Latest information on COVID-19 from Chris Grayling MP

Dear constituent
I am writing with some further information about the coronavirus crisis. Some of you may be receiving one of these updates from me for the first time. I have been circulating them as widely as possible during the last few weeks. If you do not want to receive them, please use the unsubscribe link at the bottom.

Firstly, you may be aware that the new NHS track and trace system has been introduced this week. This is designed to allow the NHS to contain the virus while the lockdown is eased off in the coming days.

The explanation of how it works is here

You will also be aware that a number of changes are coming to the way things work starting on Monday. These include some children returning to school and allowing small groups of up to six people to meet outside.

For those who have raised the issue of dentistry with me, local dentists will be able to start working again on the 8th of June.

More details are here

The full guidance will appear shortly and can be found here

I have been asked what all of this means for people over the age of 70. In fact there has never been an instruction for people over the age of 70 to isolate, though if you are of this age you should take extra care. But the new rules will apply to people of all ages, who will be free to meet a small group of friends and family outside, unless they remain instructed by the NHS to shield themselves because of a serious health condition. I know this latter point is very frustrating for those affected, and I hope it will be possible to change the guidance shortly. But it is thought to protect those most at risk from the virus.For anyone in need of help via the County helpline this weekend, the opening hours have changed and it will be open from 10am-12pm. The weekday opening between 8am and 6pm remain unchanged.

The number to call is 0300 200 1008.A number of you have contacted me about garden waste collections in Reigate and Banstead. I have spoken to the Council but I am afraid that they do not expect to be able to start the regular collections before July because of staffing issues. I will let you know if I hear that this has changed.
However the Surrey recycling centres are already open for garden waste. They will also reopen on Monday for more materials, including wood, scrap metal, small electronics and white goods. The full list of what can be taken will be available from 1 June at

I have also had questions from you about a couple of other local issues.

Firstly, I have been asked what has happened to the consultation process about the future of Epsom Hospital during the crisis. The formal consultation ended in April, and the NHS published the results of the consultation a few days ago. No firm decision has been taken yet, though, and they have a lot of work to do before it can be.

I have made clear to the local NHS leadership that I do not think they should move forward until a proper assessment has been done of likely future needs in the context of the pandemic. This includes in my view a reassessment of future bed needs and in particular critical care bed needs. I would expect more to be required. They do accept that this work needs to be done.

I will keep you posted.

Secondly, I have had some contacts from people in Langley Vale about a return to the old water supply problems during the lockdown. If you live in the area and are experiencing this, please can you let me know as I am pursuing this with Thames Water.

Best wishes

Chris Grayling



Have You Seen Oak Processionary Moth

The public is being urged to report sightings of the tree pest Oak Processionary Moth (OPM) caterpillars.

Oak Processionary Moth was first identified in London in 2006 and has since spread to some surrounding counties. The caterpillars and their nests contain hairs which can cause itchy rashes, eye and throat irritations, and should not be touched under any circumstances at any time. The greatest risk period is May to July when the caterpillars emerge and feed before pupating into adult moths.

OPM caterpillars feed on oak leaves and can increase trees’ vulnerability to attack by other pests and diseases, making them less able to withstand adverse weather conditions such as drought and floods. A government programme is in place to limit their spread from areas where they are present.

The pest is established in London and surrounding areas but the majority of the country is designated a Protected Zone, which means it is free from the pest.

The Forestry Commission, working in partnership with others, have an annual programme in place to tackle the pest, with an ongoing programme of surveillance, treatment and research.

Andrew Hall, Forestry Commission Operations Manager, said: “At this time of year, many people are enjoying green spaces and it’s really important for the public to be aware of the risk of tree pests like Oak Processionary Moth and to report any sightings via our Tree Alert website or by calling the Forestry Commission. This will help us with our programme of treatment and enables us to slow the spread of this pest.”

Any sightings should be reported to the Forestry Commission via its Tree Alert online portal. Alternatively, people can email [email protected] or call 0300 067 4442.

Since 2012, the government has invested more than £37 million in tree health research; this includes a dedicated programme of research on oaks and the pests that threaten them, such as Oak Processionary Moth.

The Government has also introduced tighter biosecurity checks at the border, and in 2019 introduced further restrictions on the import of oak trees to England following a number of interceptions of the pest.

How to identify OPM caterpillars

Nests are typically dome or teardrop-shaped, averaging the size of a tennis ball. They are white when fresh, but soon become discoloured and brown. The caterpillars have black heads and bodies covered in long white hairs which contain proteins which can cause itchy rashes, eye, and throat irritations. They can also occasionally cause breathing difficulties in people and pets, so should not be touched under any circumstances.

