With the upcoming 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, London is even higher than normal on people’s travel radar. Although the British capital usually tops travellers’ must-see lists, this year is likely to be busier than normal in big, bad London town.
But consider this. When you’re in town for the festivities, would you consider a change of scenery? Let’s face it, although the Olympic/Paralympic atmosphere will be electric (and I’ll be there!), it’ll also be insanely busy. And while you could continue to explore London, if you’ve been there before, consider venturing out of the city on a lesser-known day trip. Oxford and Cambridge are standard, but look south instead, and see what Surrey has to offer.
Surrey is home to popular attractions like Hampton Court Palace and Thorpe Park, but the lesser-known star of Surrey are the Surrey Hills.
After living in Guildford, smack in the heart of Surrey, for a year, I got to know the area reasonably well. As often as I took the forty-minute train ride into London, I tried to explore the surrounding county. My two favourite experiences were, in fact, in the great outdoors, and are both unique, frenetic, and calming.
You may remember my story of Louis, the llama who hated me. Yes, well, that entire delightful episode occurred in the Surrey Hills, and while it was a laughably painful experience, it was so quirky and ridiculous that I count it as a favourite.
My other favourite Surrey experience was a ten kilometre hike through the Surrey Hills. Accompanied by members of my university’s tourism and events society, we embarked on a leisurely hike from Guildford to Shere, encountering surprisingly impressive views and vantage points, quaint historic places, and hidden wonders.
We found a tiny stone church at the top of a huge hill, that afforded some really beautiful views. I was genuinely surprised by our surroundings; we were in the middle of the countryside, yet so close to London.
As we marched across humble paths stretching through modest fields, we encountered an old stone pillar postbox. A small canopy let a few rays of sunshine cast their light on a massive blanket of lavender flowers below. A field full of bright yellow bursts complimented the perfect, cloudless blue sky – a rarity in the English spring.
I had no idea I would enjoy this hike as much as I did, and granted, the perfect weather certainly helped, but a hike (or walk) in the Surrey Hills is a great way to go beyond London and experience the subtle and often modest beauty of the English countryside.