ITS leafy lanes and idyllic charm have helped make it one of the most desirable places to live in Britain.
But the sordid goings-on in some of its car parks and woods have elevated one exclusive corner of Surrey to the top of a rather more unsavoury list.
The Elmbridge district, which includes the wealthy commuter villages of Claygate, Esher, Oxshott, Weybridge and Cobham, is among the most popular ‘dogging’ hotspots in the country.
Known as Britain’s Beverly Hills because of its celebrity residents, including football stars John Terry, Peter Crouch and Frank Lampard, Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood and tennis ace Andy Murray, its 37 square miles include at least ten known areas where strangers gather for sex.
Some entire counties have fewer dogging sites. For example, Norfolk has six, Warwickshire three and Sussex only two.
In total, Surrey has 93 – double the tally two years ago – making it the nation’s public sex capital, according to figures from a Freedom of Information request. Out of 222 outdoor sex sites known to police across the UK, Surrey has almost half. In addition to the ten sites in Elmbridge, Guildford has 16, Reigate and Banstead 13, and Mole Valley and Surrey Heath 12 each.
Residents complain of finding condoms, sex toys and pornographic magazines littering local beauty spots. Dominic Raab, Tory MP for Esher and Walton, said: ‘Public places, especially woods and parks, are for everyone to enjoy. Endorsing them as communal pick-up joints is wrong.
‘I’ve had complaints from women walking their dogs alone who were propositioned, and many parents don’t want to take their children anywhere near that kind of environment.’ The figures were revealed after the Mail asked police forces across the country to disclose the number of ‘public-sex environments’ (PSEs) they monitor.
Police do not officially designate areas as PSEs, but use the term to describe places commonly used for open-air sex.
In many ways, Elmbridge is the perfect community. Quality of life surveys have repeatedly found that its 130,600 residents are fitter, live longer and earn more than most other Britons. The weather is said to be sunnier there, too.
But even when it does rain, those out cruising for casual sex need not worry.
One dogging website advises that among the ‘awesome’ places to meet in the area is a ‘semi-indoor dogging site under a building on stilts so you can dog whatever the weather – amazing!!!!’.
It also gives directions to another site, described as ‘a middle class location’ where ‘all the posh couples are up for it, especially at about 10pm on Fridays’, although it warns ‘watch out for the gypsies, they can get quite violent’.
Of a third spot in the entrance drive of a Surrey golf club it says: ‘A huge amount of dogging action going on mainly Saturdays and Wednesdays.’ Dogging hit the headlines in 2003 when former Labour Welsh Secretary Ron Davies’s political career was destroyed after a newspaper caught him in a sex act with a stranger at Tog Hill near Bath, Somerset.
Mr Davies claimed he was in the picnic area ‘watching badgers’.
The following year, former England footballer Stan Collymore admitted he had become hooked on having sex with strangers in car parks.
Surrey Police said the county had a high number of sites because the force was so pro-active at monitoring them. Hampshire is in second place overall, with 30 sites, followed by Northamptonshire with 16.
It is not illegal to have sex in a public space. It becomes a criminal offence if it causes ‘alarm or distress’ to others.