For more information on how to identify OPM, including common mistaken species, visit

Highway grass cutting instigates debate

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council is now well into the highway grass cutting programme after the start of the grass cutting season was interrupted because of Covid-19.

Due to the recent sunshine and rain, the grass has grown rapidly and has become very long in some areas.  Council teams are working as quickly as possible to complete the first cut, but due to the length of the grass this is taking longer than usual. 

The resumption of grass cutting has prompted a range of strongly held views by local residents.

On one side are people who want to see the grass cut either because they strongly believe the uncut grass is detrimental to how the borough appears or because they suffer from hay fever and other allergies exacerbated by grass pollen. On the other side there is a growing number of residents robustly calling on the council not to cut the grass as often or as rigorously in order to encourage, wild flowers, pollinators and wildlife.

Councillor Neil Dallen, Chair of the Environment and Safe Communities Committee, said “we always get feedback when we start cutting the grass and this year’s views have highlighted the positive shift in thinking that has been taking place about the importance of protecting the environment and promoting biodiversity.”

The borough council usually cuts the verges up to twelve times a year.  Four of these are paid for by Surrey County Council as the local highway authority. The additional cuts are carried out by the borough, as in previous years residents have been keen to have short, neat verges. 

This year the council has received many requests to keep the verges longer as people have enjoyed seeing the emergence of wildflowers particularly along some of the more rural verges.

Councillor Dallen added “The council already do a lot to maintain and enhance biodiversity within the borough and we recognise that the roadside verges are often home to a wide range of plants, insects and other animals.  With this in mind, we are currently investigating ways to improve highway verge biodiversity in future years.

Britain’s smallest butterfly, the Small Blue, is back in Ewell

Rising from the rubble, Britain’s most bijou butterfly makes comeback on North Downs

Rising from the rubble of a derelict sports ground, Britain’s smallest butterfly, the Small Blue, is making a comeback at Surrey Wildlife Trust’s newest nature reserve, Priest Hill near Epsom, and across 20 sites in the North Downs between Guildford and Dorking.

Since 1979, the Small Blue has declined by 34% (UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme 2018) across the UK, however at Priest Hill, the butterfly’s population has exploded from a count of zero to hundreds over recent years.

Just seven years ago the site was part of a housing development proposal for an abandoned sports ground, full of derelict buildings covered in graffiti and large areas of tarmac. But now, thanks to Surrey Wildlife Trust, the reserve has been transformed into a home for the Small Blue butterfly.

 In 2013 the Trust worked with developers of a small housing estate to include a new nature reserve as part of its proposal. The developer funded the removal of thousands of tons of tarmac and rubble from the site, revealing a layer of chalk and the possibility of a new grassland habitat and wildflower nature reserve.

The Small Blue has a wing span of just 20-30mm and despite the name, the butterfly’s upper wings are almost black in colour, with a delicate silvery-grey underwing. The butterfly lives and breeds on patches of sheltered chalk grassland where Kidney Vetch is found. These yellow flowers are the only food the Small Blue caterpillar will eat.

Developers continued to fund the Trust to manage the reserve and in 2014 Surrey Wildlife Trust seeded the Kidney Vetch at Priest Hill from nearby Howell Hill nature reserve and since then, this tiny butterfly has gone from strength to strength.

Andrew Jamieson, Project Development Manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: “There were no Small Blue butterflies at Priest Hill in 2014, but during the regular monitoring carried out at the site, at least 10 were counted in 2016, around 78 the following year and by 2018 their numbers had exploded to 242.

“In 2019 112 Small Blue butterflies were counted on the reserve, but numbers do fluctuate from year to year and due to wet weather last June, they were down from 2018 but up from 2017. 2020 should be a bumper year as the weather is fine.

“Priest Hill is a phoenix from the flames success story and a really important reserve for creating green pathways for nature’s recovery across the landscape. It has transformed an area which used to attract antisocial behaviour into a wonderful nature reserve for local residents to enjoy.”

The success of the Small Blue at Priest Hill has also led to Surrey Wildlife Trust working with the wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation to support their Surrey Small Blue Stepping Stones project, which aims to boost the Small Blue butterfly numbers across the North Downs.
The two year Butterfly Conservation project created butterfly habitat across 20 sites in the North Downs, including the Surrey Wildlife Trust nature reserves West Hanger, Netley Plantation, Hackhurst Down, Brockham Quarry, Betchworth Quarry and Sheepleas.

