Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside... but in Guildford?
PUBLISHED: 11:31 14 August 2015 | UPDATED: 11:39 14 August 2015
With its rolling countryside, winding rivers and historic towns, Surrey has almost everything you could wish for in the summer months - except, of course, the seaside. But for this year at least, that's all about to change...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2015
While there’s no denying that Surrey is a stunning county, with its woodlands, parks and riverbanks to retreat to during the warmest months of the year, the one feature that we lack, of course, is the seaside – which is why Guildford has decided to bring the beach to the town this summer.
For one weekend only, the town will be filling its riverside with sand to create its very own version of the famous Paris Plages. Running from Friday August 14 to Sunday August 16, locals and visitors alike will have the chance to enjoy a ‘Wey-side weekend’ as the riverbank is transformed into an urban beach, complete with deckchairs, beach huts and seaside entertainment fit for all.
Located just a stone’s throw away from Guildford town centre, next to The Electric Theatre on Onslow Street, the beach will be an open and free event between 10am and 4pm each day of the weekend.
“Guildford-on-Sea is something different, something fun and definitely something that can be enjoyed by everyone, young and old,” says Charlotte Whitaker, project manager at Experience Guildford, which has organised the event. “There will be buckets and spades, balloon giveaways, beach huts, seaside entertainment and much more.”
Offering an ideal place for people to relax and enjoy the British sunshine with the sand between their toes, after a busy day shopping around Guildford’s town centre, the event is expected to draw lots of visitors from the surrounding area.
As tourism and marketing development manager, Diana Roberts says, the beach really will be the icing on the cake for our historic county town.
“Guildford has everything from heritage, arts, culture, sport, shopping, eating and drinking,” adds Diana. “I’ve always said that the only thing we don’t have is a beach! And now we have!”
The seaside weekend is also being supported by Guildford Borough Council, and Guildford-on-Sea will add to the ongoing events planned by the town centre’s Business Improvement District, designed to raise the profile of Guildford and drive footfall and trade into its shops, leisure and lifestyle businesses.
Commenting on the benefits that Guildford-on-Sea will have for the town, Charlotte Whitaker adds: “Bringing Guildford’s first urban beach to the town centre offers a great opportunity to show off our town and attract visitors from a larger catchment area.
“It’s also a chance for us to promote the less explored area of the town centre and showcase the stunning riverside location on which our town is positioned.”
Making a splash
To create the urban beach for the big weekend, sand is being poured over the riverbank outside The Electric Theatre by The Yellow Bus Events group who have over ten years’ experience in organising ‘inland’ artificial beach events in both green fields and city centre settings. In addition to the all-essential sandy beach and deckchairs, the company will bring sounds of the sea, a peep-through board, face painters, helium balloons, street entertainment, sweet stalls and much more.
Needless to say, at the neighbouring Electric Theatre, Guildford’s local community theatre known for its eclectic programming of drama, musicals, dance, poetry, film and everything in-between, the excitement is building.
“We are delighted to be supporting the urban beach,” says Hannah Ashwell, marketing and box office manager at the theatre. “It’s sure to give our customers and visitors to Guildford a truly wonderful day out in the heart of the town centre, where they can enjoy the idyllic riverside location.”
The arrival of the beach also coincides with the final day of the Guildford Summer Youth Project, Friday August 14, which sees children creating a show in a week, with their families and friends watching the final performances. The Electric Theatre hopes to see those involved also enjoying a stint on the beach to celebrate their final day of activities.
As Amanda Masters, general manager of Experience Guildford, adds: “Whether rain or shine, we are hoping to attract a big response from those keen to experience the seaside event during this special weekend occasion.”
The idea for the event stemmed initially from other cities that have staged similar urban beach events.
For example, since the summer of 2002, the Paris Plages scheme has been a major success, transforming spots in the French capital into fully-fledged beaches, each with a distinct theme.
Although critics initially questioned the idea, the Paris Plages have become a permanent fixture on the Seine’s riverbanks, and towns and cities across the UK are now reproducing this novel idea.
“This is a brilliant, fun initiative that means now Guildford really does have everything!” adds Diana Roberts. “The fact that it’s taking place during the Guildford Summer Festival will attract even more visitors to the town.”
So, whether you are local to Guildford or come from further afield, make sure you pack your flip-flops, beach shorts and sunscreen to enjoy this special seaside weekend in Surrey!
• Guildford-on-Sea runs on the River Wey, Guildford (near The Electric Theatre) from Friday August 14 to Sunday August 16. Admission is free. For more, see experienceguildford.com
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