On Saturday, I took it upon myself to explore Guildford. I’ve been in and out of the town centre, but usually limit my visits to a couple of streets that have the shops I’m looking for. This time, I widened my net considerably.
I started in the city centre, wandering familiar streets. I stopped at Kokoro, a small Japanese restaurant that has sushi as well as bowls of meat and rice. I opted for the “small” serving of Chicken Katsu Curry (which was actually quite a portion!) for takeaway. I walked with my food to Guildford Castle and found a cozy little bench to sit and eat on. After finishing my food (and getting dive-bombed by a bee), I explored the castle grounds. There were so many pleasant areas to sit and enjoy your surroundings! I found an old gazebo, and a sculpture of Alice passing through the looking glass to the world beyond. It turns out that the house Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) kept his husbandless sisters in was on that same bit of property. I read the plaques and then wandered out toward a sign that said “Guildford Nature Trail.”
I walked along the left side of the road. I happened upon a dark, semi-hidden area. There was a small staircase that led up to paths going in opposite directions. The left-hand path seemed to go back in the direction I came from, so I took the right-hand path. Both looked like they’d been untraveled for years; there were overgrown plants at my feet and 5-inch-high scatters of autumn leaves.
I felt like I was in the movie Spirited Away (my favorite movie) and had happened onto a magical roadway. I kept going, a bit scared because I had no idea where the path would lead. I came out into a neighborhood. To my right, the path led to the main roadway; I could have gone back the way I came. To my left was a sidewalk that went deeper into the neighborhood I’d found myself in. Ahead was a dead-end street. I took the dead-end street because it was bright and beautiful. I met a pair of dogs and their owner on the way. A Golden Retriever and a black mutt. They were gorgeous, and made me miss my bad little cat-babies so much ❤
At the end of the street was a curve that looked like a cul-de-sac. I walked to the edge and my breath left me. I was at the lip of a field that looked endless.
My mind was blown — I’d found exactly what I’d been wanting to find since I got here. I hovered on the outskirts of the field, thinking there was no way I could get closer to it. Then I saw a couple heading towards me from the middle of it. They were on a footpath. I looked to my right and found the entrance.
Dazed, I stepped onto the path. I passed the couple, nodded, and smiled. I was amazed by how beautiful everything was. I felt like Elizabeth Bennett. I gazed all around me and thought for the first time, “I’m living in England. I can’t believe it.”
I had to be traveling some mystical lane that would transport me to Hogwarts, the Shire, the Twilight Zone — anywhere but the place I’d been living up until that point. Before reaching the neighborhood that led me to this footpath, I actually passed a bike trail on the right side of the road. There were so many people on it that I decided to skip it. I’m so glad I did! While there were tons of people on that path, I only met 3 sets of people (and pets) on this one: the couple I saw at first, a family of at least 3 generations, and a woman & her dog. I asked the last person I ran into where the trail let out as her dog happily rested her front paws on my chest. She said if I followed the path she had taken to get there, I’d be back where I’d started in about an hour. The other path in the fork led to the edge of the field and another town altogether. She said continuing through the fields would take me to a narrow country lane (and that I should be careful of passing cars) if I chose to follow the trail all the way across the field to the end. I’d already come this far, so I decided to continue on rather than turn back.
I ended up on a path that made me feel like I was fleeing the Nazgûl.
It was wonderful.
When I got out onto the road, I kept close to the edges so as not to be run down by a car. An old woman from a farm started walking in front of me and disappeared onto a wooded footpath. At first I passed it by; but after being confronted by a slew of automobiles, I backtracked. I went down the path the old woman had apparently taken, but didn’t see any sign of her. I walked ahead and followed the trail into the woods until it ended.
That set of steps were ahead of me. They were incredibly steep! The trail in the second picture was behind me. I felt so accomplished when I got to the top of those stairs (and too tired to move my finger away from the lens).
My mind was completely muddled by this (^) point. But I finally made it out of the woods and found the road again. I passed a house where someone was outside with her dogs. I asked her if I was headed in the right direction if I wanted to get to Guildford. She said yes, but that it would take a bit for me to get back; it was a half-hour walk. Seeing as I’d already walked I don’t know how many miles, I said I didn’t mind walking 30 minutes more to the place I was trying to get to. In the end, I made it back to Guildford with no trouble and in one piece.
It was amazing finding that path. It was exactly what I’d been wanting — exactly what I’d thought the English countryside would be like.
Right now, I’m in London exploring and looking forward to The Book of Mormon, which I’m seeing at 7:30PM. I will absolutely report back 🙂
*All photos in this post are my own!*