The Buckland Estate comprises about 1100 acres and over 40 tenanted houses, a significant proportion of the 250 or so homes in the Parish of Buckland.
The Estate was purchased in 1654 by George Browne using wealth earned from the Wealden iron industry in Brenchley in Kent. George married his cousin, Elizabeth Browne, a daughter of Sir Ambrose Browne, who lived at neighbouring Betchworth Castle. Since that time the Buckland Estate has passed down through one family, with several changes of name, but without sale to a third party. The family names are Browne (1654-1735), Jordan (1736-1750), Beaumont (1750-1923) and Sanders (1923-date).
Following the completion of quarrying, the main activities of the Estate are real estate (principally the letting of residential properties in Buckland), the management of a small investment portfolio and low intensity farming, as well as various ancillary operations.
The Buckland Estate is owned principally by Dungates Farms Limited. Dungates Farms Limited is a private company with some 20 shareholders, all of whom are members of the Sanders family. It is run by a small team from the Estate Office in Lawrence Lane, Buckland, RH3 7BE. Its MD is Dominic Sanders who took over from his father, Adrian, in 2016 on the latter’s retirement.
Sand quarrying and the creation of Buckland Park Lake
Buckland Park Lake is a former silica sand quarry located to the south of the A25, its entrance being located opposite the junction with Lawrence Lane. A major new project for the Estate is the proposed opening of this 100 acre site to the public. Details of these proposals were presented at the village Annual Parish Meeting in March 2017 and a copy of the slides can be found here. A short update on these plans is provided below. The realisation of these proposals is of course subject to planning permission.
The Estate is keen to preserve the quarrying heritage of Buckland Park Lake. Modern day quarrying in Buckland began at the time that Buckland Sand & Silica Ltd was formed in 1925 by Robert Sanders. The business was run by the Sanders family until its sale in 1978 to Consolidated Goldfields, now Hanson plc. Quarrying at Buckland Park Lake commenced in the late 1950s and finished in 1990 though the processing plant continued to be used for washing and preparing sand produced at the final quarry, Tapwood, located to the north of the A25 behind Buckland Nurseries. Quarrying at Tapwood finished in 2014 and its restoration is expected to continue for some time to come.
It should also be mentioned that prior to being a quarry, Buckland Park Lake was the historic park land of Buckland Court. Buckland Court was sold by the Sanders family and converted into five separate dwellings in the 1940s.
Buckland Park Lake
Buckland Park Lake comprises some 50 acres of water within a site totalling 100 acres. Landscaping around most of the site was completed in 1990 once quarrying had finished and the forestry around the lake is therefore mature. It also contains areas of ancient woodland and the Surrey Champion field maple – the largest recorded field maple in the county. Some 62 species of bird-life have been observed on the site in the first eight months of 2017.
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Reviews by tourism consultants and feedback from visitors suggest that the unique selling point of the site is its tranquil, unspoilt atmosphere and natural feel. The Estate’s aim is to preserve this ambience by opening Buckland Park Lake on a controlled basis and this is reflected in the draft planning application which the Estate hopes to submit shortly. The main activities envisaged for Buckland Park Lake are as follows:
- walking and bird watching
- fly fishing, through the Estate’s existing fishing club
- open water swimming, paddle-boarding and similar other outdoor activities
- outdoor weddings and events on the events lawn on the peninsula and
- the opening of a café on the tip of the peninsula overlooking the lake.
It is hoped that the site will be used for community events and the Estate wishes to promote an annual, discounted “Friends of Buckland Park Lake” ticket. For those interested, there are also likely to be volunteering opportunities.
While the site and café will generally be open all year round to walkers, it is intended that participation in other activities be primarily on the basis of club membership. During the Summer of 2017, a number of trial swimming and water events have been conducted in the lagoon area through the Surrey Hills Adventure Company. This has indicated that there is demand for swimming and paddle boarding clubs and has had the added benefit of significantly reducing unlawful trespassing, swimming and vandalism at Buckland Park Lake, a serious problem in 2016.
The Estate is sensitive to local residents’ views. In particular, independent traffic and noise surveys have been conducted as part of the planning process. The Estate welcomes feedback, whether communicated informally or through the statutory consultation process.
At the time of writing, the Estate is finalising a formal planning application. While timing will depend on the speed of progress through the planning process, it is hoped that the site will open in the Summer of 2018.
Though quarrying at Tapwood was completed some time ago, a number of issues have arisen in its restoration, most notably the erosion of parts of the quarry walls as the equipment and pumps have been removed and water levels have risen. Hanson, as tenant and operator, has undertaken considerable work to mend the main cavity in the middle of the south quarry wall and it is likely that once final water levels have stabilised, further regrading and landscaping of other parts of the site will also be necessary. It is likely to take quite some time for the water levels to find their final level.
Trespassing and criminal damage
Unfortunately, these delays have resulted in Tapwood capturing the attention of young people on social media, resulting in persistent unlawful incursions and unauthorised swimming. Aside from the trespassing and criminal damage suffered from break-ins, unsupervised quarry swimming is extremely dangerous, irrespective of the competence of the swimmer, due to the deep cold water. Additionally, Tapwood is surrounded by steep cliffs dropping directly into deep water and there are very limited exit points.
The Estate and Hanson have sought to put in place a number of measures to counter unlawful incursions. In addition to the use of the lakes for exercising by police dog units and training by the fire and water rescue service, the installation of security cameras and considerable efforts to improve fencing, Hanson have several security guards on site with dogs. The police are aware of the situation and a number of civil and criminal prosecutions are currently in prospect. Trespassing at Buckland Park Lake, while still problematic, is much reduced in 2017 following removal of remaining quarrying debris, on-going improvements to fencing and the institution of the trial water events described above.
It must be emphasised that both Buckland Park Lake and Tapwood Lake are hazardous and that there is no public right of access to or through either site.
A number of residents living near to the lakes have had to put up with disturbance as a result of this trespass. The Estate is extremely grateful for the support that many have offered and continues to encourage communication with the Estate Office if unlawful activity is observed. If criminal damage or public order issues are in evidence, residents should of course contact the police.