Fringe Box



Guildford – From The World Down Under

Published on: 28 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 28 Dec, 2013
Innes Smith behind the bar of Ye Olde Ship Inn, St Catherine's, Guildford

Innes Smith behind the bar of Ye Olde Ship Inn, St Catherine’s, Guildford

By Innes Smith

I was an 18-year-old Australian on a gap year in England and I needed a job.

For four weeks, while mooching around London, I had lucked out but then I spotted an opportunity in a place called Guildford, so I jumped on a train.

My first encounter with the town was not auspicious. Walking out of the train station I found myself traffic-wrecked on the island that is the Guildford one way system.

Seemed that I was the wrong side for the Portsmouth Road. But eventually like Captain Cook I found the right course and I wasn’t even late for my interview, which went well enough to land me a job working at Ye Olde Ship Inn in St Catherine’s, on the southern edge of the town.

Job secure, I decided I should explore my new temporary home a little. So before returning to the station I took a stroll up the High Street.

Sunlight can have a magical effect: even in an English winter. It did that February day. The scene captured my attention, completely. I was transfixed. Those of you familiar with the scene probably take it for granted but you shouldn’t. Guildford High Street is essentially beautiful.

After returning from a trip away to see a friend in nearby Somerset there was a large amount of snow about. The threat of no summer was deeply embedded on everyone’s mind. But they need not have worried.

Eventually the gorgeous Guildford summer recaptured that first moment I had in late winter. The stroll into town along the river and over the lock to see large amounts of people sprawled on the grass is a warming site of the fundamental community spirit.

In many ways it reminds me of my home town of Bathurst, New South Wales, down under. It has a basic town centre with everything else expanding out. However Guildford is larger and so the intensity is far greater.

For instance, there’s the old fashioned cobbled High Street [Cobbles cobber! They’re granite setts, don’t you know! Ed] and the shop fronts on either side.

Guildford also has far superior events such as a first class cricket. I was able to walk down to Woodbridge Road and watch one of my childhood heroes and national champion Ricky Ponting turn out to play cricket for Surrey.

Now almost a year later, the most common question that I have asked myself is, “Is it different compared to the lifestyle in Australia?” Strangely my answer is, “No”. Despite all the stereotypes that are played on so much, Australia is derived from English or British culture.

The social drinking culture that Englishmen see as Australian is no different to England. The pub socialising is much the same. It then goes further from this to the sense of humour, the idea of giving banter as fun is very much the same. Guildford is no different.

One of the most attractive things of Guildford, I have found, is it’s age and depth of history. The iconic castle is merely a start. St Catherine’s Chapel, and even my workplace Ye Olde Ship Inn are both far older than Australia itself.

It’s a fascination that for me raises questions of the people who once walked along the paths that I currently walk. I think it’s probably something largely taken for granted by the locals.

Anyway, for this Aussie working holidaymaker, Guildford, only a short trip from London but where in just a five minute walk I can remove my self from the closed in nature of the town and walk for miles along wooded paths or open fields, has turned out to be an ideal location.

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