Actress Dame Judi Dench, star of stage and screen has agreed to step in as a new patron of Surrey Wildlife Trust. The Oscar winning actress and local resident is helping to back a project to secure the future of Nower Wood.

This ancient woodland, in Leatherhead, has served as an education site for pupils from primary to A-Level age, as they learn about wildlife and the environment in what has become an outdoor classroom. It also offers courses in specific courses for adults as well as themed open days and fun days for children in the school holidays as the headquarters for the Education department for the Trust.

It covers approximately eighty acres of ancient woodland and lies next to a further twenty-five acres belonging to the National Trust. It is even mentioned in the Domesday Book and has been woodland ever since, consisting mainly of oaks and sweet chestnuts.

A wooden classroom building was erected on the site in 1972 and a teacher warden was appointed. Over the years the facilities have been improved and expanded to incorporate two classrooms and office facilities for the staff. The building itself uses many environmentally friendly systems, such as a wood fired boiler which circulates hot water through a conventional heating system, a grey water system for flushing the toilets and the washing water is heated by solar energy, backed up by the mains.

However, time has still taken its toll and £470,000 is now required for repairs The separate toilets often freeze during the winter making them unusable, leading to cancelled bookings and disappointed children. The improvements that the money would allow would secure the site’s use for future generations of children. Dame Judi said: "As a local Surrey resident with a love of wildlife, I'm delighted to be supporting Surrey Wildlife Trust and its Nower Wood New Build Project. "I also recognise the importance of outdoor education and the need to inspire the next generation about wildlife and conservation." So let’s hope Dame Judy can be seen kitted out in her Craghoppers Jacket; now that would be a sight to see.