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Susie Evans

Local inspiration - Susie Evans

June 30, 2021

Local Inspiration - Susie Evans

It’s been a tough time for the wedding industry of late. As she celebrates her 10th year as a wedding planner in Surrey, Susie Evans discusses the highs and lows of the past year.

How did you become a wedding planner?

I previously worked in investment banking and insurance but knew balancing a career in finance with having a family would not be easy. So, I began looking for something that would enable me to be a mum and still work. When my husband and I got married there were no companies in the Surrey/Sussex area that helped style weddings and so that’s where the story began, wedding styling. Five or so years later, I moved into wedding planning and venue consultation and this year marks the 10th anniversary of Susie Evans Weddings Co.

What makes a good wedding planner?

You need to be organised, of course, you need to have an eye for detail and good contacts –

collaboration is most certainly key. But it’s about much more than that. It’s about really understanding your client and also being open and honest with them and their families, who are usually very involved, particularly in at home marquee weddings, which is what I specialise in. Being able to mitigate when necessary is a good skill – and that’s most definitely been put into effect this past year.

Without dwelling too much, how have you coped this past year?

We are slowly coming out the other side and there is certainly light at the end of the tunnel but it has been the hardest year ever. I have cried so many tears with couples as their hopes and dreams have been crushed multiple times ­– some of my clients have had their weddings postponed five or more times. However, the ups and downs have taught me so much and my business is stronger that it has ever been. I’ve even expanded and taken on a new member of staff, Libby, who has been a god-send plus we’ve had quite a few bookings for post-Covid marquee garden parties this summer!

What makes marquee weddings so special?

They are a completely blank canvas. You can create the day you want and are not restricted by a venue’s specific stipulations, so usual traditions can go out the window (if you want them to). They are also a real family affair. It’s really special getting married at a family home or a location that is particularly special to the couple. A marquee wedding isn’t necessarily cheaper as you are in essence creating a wedding venue from scratch, but it does allow you to have exactly what you want.

What are your top tips for a marquee wedding?

Make use of your garden space and don’t worry about obstacles you think might prevent you from having a marquee wedding at home – marquees can be built over almost anything. We’ve planned weddings where marquees have been built over swimming pools and even a ha-ha. Anything is possible. Marquee weddings are more logistically challenging though, so it’s an idea to get help to avoid extra stress leading up to the big day.

And finally, what local businesses do you like to collaborate with?

Mad Lilies in Banstead [which we showcased last month] has been a huge part of my success and has made me realise how important it is to have a friendship with my suppliers, as well as a business relationship. Other local companies who are amazing and we use time and time again to create amazing weddings for our couples are Inside Outside Marquees, Drunken Jockeys, Two Many Cooks and Caper & Berry.

Find out more:

Find out more about Susie Evans Weddings Co services at and you can follow her on Instagram @susieevans.

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Mad Lilies

Local inspiration - Mad Lilies

June 30, 2021

Local Inspiration - Mad Lilies

A queen of collaboration, Alison Howe, of Mad Lilies in Banstead, loves nothing more than supporting local businesses and was recently awarded for her efforts with a national High Street Hero award. In the latest of our Local Inspiration series we find out how she got into floristry, what it’s been like for the industry over the past year and why flowers are such a wonderful addition to a home.

How did you become a florist?

Flowers are a big part of my heritage – my late mum and grandmother owned a floristry business in Belfast together when I was growing up – but it wasn’t until I was in my mid-forties that I began to wonder if I too had the floristry gene.

I previously worked in sales and marketing for pharmaceutical but after my mother died in 2011, I decided to enrol in a floristry course with Jane Packer, and five minutes in, I knew I too had to forge a career in flowers.

Why Banstead?

Starting from scratch aged 44 was not going to be easy so I decided it was best to find an established business to buy, which I could then take in the direction I wanted. Easier said than done – the search took a long time.