Butterfly Conservation Project Officer, Fiona Haynes, said: “Working together is the best way to help this butterfly and Priest Hill is a fantastic reserve which is abundant with Kidney Vetch – the only food plant of the Small Blue caterpillar.

“Because of this, we used Priest Hill as a Kidney Vetch donor site and collected enough seed to use at 10 other locations between Guildford and Betchworth, which is amazing.

“While the Surrey Small Blue Stepping Stones project finished in July 2019, a dynamic group of Butterfly Conservation volunteers are still continuing the good work along the North Downs. 

Happy Silver Anniversary To Epsom Canine Rescue

On 25th May, Epsom Canine Rescue will celebrate their 25th anniversary. Their principal role is the rescue and re-homing of unwanted dogs in the local area, homing between 40 and 60 per year.  

As a small rescue charity, they are often contacted to take elderly dogs or those suffering from a medical condition which require long term fostering and lifetime financial support, and currently have six in their care.

All activities are carried out on a purely voluntary basis and financed solely by self-generated funds, sponsorship of one of their elderly dogs and donated contributions with work being carried out by handful of dedicated volunteers in their spare time. Of course, fundraising is very difficult at present, with all this summer’s fundraising events unable to take place.

Epsom Canine Rescue have been running online events and even a virtual dog show but would really appreciate any help you can give. Donations of food or toys can be made to volunteers in Epsom Downs or Bletchingley and they have a JustGiving page CLICK HERE

You can also get updates on their website at or you can follow them on their Facebook page


Accessing Green Spaces Safely

Coronavirus – guidance on accessing green spaces safely from the Government.

This guidance sets out the key principles of enjoying the benefits of being outside, while protecting yourself and others from coronavirus.

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others outdoors is considered to be low as long as people maintain social distancing.

In England you can leave your home to exercise and spend time outdoors for recreation.

When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration.

In England, you can now:

  • spend time outdoors, including exercise, alone, with your household, or with one person who is not in your household as long as you stay two metres apart
  • exercise more than once a day
  • take part in other outdoor sports and activities, including fishing – on your own, with your household, or with one other person while adhering to social distancing rules
  • drive to outdoor open spaces, including beaches and beauty spots, irrespective of distance – you should travel in a private vehicle, alone or with members of your own household
  • visit gardens and land maintained for public use as an alternative open space to spend time outdoors, although buildings and amenities such as cafes will remain closed and access may be limited to members or those with tickets to ensure social distancing. You should check ahead and follow social distancing guidelines
  • go swimming in either lakes or the sea as part of daily exercise provided that social distancing guidelines are observed – you cannot use public indoor and outdoor pools
  • all forms of water sports practiced on open waterways, including sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, surfing, paddle-boarding and the use of privately-owned motorised craft (in line with the guidance issued by the relevant navigation authority) are allowed – you can continue to use towpaths for walking, running and cycling, being mindful of other users and people living in boats along the water

There are no restrictions on how far you can travel to get to the countryside. However you should not stay overnight. Campsites and caravan parks are closed and you cannot visit a holiday or second home.

To stay safe, you must:

  • take hygiene precautions when you are outside
  • wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors
  • keep at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household at all times
  • take hand sanitiser with you when you set off in case there are no handwashing facilities

Respect other people and protect the natural environment

Remember your actions can affect people’s lives and livelihoods. Take the time to read signage. Respect the measures that local authorities and site management have put in place to help ensure social distancing.

Before travelling, you should check if facilities, such as car parks, are open to visitors.

When in the countryside, follow the Countryside Code. You can do this by:

  • leaving no trace of your visit and taking all of your litter home
  • not using barbecues as they risk causing wildfires
  • keeping dogs under effective control and on a lead when you are around farm animals – read further guidance for pet owners
  • leaving gates as you find them and following instructions on signs
  • keeping to footpaths and following signs where they suggest alternative routes

Wildlife may have moved into areas where it hasn’t previously been found, including nesting birds. Land managers may have taken action to provide extra protection of wildlife. Be vigilant and comply with these protective measures to ensure you do not disrupt the local wildlife.

Advice to land managers and landowners

You will need to take account of Working safely during COVID-19 in construction and other outdoor work.

You can also draw on the government’s guidance for Safer Public Places during Coronavirus. We recognise however that some of it is more relevant for urban areas and that different approaches may sometimes be required when managing access to land in the countryside.

