25 November 2009

The tale of the trapped tourist

Guildford CastleIn April 2007, I traveled to Guildford, Surrey, England, for a client meeting. I arrived several hours before everyone else, so I did what I always do after a long plane/train ride--take a walk.

Guildford is a lovely, little town of upscale shops, insane traffic patterns that confused the Tom-Tom and fun, if dodgy-looking pubs that served great food. The spring flowers were in bloom and the scent of lilacs was everywhere. The town smelled as wonderful as it look. And in the midst of this spring riot sat the picturesque remains of Guildford Castle.

The castle started out as the typical Norman motte and bailey structure. Residents made improvements over the next two centuries and it became one of the country's most luxurious castles during the reign of Henry III. The keep served as a local prison, then a merchant's home before it fell into ruin. The city borough bought it in the 19th century and turned the keep and grounds into a city park.

The grounds were open, so I detoured through it and loitered, not paying attention to the time or noticing when the custodian locked the gates and went home for the evening.

Fortunately, I was not alone on the wrong side of the locks. Four other people--two with bikes--were in the same trap. We walked from gate to gate. All were locked with padlocks the size of my head. For a moment, images of bedding down with strangers and ghosts in a damp corner of the roofless keep flitted through my mind. I started to dial 999, but then we decided to try to escape on our own before becoming a segment on the evening news.

We walked the wall and found one ruined section that we could climb over and down to the road below. So we did, lowering each other and the bikes down one by one under the silent eye of a CCTV camera.

Somewhere there exists grainy, black/white security footage of me scaling the castle wall to freedom--proof that I've done what few have: escape Guildford's keep. LOL!


Unknown said...

KEENA---a wonderful mini-story. I can envision you on that grainy security camera! I lvoed the description of the castle and the runins--thanks! Celia

Margaret Tanner said...

Wow Keena, what an exciting experience, must be a romance novel in there somewhere. Your descriptions of the scenery were lovely.


LK Hunsaker said...

HAHAHA! Keena! Great story! Glad you weren't alone and locked in. Gorgeous photo.

Mona Risk said...

Keena--I bet you laugh now when you remember your adventure, locked in a old castle in England on your first day. You should incorporate the scene in a book.

Keena Kincaid said...

Thanks, everyone. If I ever write a contemporary, I will definitely use this tale.

Stephanie Burkhart said...

Keena, very exciting and I loved your picture of the Keep - it was strong and proud, yet the years have done their damage. A nice contemporary story about escaping from the keep! Thanks so much for sharing. I'd love to visit this part of the world. Maybe in 10 years. Dec 18 for the Ties that Bind! I can't wait.