But, then I got a call about a business that was up for sale in Banstead, called Mad Lilies. Living in London, I had no idea where Banstead was but my grandmother’s name was Lily so it felt like a sign and, following a four-month handover, I took the keys in February 2013.

 My husband Darren and I moved into a renovated pub in the Surrey countryside and have never looked back. We love all Surrey has to offer, as do our dogs Duffy and Dougal, and you’ll often find us foraging for foliage, berries and flowers in the countryside.

Tell us about your recent High Street Hero award…

The Small Awards is organised annually by Small Business Britain, which champions, inspires and accelerates small businesses in the UK across all sectors. We found out we’d been shortlisted along with four other businesses for the High Street Hero category in April.  On May 13 there was a virtual ceremony and I was surprised at my door with the award and a delivery of cocktails and nibbles.

We will continue working with our community to build awareness of the high street and showcase the fabulous independent businesses we have in Banstead and Surrey. We love a collaboration and not only do we see the business benefit from them but we enjoy learning and developing from other local businesses as we all evolve to meet consumer needs.

It’s an amazing accolade to have won, particularly in such a tough year…

Thank you. Yes, it’s been an incredibly tough year. The first lockdown was announced the week before Mother’s Day, which is the biggest day in the floristry calendar. Weddings were, of course also off the cards, which is a massive part of the business so we were hit hard.

But the team worked hard to get Mother’s Day deliveries out before we went into lockdown and, while the shop had to close, it soon became apparent we would be able to do deliveries and we became quite busy with orders from people gifting bouquets to loved ones they weren’t able to visit.

Like many other businesses, we diversified and created a flower subscription service, Bare Naked Stems, and we also hid jam jars of flowers across Surrey for people to find and take home as random acts of kindness. As well as flowers, we stock all sorts of lovely homeware and gifts in the shop so lockdown was also a catalyst for getting our Mad Lilies at Home collection online.

You’ve been called the Queen of Collaboration, what businesses do you enjoy partnering with and why? 

There’s something quite exceptional about the High Street’s small and independent shops in how open they are to supporting one another.

Throughout lockdown, we partnered with other Banstead businesses such as Fego, Café Chai and Louisa Grace to cross promote wherever possible. We did a Valentine’s Day meal kit with food supplied by Two Many Cooks and cocktails from the Drunken Jockeys. We also had a Tea Towel designed by Surrey Illustrator Lisa Tolley to promote all that is great about Banstead and then we worked with local illustrator Lewis Woodham, from Wood&Ham to create an illustration of our shop for our gift cards that go out with our bouquets.

We also collaborated with Gayas Cakes and Cai & Kyn on our Here’s to Hugs gift set which included a bouquet, brownies, a gift card and candle.

How do flowers enhance a home and what tips would you give people to enhance their longevity?

There’s a lot of research out there to suggest that flowers and house plants offer health benefits; they relieve stress and lift your mood. Plus, they enhance any form of celebration, however large or small. My top tips are:

  • If budget allows, buy flowers from a florist like Mad Lilies instead of a supermarket. Not only are you supporting small, local businesses but you’ll also find more unusual stems and they will last longer as the flowers will usually have been delivered to the florist that day and so haven’t already sat there for some time.
  • Always change the water (don’t just refill) and re-trim the stems every couple of days.
  • Keep the flowers as cool as possible, so don’t put near radiators or direct sunlight

Where you'll find them

84 High Street, Banstead,
Surrey SM7 2NN

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Stephenson Wright

Local inspiration - Stephenson Wright

June 30, 2021

Local Inspiration - Stephenson Wright 

Never before have we spent so much time in our own homes. Events of the past year have changed how we use our living space and will continue to influence the way we view the four walls around us for years to come. As interiors designers, Natalie Stephenson and Juliette Wright have seen first-hand the ways in which people are altering their homes to reflect the status quo. We asked them to tell us more.

What’s new in the world of interiors right now?

