Let’s wander where the WiFi is weak
Every week I am set some reading and/or writing task as a sort homework (although surely at the moment it’s all homework?), and a couple of weeks ago I was set a task ahead of a travel writing lecture. The task was to go on a walk. That was it. Go on a walk and take pictures if you want and start taking some notes for the second half of the walk. Then look back at the notes 24hrs later and write something about the walk. The purpose was obviously to notice and pay attention to things you don’t normally. I especially wouldn’t notice sounds on my walks because I usually (just like most people of my generation) wear headphones. This task was taking me out of my usual go-to comfort zone when it comes to a walk. I also was limited in the sense that I am currently living on campus so my walk wasn’t going to be particularly exciting I thought. I was wrong. I thought I will make my walk a little more interesting – I decided to go for a night walk. Now, I would like to point out that I took this walk before the news stories of women walking alone at night. But even now, I would still take this same walk at night because I feel completely safe on campus wit plenty of security, CCTV cameras, and everything is extremely well lit, but I would still like to briefly say that you should never do something you don’t fee 100% comfortable and safe doing. Take precautions even if they seem over the top and silly at times. If something was to happen hypothetically, those precautions suddenly won’t seem so silly. Ok, safety briefing over.
I noticed after my walk when I was writing about my trip that I had naturally drifted to some of my favourite places on campus. So here it is: My top 5 favourite places on campus that are not what you might expect.
1. The Old Observatory / Telescope
Up behind Surrey Court and Stag Hill Court is a little space with a few benches that over looks Guildford. It is right on the edge of campus and so is a little quieter. I love this spot. In fact, I think this is my absolute favourite place on campus. It is only a 2 minute walk from my flat and I love the old observatory for so many different things. I have to read a lot of books for my MA (to be honest I kind of expected it because I did sign up for a Creative Writing Masters), so I love going to sit on the benches to clear my head and just read. I love to read to escape from the stresses of daily life and reality. Going to the observatory is another little escape for me.
2. The Far Side of the Lake
The University of Surrey is often complimented on its gorgeous campus. One of the aspects Surrey is most famous for is its stunning lake right here on campus. I love this lake. Whenever we were allowed to meet up with somehow my dad would come visit me and we would grab a coffee from Starbucks and go for a little walk around the lake. My mum would visit with our dogs and we would walk them around the lake. The lake is our go-to spot for family meet-ups. But, if I go a little more specific my particular favourite spot at the lake is on one of the benches on the far side of the lake. The bench is off the path and is slightly hidden in the trees. I love to sit here and clear my head maybe do a little meditation. I’ve noticed that the campus WiFi doesn’t tend to reach my phone on the far side of the lake which means that I am effectively off-grid but immediately pop back on grid if I walk 50 metres in either direction. These brief moments allow me to sit quietly and watch the wildlife which I love to do. I can watch the ducks, the moorhens, the Egyptian geese, the Canada geese, the squirrels, the blackbirds, the blue tits, the green woodpeckers, the list goes on and on. It can feel a little nostalgic for me at times because I grew up in the middle of the countryside with no town near me so being surrounded by wildlife and bad phone signal is oddly comforting to me.
3. The Steps Outside MySurrey Hive
MySurrey Hive and MySurrey Nest are in my opinion the central hub on campus. My flat overlooks this hub and (when the campus was full of students) it was constantly thriving. However I personally have never been in the Nest and I only briefly popped into the Hive to make an appointment with the finance team which is why neither of these will be on this list. I will however put on the list the steps outside of these places. There is a sort of little courtyard/square which has some steps leading up the a little patch of grass. These steps I have found are a great place to catch-up with friends particularly when the weather is wonderful. These steps are actually where I met some of my course mates for the first time. We grabbed some coffees and we just sat outside on the steps getting to know each other before our course started. Plus what makes these steps even better is that when the weather is great they place out some cushions for people. So it’s not just me who likes to sit out there and socialise which after the year we’ve had is a welcome blessing.
4. PATs Field / The Marquee
The next place on my list is the PATs field and The Marquee. Now I have combined these two because I have found these places useful for very different things. I love to use the marquee for studying. Don’t get me wrong you can always use the Nest or the Library or just study in your room but for me, I don’t like to study in my room because room is my sanctuary. I don’t want my place of relaxation and rest to be where I do all my work. I like to be able to get up and leave to study elsewhere and for me personally, the marquee is the perfect vibe for me. PATs field is the place that me and flatmates love to go to to work out at the outdoor gym or play a little football. A couple of us have even taken to doing some yoga there each week. It’s a great place for us to g outside, get some fresh air and do a little exercise which we have found have helped us to keep our mental health in good shape. This is all especially true since all of our lectures have become online, it’s one of the few times we can actually get out of the flat.
5. The Cathedral
Now I know that technically this is cheating because it’s not on campus but I still wanted to include it in my list. The Cathedral is less than 50 metres from my flat and I love to go there for pretty much anything. I love to go there to sit on the benches and read, or to go and workout with my flatmate. Especially working out actually. The view from the cathedral over Guildford is gorgeous. We love to go there and do some skipping and/or yoga. The cathedral is also a particularly special place for me as when I was 16 myself and a couple of my friends were raising some money for us to go to Tanzania on a voluntary trip. One of the things we did to raise money was a sponsored abseil off the top of Guildford Cathedral. I sometimes like to look up at the tower and remember the last time I was here I was watching my best friend jump off the top and fly down the zip wire. I sit and think about the time I, we, did that abseil. I never thought that the Cathedral would become so significant to me.
There you have it. My list of favourite places on campus. Of course there are plenty of other locations for people to love and connections with but for me personally, these are it. It can b so hard to find some places that you love particularly during the time of COVID-19, and particularly during a time when you cannot leave your flat for anything. So finding these places meant so much to me. I can’t even imagine trying to find these locations in a town that I already know so well. So I’m going to set you a little challenge:
1. Aim for a 20-60 minute walk (the pace is up to you too). It doesn’t matter whether your walk is urban, rural, or other!
2. As you walk, stop every now and then to observe your surroundings. Look for sensory details: colours, sounds, textures, shadow and light. Try to withhold judgement of these things, at least for the first half of your walk. Just see things.
3. For the first 10-20 mins of your walk you are not allowed to take notes but you may take photos if you wish. After this time passes you may begin to take notes, writing whatever comes into your head—even if it is not what you’re looking at. If the walk triggers memories, write these down too.
4. After your walk, set aside your notes / photos and do not look at them for at least 24 hours.
5. Then, return to your notes and begin writing up a draft of these, editing, condensing, or expanding upon them. See if a narrative emerges; have fun with it!