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Letter: Thank You Guildford – From A Former Resident

Published on: 5 Dec, 2013
Updated on: 5 Dec, 2013

Guildford gen letterFrom Graham Hughes

My wife and I recently spent a weekend in Guildford, we were meeting with old friends and my wife needed to find an outfit for a wedding later in the month.

Both of us are ‘children of Guildford’ having been at school in Merrow and lived in the area, so it was interesting to visit and see how Guildford has developed in the last thirty years.

We stayed at the Radisson Blue hotel at the top of the high street, ideal location with easy parking. We drove to the area believing we knew it well and discovered it had changed a lot – for the better.

There was an interesting modern entertainment centre (G Live) that looked welcoming and bright where once there had been the ugly 60’s ‘Civic Hall’. There was an attractive set of apartments where once there had been the Odeon cinema. There were eateries and coffee shops nearby and the overall impression was one of vitality, cleanliness and variety.

Neither of us is a shopper, we would say we ‘hate it’, so approached the chore on Saturday morning with limited enthusiasm. However, our stroll down the High Street, into the side passages and alleys, returning up North Street, proved delightful. Why, we asked ourselves?

We were making comparisons to our local city and continuously commented that Guildford (the two main streets at least) looked clean, cared for and up-to-date with old and new sitting relatively well together. Some of the shops we remembered from our childhood and they seemed to have stood the test of time, whilst other new ones were interesting and well presented.

Initially we focused on women’s clothing shops. We found the various shops we visited were staffed with nice people who engaged pleasantly and were helpful without being intrusive. Consequently we were successful early on finding an ideal outfit for my wife. Normally we would have stopped shopping after this success, but felt motivated to stroll and browse in various shops for the morning.

There was an interesting mix of retailers that presented themselves well in terms of looks (attractive and inviting entrances and windows) and fulfilled their promise with pleasant and welcoming staff. We found ourselves spending on a range of goods and prices, from fun Christmas gift novelty items to specific household items and additional clothing. Interestingly, it had not been our plan to ‘shop’ but the ease of access and quality of the environment motivated us to do so.

We enjoyed a pleasant and relaxing lunch at Olivo’s Italian in Quarry Street, catching up with our friends. After this we strolled some more and enjoyed the ambiance of cheerful, busy Christmas shoppers. During this stroll we noticed more of the buildings and architecture and commented that the whole impression was of a city centre that ‘paid attention’ to how it looked and felt.

Our positive impressions were enhanced by the proximity of so many shops within an easy strolling range: up and down the High Street and North Street and along the bottom of both. Perhaps the most important impression was that Guildford High Street did not look like so many homogenised city or town high streets where it is all the same multiple chain stores, there was a good balance of the well known shops with interesting alternatives.

So thank you Guildford and all those who work hard to present it so well.

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