It may not be practical to clean regularly all gates and stiles. You can display signs at access points reminding the public of the need to take hygiene precautions and wash hands regularly. Land managers may also wish to consider tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.

Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way or open access land. However, in circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following measures:

  • temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools
  • offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained
  • where footpaths are narrow and it is difficult as a result to abide by social distancing guidelines you may wish to consider putting up signage warning people

Further information

Please see the latest government guidance on social distancing. The Cabinet Office has also published the following: Coronavirus outbreak FAQs: what you can and can’t do.

Please be aware that if you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19) or at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus, then you should stay at home. See the latest guidance from Public Health England.

Epsom & Ewell Council needs your help

Residents’ Communications Survey – we need your help!

Epsom & Ewell Borough Council has launched a short communications survey, designed to help it communicate better with residents throughout the borough.

“In our Four Year Vision, we said that we wanted to create greater choice and control of how people engage with council services,” said Councillor Eber Kington, Chair of the Strategy and Resources committee at the council.

“We also set out an ambition to transform the way we engage with borough residents.

“This survey is an important first step in delivering those outcomes and I would like to thank everyone who takes part.  What you tell us will help to shape the way we keep you up to date with important news from the council, as well as our borough’s extraordinary potential as a creative, vibrant and prosperous place.”

The council is keen to hear from residents throughout the borough who can complete the survey online, and who can help to complete it on behalf of non-digitally connected residents.  The communications survey can be completed anonymously or, for those who want to be kept updated with the findings, there is an option to submit their email address along with their answers.

The survey will be open until Friday 3rd July and can be completed on the council’s website Please Click Here   

The Council’s Four Year Vision can be downloaded Please CLICK HERE  


Message from Chris Grayling MP for Epsom & Ewell

Dear constituent

I am writing to you with a further update on the Coronavirus crisis.


As you may have seen, testing is now to be extended to everyone in the UK over the age of 5 who develops symptoms of the virus. Key workers will still be given priority but if you feel unwell you are now able to get a test – though it will, I suspect, take a few days for the new system to bed in.

If you are unwell and want to be tested, you need to apply via the online portal on the government website. Click Here

If you do need to be tested, you can ask for a home testing kit which will be sent to you in the post, but to be honest I suspect it is quicker and easier for most people in this area to simply book a test at the local testing centre in the main car park at Chessington World of Adventures. If you go there you will be given a test kit to use in your car, and you will be asked to take a swab from the back of your throat and another from your nose. The swabs are then sealed and sent off to a lab for testing and you will receive the result by email or text within a few days.

As yet there is no date for the introduction of the other tests which tell if you have already had the virus, but I would expect those to start being used next month.

If you do have symptoms and test positive, I would advise you to let your GP practice know.

Working Safely During Coronavirus

As Britain gets back to work after the lockdown, you might want to check the guidance for employers and employees about how to handle the current challenges if you are concerned about the way social distancing is being managed in your workplace. For more details Click Here.

Likewise for anyone wanting to know more about the proposal to bring some more pupils back into schools in June, for the latest published guidance Click Here.

No final decision on whether to go ahead with this will be taken until a few days before, when it is clear what is happening to infection rates.

Food Boxes

Apologies. When I highlighted the food boxes now available from ASDA, I didn’t realise that the web address they had given me had a typo. The boxes can now be accessed through the main ASDA website.

If you are one of those who are receiving Government food boxes because you are shielding and are worried that they are about to end as the lockdown starts to ease, don’t be concerned. These will be continuing for the time being. I will let you know if I am aware that this will change. 

Country Car Parks

For those of you taking regular exercise, most car parks are now open at local beauty spots and many of the nicest walking areas are still pretty empty – as I have found in recent evenings. So it’s easy to go a little further afield than you have been.

Local Charities

In these updates I have been highlighting the work of local charities during the crisis. This time I would like to thank local Rotary Clubs for what they are doing. For example the Epsom Rotary Club has just donated a number of tablet computers for patients at Epsom Hospital so that they can keep in touch with home more easily. Thank you to them and to all the other charities doing important work at this difficult time.

Best wishes

Chris Grayling

For the full list of government guidelines and advice Click Here

How To Contact Chris:

Email: [email protected]

Constituency Office: +44 (0)1372 271 036

Address: 212 Barnett Wood Lane, Ashtead, Surrey, KT21 2DB

Update from Epsom Rotary

We are pleased to announce that  Epsom Rotary Club continues to do its’ bit in the fight against Covid-19.