NS: We’ve seen a real shift in the way people are using their homes and the bar has definitely risen in terms of what people want their home to be able to achieve. We’ve seen a move from open plan to what we call ‘broken plan’, where people are looking to separate open plan living spaces to meet their new working from home environments with subtle variations, such as a different flooring, or perhaps glass sliding doors. This creates separation when required but also allows the space to be opened and fully utilised in the evenings and at weekends.

JW: The impressive ‘Zoom background’ is a new design challenge we now include within nearly every project brief; our clients want this to be appropriate yet give a hint of their personalities.

We see clients gearing up to entertain from the comfort and safety of their home. An impressive working home bar has become a fun bolt on to many of our projects at the moment with wine displays, games tables and naturally in the standard of their favourite London haunts.

What effect has the ‘Working from Home’ phenomenon had on interiors?

JW: The home office has, understandably, become very important but there is a difference in what people want from a home office and a home study. WFH means people require an office to use 9 to 5 but many people also want a space where they can read, perhaps have the laptop open, but it’s a space they would use in a more relaxed manner.

NS: While there will be a return to the office for many, there’s going to be much more flexibility in the ability to work remotely and people are realising that they will need a permanent space in their home from which they can work.

One of our recent clients wanted almost an entire floor of their home dedicated to work space, with a kitchenette and gym etc so they can keep the two sides of their lives very separate.

How is it affecting people’s purchasing decisions?

NS: More and more people are moving out to Surrey from the city because they no longer need to be there for work, which means they can afford to buy bigger homes and spend more making their home the best it can be. Seamlessly integrated AV and lighting is one of those things people seem to be spending more on, but it’s not just about practicalities – comfort really is king and bespoke furniture and upholstery is a key way to get the most out of a space.

JW: It’s our job as interior designers to get into the heads of our clients and how they live their lives to establish what ways the design of their home can not only be practical but a beautiful, comfortable space for them to enjoy.

What other local companies do you work with and recommend?

JW: We worked with Mark Kavanagh of Future Light Design and Cornflake Audio Visual on our stunning showroom, The Post House, in East Horsley, and would always recommend them. The space enables us to show clients our own furniture collection and how the different aspects of interior design can work together in a home.

NS: We collaborated with local artist Jan Erika [who has featured in a previous spotlight] on some of our pieces of furniture and would always recommend Saligo in Cobham for amazing antique mirrors. Tyson London is also a treasure trove of sculptures, lamps and rock crystals.

Natalie and Juliette’s furniture collection launches on LuxDeco this month as part of the Think Big Shop Small

Where you'll find them

The Post House, Ockham Road South,
East Horsley, Surrey, KT24 6RX.

Get in touch

To book a showroom appointment visit

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Sadie Pizzey Interiors

June 30, 2021

Local Inspiration - Sadie Pizzey

Spring is on its way and if you haven’t already used the time in lockdown to revamp your home then now is as good a time as any. In the latest in our Local Inspiration series we get some tips from Guildford interiors expert Sadie Pizzey.

Former actress Sadie has turned her passion for renovating property into a full-time career and last year, her company Sadie Pizzey Interiors was shortlisted at The International Design and Architecture Awards. Here she talks about what inspires her and offers some tips on how best to embark on an interiors project, however large or small.

How did you get into interiors?

Both my husband and I are actors, that’s how we met. He is still an actor but while I absolutely loved the job, it’s not the easiest career to have alongside a family. I’ve renovated property since my early 20s. My husband and I have bought various properties and completely gutted them and we’ve never just had one main contractor, we’ve always had to project manage every single trade and learn the structural process along the way.

From that I fell in love with both the project management side of things but also the aesthetics. So, after the final one, which is the property we live in now, in Guildford, my husband said: “Either you do it as a career or we’re going to get a divorce.” Of course, he was joking but it made sense with all the experience we’d had.

Tell us more about some of your renovations…

From my very first property purchase in Peckham, I knew I never wanted to buy something that was ‘done’. My husband and I worked on that one alone. We managed to sell that just before the crash of 2008 and bought a place in Richmond, which nobody wanted because it had subsidence, it was falling down and had cracks in the walls. But, probably being quite foolish, we thought ‘How hard can it be?’

