garden roundhouse now…

Daubed! The new roundhouse

If you’d like to volunteer or take one of the courses offered at the farm, see

Would-be Wildings can head to Surrey Hills

A group of twelve young people aged 13-16 took part in an exciting wilderness expedition this summer, in  the Surrey Hills.

The group, brought together by the Leatherhead Youth Project, experienced two days of self-led navigation across 15km of Surrey Hills terrain, undertaking ‘wild’ camping and& cooking to complete the very first ‘Into the Wild’ expedition.

Oli Bell, Senior Youth Worker for the Leatherhead Youth Project said: “I’m so delighted with the success of this first ‘Into the Wild’ expedition. Watching this group of young people move away from their comfort zones, challenge themselves and come together as a team was inspirational. The aim of the exhibition was to provide each of them with a wilderness experience which would teach them lessons about themselves, each other and the world they live in.”

The group set off from Westcott, with a small amount of equipment to see them through the next few days. The 15km trek took them up into the heart of Winterfold Forest where youth workers led some reflective exercises with them including a 20-minute silent walk.

Oli said: “The silent walk proved a challenge to some of the group as many of them were used to constant noise and entertainment. Being silent for 20 minutes allowed them to experience nature in a new way, listening to noises and looking around them.”

The group successfully navigated their way through the woodlands of the Surrey Hills, eventually setting up camp at 7pm. Despite being exhausted from a full day of exercise and fresh air, the group set up survival hammocks, strung between the trees, and set about starting a campfire from flint in order to cook their evening meal.

The next morning the group packed up and set off on their trek again, taking in the views of the Surrey Hills landscape and bonded by their shared experience.

This ‘Into the Wild’ two day expedition was made possible by a grant from the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, Leatherhead Community Association and Community Foundation for Surrey.

As part of the expedition young people achieved the John Muir Award, an outdoor award based on the foundations of exploration, discovery, conservation and sharing experiences.

The Surrey Hills Trust Fund, established in partnership with the Community Foundation for Surrey, aims to help local communities enjoy the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and safeguard its future for generations to come.

Neil Maltby, Chairman of the Surrey Hills Trust Fund said: “Many of the young people had never been into the Surrey Hills before and this is exactly what the Surrey Hills Trust Fund is about – encouraging everyone to respect and enjoy the countryside on their doorstep and leave with a passion to protect it. We’re delighted to have played a part in the inaugural ‘Into the Wild’ expedition and hope to see many more like it. Offering young people an experience they don’t usually get is just wonderful.”

To donate to the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, apply for a grant or for further information visit


Into the Wild experience

Students become forensic scientists at King Edward’s Witley

A group of budding forensic scientists from King Edward’s Witley delved into the world of crime when their classroom was turned into a CSI lab to help solve the mystery of the missing ‘Cock House Cups’.

The team of Year 9 students, armed with latex gloves and the contents of the school science cupboard, cast their eagle-eyed attention on the tricky task of tracking down the perpetrators of the misdemeanour, in a fun science project, code named ‘CSI Witley’.

Their mission was to find out who stole the valuable solid silver trophies from the Bridewell Room at the School. The Cups went missing last Thursday at approximately 8.47am. The criminals left plenty of clues at the scene – if you knew where to look – including handwriting samples, fingerprints and DNA evidence, blood and skin and pollen samples.

Scouring the area for evidence, the pupils brought back samples to the lab for DNA profiling, psychological profiling, fingerprint testing and handwriting analysis.

They identified four suspects who each had a motive, the opportunity and no alibi for the time of the theft. Their findings were later presented to a judge for scrutiny in a mock trial.

The project, which brings together science, biology, psychology and maths was inspired by the award-winning CBS series CSI, one of the longest running scripted primetime TV series in the US. Many of the experiments seen in the show were expertly re-created by the school’s talented lab technicians.

Leading the investigation, Mr Cochrane, Teacher of Physics at King Edward’s Witley said: “We recreated a challenging and realistic case for the pupils to crack using the knowledge they’ve gleaned as to how the experts collect forensic evidence. Just like real-life forensic scientists the students learnt to observe carefully, organise, analyse and record data, do simple tests and to think critically to solve the case. The Cups are important to the School as they are awarded to the houses that achieve the most credits at the end of the year. The culprits were probably attracted to the value of the silver, which is currently estimated to be around £429 per kg. It’s vital that we get them back before they are melted down.”

Who knows where their investigations will lead them. Will they solve the crime…?

Flamingo babies for first time at Birdworld

The keeping team at Birdworld situated near Farnham, Surrey are delighted to announce that the park’s flamboyance of Greater Flamingos has successfully hatched chicks for the first time in the park’s history.

The chicks, which have been carefully monitored by Birdworld’s dedicated keeping staff since laid as eggs earlier this year, are now finding their feet and exploring the world around them as their parents keep a close, protective watch on their progress.

The newly-hatched chicks have grey or white down feathers and a straight red bill. They will lose their juvenile grey or white colour gradually over a two to three-year period, at which time their pink feathers begin to show.

Birdworld received the flock of 25 Greater Flamingos from Durrell Zoo in Jersey and opened the purpose-built Flamingo Cove exhibit in May 2015, to house the colourful birds. In 2016, Birdworld welcomed a further three adult birds from WWT Slimbridge, boosting the flock’s numbers to 28.  The delightful walk-through enclosure features natural planting, a running water stream and plenty of space to provide a healthy environment for all its occupants in surroundings that reflect their habitat in the wild.

Duncan Bolton, Birdworld Curator, said: “We are very happy that our flock of Greater Flamingos are successfully breeding and hatching chicks this year, the first time in Birdworld’s 49-year history. The flock came to us around two years ago and we are very pleased with the progress they have made since arriving. The nesting activity is a sure sign that the group are settled and comfortable in the enclosure. We hope that visitors to the park will enjoy seeing the chicks grow throughout the summer  and beyond.”

Already one of the largest bird parks in the country, the landscaped park and gardens at Birdworld are home to over 800 birds and 180 species from around the world. The park also is home to the Underwater World aquarium and the Jenny Wren Farm.

For more information about Birdworld, visit: or call 01420 22992.

Greater Flamingo chicks at Birdworld. Photos – Colin McKenzie

Great Flamingo fact file:

  • The Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) is the largest of all flamingo species.
  • During the colder times of the year, many of the Great Flamingos in Asia migrate to warmer climates.
  • The male Great Flamingos can be up to 61 inches tall which is more than many humans. They only weigh about 8 pounds which is extremely light for an animal that is so tall!
  • The curve of their neck is very flexible due to the many vertebrae found there. They also feed with their head upside down in the water. You will notice their black beak has a very unique design to it.
  • The pink colouring for their bodies comes from the crustaceans that they consume as a big part of their diet.
  • Their mating habits are consistent with those of other species of Flamingos. If they don’t get enough food to eat they will lose the pigmentation and their feathers will only be white. They also won’t engage in mating at all if they don’t have enough food to survive on themselves.
  • They communicate vocally with a type of honking that is very similar to the sounds that geese make.
  • The oldest Greater Flamingo in the world is found in a zoo located in Australia. He is at least 77 years old, but the exact age isn’t known.
  • The younger birds don’t get the pigmentation until they are at least three years of age.