On July 4 I had the honour of conducting the auction of Haslemere Hogs – highly decorated sculptures of pigs that had been dotted around the town centre for three months – in aid of the mayor’s charities. Along with a selection of other lots, we raised £16,000 for good causes, as well as a tidy sum for Stepping Stones, the remarkable special needs school where the auction and reception took place, sited at Undershaw, once home to that master of detective fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
When I say that Stepping Stones is remarkable, I mean that in more ways than one.
It’s been going for more than a decade now and provides for youngsters between 7 and 18 whose acute or chronic medical conditions, mental and emotional health issues prevent them from enjoying the sort of day-to-day schooling the rest of us take for granted. Stepping Stones is a triumph in navigating a course midway between mainstream schooling and more commonly found special school curricula and, in doing so, maximises opportunity for its students both at the school and after they leave.
Its newly constricted modern building is a metaphor for this process of finding the successful middle way, sitting in the hollow beneath the Hindhead junction alongside and linked to the original house built by Conan Doyle. Somehow, the ultra modern design works with the traditional architecture – and the new build literally saved the old house in the process.