That was a massive learning curve because we had to learn how to underpin and basically put this crumbling wreck back together. We couldn’t afford to get people in so we literally did everything, from digging holes to project managing and scheduling – the whole thing. Most people would think that was a living hell, but I loved it!

That project and the others we’ve done since have helped me understand the entire process, including the technical side of things, which is so important when working with my clients. Lots of people think interiors is just choosing pretty colours and fabrics but it’s really knowing the mechanics of everything you’re putting in and how that might influence each part of the home.

Where do you find inspiration?

I’m very passionate about the fact that our interiors should reflect us – they should be an extension of us and make us feel good about our lives. They need to be our ‘battery chargers’ – we need to be able to come home and recharge to enable us to get back out there again.

I spend a lot of time getting to know my clients. I don’t want to just provide a cookie-cutter service or just give them stuff that’s on trend. I might ask them for pictures of their favourite holidays, favourite places to visit, hotels etc to really get a feel for what they like, and then I’ll build a lot of that into their design. I personally favour modern, warm interiors with lots of texture and natural materials, but it obviously depends client to client what their preferences are.

Why should someone use an interior designer?

Running any sort of project, whether it’s a single room revamp or a whole extension, takes a lot more time and is a lot more stressful than you think it’s going to be. If you use a good interior designer it will save you time, can stop you making costly mistakes and can often save you money in the long run – we share our trade discounts with our clients for example.

What are your top tips for those carrying out their own interiors project? 

You need to have planned as much as possible before you even knock down a single wall, because once the process starts, it’s like a rollercoaster that gets faster and faster with decisions and questions being fired at you from all directions. So, my top tip is to have chosen all your materials and determined the layout of every space before you even put a spade in the ground.

And, if you’re planning on using an interior designer, don’t leave it until too late in the process. The best time to bring them in is when you appoint the architect so they can work collaboratively. There might be tweaks to the layout, such as internal door or window positions, which help the overall aesthetics of the interior design that are a lot harder to change once the building work has been done.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

Finding great people to collaborate with, whether that’s architects, builders, carpenters or wallpaper designers. That’s what interior design is really – finding all these brilliant, talented people and bringing them on to the project.

Are there any businesses you particularly like to champion? 

So many – Castello Bespoke, Andrew Morton Furniture, Clear Out Clutter, House Alice, who you’ve featured before and is also Guildford-based, Lisa Harpe Art, Andrew Meakin Home Automation, Aspire Bifolds, GSk Venetian and Plastering and we use a company called Reclaimed Design a lot. They source reclaimed wood from across the whole of the UK so it comes off barns and beaches. These most amazing pieces of timber that he sources can be turned into cladding, tables, whatever you need.

Find out more:

Sadie can be found at and on Instagram @sadiepizzeyinteriors.

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Grantley Group Ltd announces the acquisition of Prestige Lettings

June 30, 2021

Grantley Group Ltd announces the acquisition of Prestige Lettings

Part of The Grantley Group, Guildford based Property Letting and Management Company, Grantley Lettings, has acquired the Lettings and Management Agency, Prestige Lettings.  This is reinforcing its position as a premier provider of high-quality, personal property services in Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex.

Prestige Lettings was founded several years ago by Nigel Roberts and enjoys an exceptional reputation in the lettings market. This latest acquisition makes The Grantley Group Ltd one of the largest independent managing agents in this region with offices in Guildford, Haslemere, (Property Services Ltd) and Godalming (LP Lettings Ltd).

Grantley Director, Stephen Frost comments: “This is the second acquisition that this Group  has completed in as many months. Prestige Lettings enjoys a splendid reputation with both landlords & tenants which further enhances our growing agency business in the area. We welcome Nigel Roberts to Grantley and look forward to further growth throughout 2021.”

