My first podcast for this blog is covering the failed campaign to shut the A31 lay by. This area has been of great concern to members of the village which backs onto the fields behind the lay by which are being used for meetings of a sexual nature.
Having been told about the campaign, (by my hairdresser of all people! we all know how they like a good gossip, people after my own heart) I went online to research more into the background of this rather seedy aspect of Surrey.
An area so close to home, in fact pretty much behind a friend’s house, although I wasn’t really aware of what was going on at all, but researching further into it, led me to the shocking discovery that this “dogging” ground has been in use for almost 20 years!
I had read the articles covering the story but wanted to investigate myself. Fortunately a friend put me in touch with one of the leaders of the campaign, Jules Perkins who had been running the campaign with Councillor Tony Rooth and local resident Lydia Paterson. To say she was disgusted at the site is an understatement.
The things she told me truly shocked me, and I had no idea anything like this was happening. I always thought that Guildford was a more respectable place but she informed me that the Hogs Back lay by was just one of 119 “cruising grounds” in the Guildford vicinity. And this area was the second largest after Wisely.
She told me about how she seen men masturbating in fields, condoms and dirty tissues littered the surrounding area and “bare bottoms” when she took her dog for a walk. She added that her friends could see the indecency from as close as their kitchen windows and that her own children were being exposed to things that were completely inappropriate for anyone of their age.
I was told how it is mainly men using the area. They communicate through a website called “Squirt” go to the area, often in a white t-shirt, and then text their chosen partner when they reach the site and wait for them to get there before they have sex.
It quite frankly scared me. I had never been exposed to anything like this before so my next step to go to the lay by and find out the other side of the story on interviewing the manager of the cafe at the lay by filled me with horror.
The friend who had got me in touch with the campaigner joked that I should take a chaperone when going to the lay by. I didn’t think twice before she said this but then I literally couldn’t sleep worrying that I would be dragged into the bushes or see something that I would rather not!
As it drew closer to the time I had scheduled to go and visit the cafe my anxiety grew. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what to expect.
Driving into the lay by I noticed police warning signs about the area located behind where I was parking. It hit home how hard some people go out of their way just to get some sort of quick kick by having sex in public around so many other strangers or watching people have sex in the undergrowth.
The cafe manager who I spoke to was very reassuring that the most popular time for “cruisers” was at night and I realised I was in no danger. It sounds ridiculous but I truly was scared that something would happen to me there!
I could completely understand his joy at the decision to keep the lay by open. It was clear that he had a very large business from the drivers on the busy dual carriage way. I am not aware of any other convenience place near by that could be an alternative for road users apart from dirty looking units in other lay bys (or vans to those of you that don’t know the festival lingo for food trailers! I myself spent a few weekends working in said unit and was often corrected, quite firmly after wrongly calling them vans or trailers! I was quite hurt when I returned home and a taxi driver asked me whether working in a chip van was something I would like to do when I am older. I can safely say I am staying as far away from chip fat, and any sort of fast food production for as long as I can!!)
But as I say, he had a good business at the cafe. In all honestly I felt like a bit of an outsider: a 21-year-old girl, surrounded by workmen having a cuppa and a bacon sarnie before they set back out on the road was slightly intimidating.
I am glad that I did not see anything whilst at the lay by. I think it would have somehow mentally wounded me in some way.
For me, the idea of “dogging” areas is a bit too far-fetched. I cannot see the appeal and it is clear that the area, which has been considerably increased in the past 10 years, is causing great concern, for reasons which are definitely valid.
To expose youngsters to sexual litter, nudity and men masturbating is completely immoral and to be honest it sickens me that people are continuing to go to the area for sexual rendezvous when they are so close to the neighbouring village.