Surrey Day

In 2024 it’s Surrey Day on Saturday May 11 - and everyone’s invited! 

We celebrated Surrey Day in 2023 on Saturday May 13

 “Come to Surrey and have fun!” was the rallying call from one of Britain’s best-loved actors, Dame Penelope Keith, who was the special guest at this year’s Surrey Day (Saturday May 13) – the annual celebration of all that is great about our diverse and beautiful county. Best known for The Good Life, which was set in suburban Surrey in the 1970s, and To The Manor Born, the star is a long-time resident of Surrey. Having also served as both Deputy Lieutenant of Surrey and the county’s High Sheriff, this made her the perfect choice.

Taking place for the fifth consecutive year, this year’s Surrey Day proved to be the most successful one yet. Hosted by Visit Surrey, the county’s tourist organisation, in partnership with BBC Radio Surrey, the Surrey Lieutenancy and Local Food Surrey, the much-anticipated celebration saw people of all ages come together to enjoy a whole range of special events, activities and VIP visits.

Among the highlights, Dame Penelope Keith made a special guest appearance at one of her own favourite Surrey spots, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, where she has often starred herself. A Grade II Listed building, the theatre hosts a wide range of productions, from an award-winning pantomime to pre-West End plays. 

Dame Penelope remarked: “It's been absolutely fascinating seeing places that I hadn’t seen before. I went to West Horsley Place, which is lovely, and I’d never seen Shepperton Lock either. The feeling has been just fun and that’s what we all need now.”

The day also featured a series of other VIP visits covering all four corners of the county – including from the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux, who presented two Lord Lieutenant’s Awards of Appreciation, which recognise individuals who contribute exceptional service to our local communities. Also out and about were the Vice Lord Lieutenant, Sir Stephen Lamport; and the High Sheriff, Timothy Wates. 

Many residents flocked to greet the Surrey Day heritage bus, provided by the London Bus Museum (based at Brooklands Museum in Weybridge) supported by the Surrey Lieutenancy. Hosting the radio team, the bus appeared at various popular tourist attractions, including Painshill Park in Cobham, RHS Garden Wisley and Hampton Court Palace, the latter of which was historically in Surrey. Others shared their love of the county through social media – and, at the height of the celebrations, #SurreyDay was trending on Twitter.

Commenting on the success of the event, Mark Carter, acting executive editor for BBC Radio Surrey and Sussex, said: “The success of the day is down to incredible partnership working and volunteers. People work fiercely hard behind the scenes and we couldn’t do it without the Surrey Lieutenancy and Visit Surrey. To see Surrey Day trending on Twitter and hear it mentioned in the House of Commons as it was this week is phenomenal. It’s hard to believe that Surrey Day didn’t exist five years ago – it goes from strength to strength.”

This was echoed by the chair of Visit Surrey, Christine Howard, who said: “It’s been a very special day. Our county is such a hidden gem and I just love having the opportunity to highlight the many amazing characters and places we have here. Hopefully, today’s celebrations will encourage more of our residents to explore our county further in the future. A huge thank you to our tourist attractions, our partners and, of course, the public for making this Surrey Day so special.”

Each year, a particular theme is chosen for Surrey Day, and for 2023 it was the county’s waterways. Many of the activities therefore focused on the special people and places along the River Wey and the River Thames. To highlight this important part of the county’s heritage, the BBC recorded a themed podcast. This will be available on BBC Sounds for the next few weeks for those that didn’t catch it first time round. 

Several of the characters featured on the podcast were also aired on BBC Radio Surrey in the run-up to the big day. Stories covered included Michael Dennett Boat Builders, the last traditional boat builders in Surrey, who are currently renovating some of the ‘Little Ships’ made famous for their daring rescue mission during the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk in 1940. Others interviewed for the series included the longest serving Lockkeeper at Shepperton Lock, Steve Newman, who received a British Empire Medal for his services, and Chris Murdock, the owner of the Shepperton Ferry, a service that has operated almost continuously for 500 years. 

Summing up the importance of the county day, the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey, Michael More-Molyneux said: “Everybody’s been having fun and that is what Surrey Day is all about. It just illustrates how much we’ve got going in our beautiful, misunderstood, county. It’s the most forested in the country and with more greenbelt than any other county and I think we have to keep plugging away with days like today which illustrate just how much Surrey has to offer.”

Surrey Day is a collaboration between Visit Surrey and BBC Radio Surrey, Surrey Lieutenancy and Local Food Surrey.

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