Nigel Roberts comments: “After an extensive search for the right Prestige partner, I am very pleased to announce that Grantley Lettings will now be looking after my valued client base. Their expertise and resources will further build on the outstanding level of service that our clients have come to expect. I look forward to working alongside Stephen and his team to further grow the Group’s letting business in 2021 and beyond.”

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Steve and Laura Drake of Sorrel restaurant in Dorking


June 30, 2021

Interview with Steve and Laura Drake of Sorrel restaurant in Dorking

It’s been an agonising year for the hospitality industry but the resilient team behind Dorking’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Sorrel, continues to win accolades and is fighting back with a new range of at home suppers and local business partnerships. We spoke to owners Steve and Laura Drake about how they’ve weathered the storm. 

How did the idea for Sorrel Suppers come about?

Steve: Last year when we closed, we didn’t think it would go on as long as it did. I certainly thought we’d continue to be open after the summer and everything would be okay. So initially I was resistant to the take away idea – I didn’t want to turn out something that wasn’t ‘Sorrel’ and we weren’t sure if it would be possible to recreate that experience at home. 

Laura: We also have children, who we were homeschooling, and we felt it was important to prioritise that and make the most of having Steve at home for a while. 

Steve: So, the suppers came about at New Year. The restaurant was fully booked but then we were told to close again and we had something like 200 portions of venison in the fridge, sauces, stocks etc. So, we adapted the menu and did it as a takeaway, if anything so we could work and give the team and our customers a bit of a boost because everyone was really down. We thought we might get 50 orders but ended up doing 140! 

Laura: And the feedback was just incredible – the photos people sent and comments… everyone was urging us to do more. 

What can people expect from a Sorrel Supper? 

Steve: What I hope we can bring to people’s tables at home is the skill we utilise in the kitchen at Sorrel. We work just as hard on the creative menu creation as we would in the restaurant. Some of the dishes take days to prepare, one of the sauces we provided in a recent Sorrel Supper had 25 ingredients for example, and that’s a lot for the average home cook! I didn’t want to set people up to fail at this. It’s really important that the dishes are all Sorrel dishes but something that people can do at home relatively easily. We pre-poach the meat for example so all you have to do is colour it in the pan, the sauces just need to be heated through and then, of course, you can add the final finishing touches. 

Laura: After the first couple we decided to do an Instagram Live video to accompany the meal so Steve can demonstrate how to prepare the dishes and people can ask questions – it’s been really good fun and there’s been an amazing feeling of camaraderie. 

How have they been received thus far? 

Laura: The response has been amazing – each supper has sold out within 48 hours of us launching! People have been sharing pictures of their meals on Instagram and we’ve been so impressed with how they look. People are now doing zoom parties so there’s groups of 10 or so who watch Steve’s videos with a cocktail and then ‘cook together’ but individually from their own households. 

How have you been able to involve other local businesses? 

Laura: We started thinking about how else we could help recreate the ‘Sorrel experience’ at home so we ended up producing these Sorrel candles for Valentine’s, we’ve now got Sorrel aprons and bags,  we’ve also teamed up with Nest in Ripley and Cherfold Flowers in Hambledon as additional pick up points – the idea being that we hope people might then grab a coffee when they pick up their Sorrel Supper or order some flowers as a gift or to add a special addition to their tablescape. 

Steve: Everyone is struggling at the moment, so it’s nice that we’ve been able to try and involve other local businesses, particularly ones on our doorstep, and we’d love to explore ways of working with others in the future too.

What have you learnt over the past year? 

Laura: How amazing our team is. It’s been such a difficult time for them but they have all really stepped up. And our customers, who have been so supportive – when we have been open, it’s been so busy and we’ve really appreciated their loyalty. 

Steve: As a small, independent business we’re able to react quickly and make changes. I’m one of those people who’s not scared of making a mistake. Hopefully I’ve made more good decisions than bad but if I do make a mistake I try not to beat myself up, I move on and try something different. This is something I’ve learnt with experience but has been particularly useful over the past year.    

How will Sorrel look as a business once restaurants can re-open again?

