A small band of Surrey Tree Wardens and their supporters (and one dog) gathered on 27th November in the carpark of The Percy Arms at Chilworth. They were warmly wrapped against the freezing temperatures with many wearing thermals and one hardy soul in just a sports jacket!
Adam Owen led us off down a footpath to the site of the Gunpowder Mills. These are spread over several acres. As methods of producing gunpowder evolved the processes moved along the bank of the Tillingbourne stream. In many places there is little to see at present with the original buildings lying ruined beneath layers of earth, leaves and invading trees and shrubs. Guildford Borough Council intends to clear this back as much as possible with trees that threaten the remains being removed. The conservation work is anticipated to be spread over the next twenty years. We were able to admire the enormous grind stones that had been used to grind the powder and the excavations that were made to protect against the all too likely possibilities of premature explosions.
We walked through the site to a lane where we enjoyed champagne and cake to celebrate 20 years of Tree Wardening in Surrey. In view of the temperatures the drink needed no extra cooling!
We then trekked to higher ground to see the earthworks which were used to store the gunpowder and on to the most recent section where a German company had built high brick and concrete bays for the production processes. The site finally closed in 1920.
Many birds and animals (including dormice) have taken advantage of the abandoned site to flourish and this has been encouraged by the installing of many nest boxes.
We were all impressed by Adam’s grasp of the past usage of the site and the vision for the restoration.
The chilly band returned to the Percy Arms for warming soup and lunch.
Further information on the site can be found on the web by putting Chilworth gunpowder mills into a search engine.