After recent consultations with those working on the Covid-19 frontline at Epsom District Hospital a range of equipment was identified that would help the patients and staff cope a little better with this traumatic ordeal. 

It is so important to the morale of covid-19 patients that they keep in contact with their families and friends whilst they are in isolation. So we have recently purchased five tablets for this purpose. It also means that when the pandemic is over they will be available to be used by patients who are in hospital for other reasons.

Having rushed through the ordering and then the engraving of the five tablets Ronnie Smith, President of Epsom Rotary Club, visited the IT department of Epsom Hospital to hand them over.  The tablets will be issued two to a ward – another donor had also given some.

The photograph shows Ronnie in the middle and Sasha Phillips on the left and Nasreen Sheil-Panchoo on the right. Further equipment is being purchased so look out soon for more updates from Epsom Rotary Club.

Racing Welfare launches 2020 Mental Health Awareness Week campaign

Racing Welfare has outlined plans for its 2020 Mental Health Awareness Week campaign, beginning on Monday 18th May.  The week is a national initiative run by the Mental Health Foundation which runs through until Sunday 24th May.  Racing Welfare leads racing’s response to the campaign, which this year has been taken fully digital by the charity due to Covid-19. 

Mental Health Awareness Week aims to bring mental health to the forefront of people’s minds, encouraging them to think of their own wellbeing and those of others around them, and to promote open conversations on the subject.  The campaign also seeks to raise awareness of the mental health support available through Racing Welfare and how this can be accessed. 

 Tying into the Mental Health Foundation’s theme of Kindness for this year, Racing Welfare is undertaking ‘7 Days of Kindness’, whereby the charity will be publishing case studies and advice on subjects such as helping others, undertaking Mental Health First Aid training, self-care and combatting loneliness.  This will be delivered through content across its social media platforms and website.  Racing Welfare has also linked up with industry stakeholders to gather their support for the campaign, all of whom will be coming together to spread the message to their own followers.

 Racing Welfare’s Chief Executive, Dawn Goodfellow, said: “Mental Health Awareness Week is a hugely important campaign for us and the industry as a whole and we are proud to lead the initiative on behalf of racing again this year.  We’ve had to adapt our delivery of it this time but our aim of making it easier for people to talk about how they are feeling has not changed. 

“Mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever in light of the uncertain times we are currently facing.  I hope that the week raises awareness of the help available through Racing Welfare and that anyone in need of support feels able to get in touch with us.  I’d like to thank all of our industry partners for their backing of the campaign; I believe it sends a very strong message of support to all who work within racing.”

Susannah Gill, Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs at UK Tote Group, commented: “We all recognise the incredibly valuable work of the Racing Welfare team in looking after racing’s workforce. We hope Mental Health Awareness Week is another opportunity to shine a light on the importance of good mental health and, most crucially, Racing Welfare’s services which are available to everyone in racing.”

Paul Swain, Brand & Experience Manager at the Racecourse Association, too stressed the importance of the support available through Racing Welfare, saying:  “Promoting positive mental health is a year-round role and the Racecourse Association is incredibly grateful to have a resource like Racing Welfare to call upon for support, particularly given recent events. Our mental health first aider, accredited thanks to a Racing Welfare course, has been invaluable.

“We are proud to support Racing Welfare’s 7 Days of Kindness campaign as part of the wider Mental Health Awareness Week and will continue to work closely with the charity to highlight the range of services which are available to all within the sport.”

Follow Racing Welfare’s Mental Health Awareness Week on social @Racingwelfare or visit the website

Racing Welfare

Racing Welfare is the only charity that supports all of racing’s people – including stud, stable and racecourse staff, alongside those working in associated professions – from their recruitment right through into retirement. The charity provides a wide range of advice and guidance services, all of which are completely confidential and non-judgmental.  Support is available for a wide range of life’s challenges, including physical health, mental health, bereavement, careers advice, housing, money advice, illness, addiction, relationships and retirement. Racing Welfare’s services are nationally accessible with offices in all of the main racing centres and roving Welfare Officers covering the whole of the country. 

The charity owns 164 units of accommodation across the UK, with a focus on providing housing for young people working in racing and those who have retired from the industry which are managed by its housing arm, Racing Homes.

Racing’s Support Line, a multi-channel support platform, allows people to contact the charity online as well as through a 24hr telephone line.  


Racing’s Support Line: 0800 6300 443

Online self-help resources:

Racing Welfare Covid-19 Emergency Appeal Just Giving Page;