Steve: It’s been an interesting year and it’s made us look really long and hard at our business model – at opening hours, staffing levels etc. I actually think that when we are able to re-open, we’re going to have a better business than when we closed last year.  

Find out more

Sorrel Suppers are available fortnightly and cost £60pp. Visit to sign up to the Sorrel newsletter and find out what’s on the latest menu and you can follow Sorrel on Instagram @sorrel_restaurant_dorking and on Facebook @SorrelRestaurantDorking 

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Liv Styler, Personal Stylist

June 30, 2021

Interview with Liv Styler, Personal Stylist

As we enter 2021 in full swing, we sat down with Liv Styler, a Surrey-based personal stylist who has some advice for boosting our mood in the winter months and lets us in on some top fashion tips! We want to continue to shine a light on the local independent businesses that make Surrey what it is and lend some character to our lives. 

Liv Styler offers a range of fashion-related services including body shape and colour analysis, wardrobe editing and personal shopping services both online and offline!

You're a qualified colour consultant; what would be your suggestions for winter wear in Surrey this year?

Try and wear some colour! It’s easy to resort to black in the winter, but wearing colour, even if it’s a bright scarf or a statement necklace, will lift your features, even your skin tone and make you feel happier. And if you feel happy, you can get through the winter! Otherwise layering is in, so pile on the jumpers and coats and you’ll also look stylish too.

We can see from your Instagram account that you wear a dazzling array of colourful outfits. Where did your love of fashion come from?

My love of fashion started with my mum who has always been super stylish and never afraid of wearing bright colours. When I was little I loved watching her getting dressed up for a night out. I wished that I could be as glamorous as her and I could always be found dressing up in whatever I could get my hands on. As a child, Mum would take me on shopping trips to Guildford - we would go to Benetton, or Tammy Girl and I could pick out an outfit. As I grew up, I tried lots of different styles and had plenty of fashion disasters, but now I love being individual and styling items my own way to get the maximum out of my clothes.

Your brand name is Liv Styler; is Liv Tyler a style icon for you?

No! (Sorry Liv!)I just wanted a fun Instagram name and I suddenly came up with Liv Styler as a play on her name, so I hope she doesn’t mind! I’m known as Olivia by my friends and family so Liv has become a bit of an alter ego!

I get a lot of my style inspiration from Instagram. I might see something I like on one of the many stylish ladies I follow, and then recreate the look in my own way.

You offer a Wardrobe Edit service, what's your philosophy behind what should stay and what should go?

It’s simple - if you love it, it fits you, it flatters you and you do a happy dance when you’re wearing it - keep it! At least twice a year, I will have a declutter of my own. I don’t have anything in my wardrobe that I don’t actually wear. I don’t have a massive wardrobe and I never store my clothes during season changes as I like to always see what I have. When you open your wardrobe you want it to reflect you and your style personality and picking outfits each day should be easy and stress-free. I love helping my clients find new combinations from their existing wardrobes which they might never have put together before. Once we have gone through every item (sorting into charity and selling bags etc), we then hit the shops to fill in the gaps, or I will send them style and outfit suggestions online.

Where do you shop locally?

The Gate Boutique is a lovely independent store in Guildford and her gorgeous sister shop, Catwalk, is in Godalming. The Shop At Bluebird in Guildford always has an excellent collection, as does Courtyard in Guildford and Quattro Rish in Reigate. I’m also a huge fan of Oliver Bonas and have been since the 1990s when they only had one store!

When you're not working, where are your favourite places to go in Surrey?

My husband and I love to take the dogs up to the top of The Mount in Guildford - the views are fantastic and on a clear day you can see across to Wembley! We also love walking around Pewley Downs and beside the river too.  We both love cooking at home, but we do enjoy a good restaurant - my favourite being The Ivy Castle View in Guildford, as the food and service are always amazing. Other favourites are De Nada in Guildford which is a fab Spanish tapas place, and The Olde Ship pub does the best wood fired pizzas. I also have a new-found love for Gail’s Bakery in Guildford, but I have had to restrict my intake of cinnamon buns to weekends only!

