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Surrey Heath covers 36.5 square miles in north west Surrey and is a mix of urban and rural environments. It combines a vibrant economy with an attractive environment and, statistically, is the second safest district in the safest county in England and Wales.
The urban part of the Borough comprises Camberley and Frimley, extending to Deepcut, Mytchett and Frimley Green with other centres of population in Windlesham, Bagshot, Chobham, Bisley,West End and Lightwater. The Borough shares boundaries with Guildford, Runnymede and Woking in Surrey, Rushmoor and Hart in Hampshire and Bracknell Forest, Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire and is part of the Blackwater Valley sub region. Much of the rural area is within the Green Belt and includes extensive areas of heath and woodland.There are five sites of Special Scientific Interest in the Borough four of which are part of the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area of European importance as a habitat for certain endangered bird species.
Underneath Surrey Heath's modern and thriving exterior lies a historic Borough much removed from the busy and bustling atmosphere of today.
The heathland itself is thought to result from over-grazing in Neolithic times, with evidence of Neolithic activity found in Bagshot, Lightwater and Frimley and the discovery of Bronze Age burial mounds in West End. Excavations in Lightwater have also revealed a Romano-British site that continued to be occupied into the Saxon period.
By the Middle Ages, the general area was part of Windsor Forest, then a royal hunting ground and references to a royal park at Bagshot appear from 1486.
In 1635, Charles I issued a proclamation from Bagshot Park extending the postal service Royal Mail, formally used for state documents, to the public.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the area known as Bagshot Heath stretched as far as Blackwater and was a haunt of notorious highwaymen. The main road from London to Salisbury and Exeter, which ran through Bagshot, made it a prosperous village and by the 1790s there were more than 11 inns serving the coaching trade. The sandy heathland soil was later found to be well-suited to growing rhododendrons and azaleas and, from the 19th century, some notable nurseries developed around West End, Windlesham and Bagshot.
In 1853 a large military camp assembled on Chobham Common. Known as the Great Camp, it became something of a tourist attraction and the troops were inspected by Queen Victoria. After the Queen's death in 1901, the War Office presented the village with a cannon to commemorate the occasion. Its replacement may be seen at the top of Chobham High Street today.
When the authorities were looking for a permanent home for the new Royal Military College (now RMA Sandhurst) an isolated site near the river Blackwater was chosen. As the College grew a small settlement, later known as Yorktown, sprang up at its gates. With the establishment of the Staff College in 1862 came a new settlement, initially called Cambridge Town. However in 1877, to avoid confusion with the University town of Cambridge it changed its name to Camberley.
As its military character grew, Camberley became a popular area for retired army officers. This, together with the fact that from the late 19th century the air was recommended for those suffering from lung complaints, meant that by the early 20th century it had become the largest town in the district, a position further accentuated by the advent of the M3 motorway in 1973.