The North Downs and Surrey Hills have for centuries been the most important of London's lungs. It would be difficult to find an area of comparable size with such diversity, and the corresponding responses to this of plant, animal and human life, anywhere in the world. In Dr Brandon's inimitable style, this book recreates the Downs' past landscapes and examines the history of their famous Surrey products: Alton and Farnham hops, Dorking fowls and Banstead mutton. The exciting arena of the Kent Downs and its environs made a special contribution, spiritually, economically and culturally, to the development of early England. The author considers the leisure function of the region, which has existed for centuries, tracing its beginnings and following change and continuity to the present day. For more than 150 years the essence of the North Downs and Surrey Hills has been the way in which they counteract the urban features of noise, worry, congestion, and polluted air by their very proximity to the metropolis. From the mid-19th century the region became a residence, playground, sanatorium, health resort, field laboratory and landscape artists' open-air studio. It was also the inspiration for many ideas developed to assault materialism in cities, which was perceived as harming human values and religious experience. This interaction between what was once the world's largest city and its green girdle south of the Thames is an important theme in later chapters. This long-awaited book from a much-loved local historian shares the eloquent prose of his previous titles, and the magnificent photographs are beautifully produced. It will be warmly welcomed by all local, social and landscape historians, as well as the many people whose lives are enriched by knowing the North Downs.