2020 was a tough year for local businesses, what are your hopes for 2021?

My hope is that we can start to get back to some sort of normality in 2021, with my small business slowly being able to gain some new clients who would like to start their year with a beautifully organised wardrobe and perhaps some new clothes to make them look and feel great.

Liv has a fantastic deal for anyone wanting to enter 2021 in style! Any service booked during January will be discounted by 20%! To redeem this offer or to find out more about Liv Styler visit

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Property Services Haslemere and LP Lettings merge

June 30, 2021

Property Services Haslemere and LP Lettings merge to form premier independent property partnership

Part of The Grantley Group, Haslemere-based property letting and management company Property Services Haslemere (PSHL) has merged with lettings and management agency LP Lettings, further reinforcing its position as a provider of high-quality, personal property services in Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex.

LP Lettings, based in Godalming, was founded almost nine years ago by Lisa Pollard and joins forces with PSHL, Haslemere’s first letting and property management agency, to increase its reputation as the premier independent property lettings agency in the area.

The merger coincides with PSHL’s 50th anniversary and together with sister company, Grantley Lettings in Guildford, makes the partnership one of the largest independent managing agents in the region.

PSHL/Grantley Director, Stephen Frost commented: “This exciting merger with LP Lettings brings the company’s respected and committed founder, Lisa Pollard, into the existing strong Haslemere management team alongside Shonda Underwood and Sarah Ellis. It’s a pleasure to announce this positive news as we move into a new year.”

Lisa Pollard commented: “I’m so pleased to be joining PSHL and The Grantley Group. The teams will pool their expertise and build on the outstanding service that our clients have come to expect. I’ve known Stephen Frost for many years and look forward to working alongside him and his team to further grow the group’s letting business in 2021 and beyond.”

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Inspired Textiles: House Alice


June 30, 2021

Inspired Textiles: House Alice

Christmas is fast approaching, and local businesses are going to need our support more than ever this year. Christmas shopping just wouldn't be the same without the small local businesses who pour their heart into their work and create truly unique gifts and experiences. We sat down for a chat with Alice Witheridge, an experienced textile designer, who launched her own range of products this year through her business House Alice. House Alice sells lampshades, wallpapers, notebooks, sweatshirts and more, all with Alice's original designs that are created by hand. 

How did you get involved with textile design? 

Since an early age, I have been influenced and inspired by colour and pattern. As a child, I was always making things, building things, and experimenting with different art mediums. Textiles were something I was particularly drawn to; I love the fact that you can apply art to a functional piece of fabric. I studied Textiles and Art Printing for two of my A-Levels. After leaving university with a degree in Fashion Design, I began my career as a Design Assistant for Jigsaw. From this, I moved to work for Helena Gavshon Studio, a leading London design studio. I worked part-time in-house as a Studio Coordinator which involved travelling around the world, selling, sourcing, curating client collections and working with designers on briefs. I also freelanced designed for Helena alongside this role. After having my daughter in 2014, I went fully freelance for Helena, who is still my agent today and took on other clients. This year saw me start my own extra products-based online business House Alice. 

What brought you to set up your own business?

Having designed so many prints over the years for other peoples brands, I really wanted to be able to put my name to some physical products. I love freelancing for other people and watching what they do with the designs I create, and I will continue to do this, but I wanted a little something just for me, to be able to design a product from start to finish. 

I missed designing for a product and seeing the end design, so founding House Alice was the natural next step for me. As for taking the plunge in 2020 of all years, Covid 19 has had a huge impact on projecting forward online retailers. Companies that have an online presence are going from strength to strength, and so this to me felt like a platform I wanted to get involved with. 

Where do you source your inspiration from?

My inspiration comes from a love of ethnic prints, patterns and colour; I take my influence from all around the world. I'm the daughter of hippies, so I've been heavily influenced by other cultures and travel, and this has always come through in my work. I spent a year at age three living in India, and I think all the colour and pattern there must have seeped into my bones early on! My work is a mixture of classic and trend-led prints, so my designs will evolve over time by exploring some new cultures while still having that classic grounding. I believe that art is just so important for the home, it's uplifting at this time, it really raises spirits, and so I will continue to create for years to come! 

What is your process? Do you have a studio? 

My studio is in Worplesdon; it's a lovely countryside studio in my garden. Everything starts from hand; I mainly use watercolour and a variety of techniques that lead to an assortment of styles. I experiment with traditional textiles like Shibori, batik, tie-dye, silk painting and anything I can learn to do! Once I have a hand-made piece, I scan it in and use Photoshop to finish off the designs, by putting them into repeat and tweaking elements. I then get my prints digitally printed. 

You're a Surrey-based designer, where do you recommend people visit?

I'm always inspired by Watts Gallery, I love the shop and the exhibitions they hold, I always come away inspired to create something, and there are some lovely walks in the vicinity. They also make the absolute best French Toast! Other than that there's One 40 in Cranleigh, it's an independent shop with a real collection of women's wear and stationery. I feel the High Street lacks these destination stores; they're a real hub of the community. If we are to bring back people to the high street, we need to be able to make them not so formulaic; independent shops spark curiosity, and a reason to leave the house! I also am slightly addicted to any garden centre, Secrets is a great place to spend an afternoon, and meander around the shop there as well. 

Where can we find your work?

I work a lot with social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.I'm going to be featured on soon, and I plan to start approaching local businesses. For now, if you're looking for Christmas present ideas, then the best place to purchase my work is on my website and House Alice on Etsy.

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Have a Heart Charity Christmas Sale 2020


June 30, 2021

Have a Heart Charity Christmas Sale 2020

Sunday 6th December, 10am-4pm

Old Farm Barn, Stovolds Hill, Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8LE

Helen and Peter McNiven's barn sales have raised huge amounts for good causes over the past three decades. Eighty-five charities have directly benefited with last year's sale alone raising £14,000 for those in need! This Sunday marks their 30th Christmas Sale and due to current events, support is needed more than ever. 

Helen's best known for her wonderful driftwood angels (see pictured) that are such a beautiful symbol of her generosity, and there will also be other work, including ceramics on display. All proceeds go directly to charity. 

If you are unable to visit the exhibition on Sunday 6th then appointments can be made on the 11th, 12th and 13th December 10am - 4pm, please email

Due to compliance with health guidelines, Sunday's sale will take place mainly outside with controlled access to indoor spaces. Masks must be worn, and social-distancing observed.

As the McNivens prepare for Sunday’s sale, we took a few minutes of Helen’s time to pop her some questions and learn a little more about the stories behind her driftwood angels.

Helen, tell us a little bit about your artistic background?

I have a degree in fashion design, and taught art for 20 years, firstly in Esher and then at Cranleigh Prep School. I mostly make driftwood Angels, but I also make ceramics, and when I can, I paint in oils. 

Proceeds from your barn sale go to the Have a Heart charity - what does it do? 

It all began with the first Blue Peter Bring and Buy Sale, and we raised £75. 

Thirty years on, last year, we raised over £14 000 and currently have a list of about 85 charities we support.

Your Angels are lovely, what's the backstory to them?

We had been in Tuscany on the proceeds from the publishing of 4 art books for children. In the tiny village churches, I absolutely loved the crucifixions and nativity figures, clearly made by the local carpenters who also made the pews, doors etc. On our return we were at the beach on the South coast when I found a driftwood 'Angel's head' amongst the shingle, further along the beach a wing - suddenly it all came together! I made the first Angel 26 years ago and have made hundreds since.

Where do you source your driftwood?

I love beaches, either on the South coast or in Brittany, where much of the wood comes from, but I love to gather driftwood anywhere.

Where can people see your work, purchase it, or donate directly to your charity?

At our Christmas Sale, on my Instagram @haveahearthelen, or by appointment.