Sunday, 4 August 2013

Loughborough is the best town in the world, eva!! Or: Welcome to my first post!

Rubbish town?

I’ve decided to start a new, non-work related blog! I’ve got a lot to say, but not sure how much time I have to devote to this, but I’m going to give it a go anyway. Over the coming months I’m going to share stuff about Loughborough with you all, but allow me a little indulgence in this first post! This is going to be a rant: Read on, you might find you agree with me! On the other hand …

I read an oblique reference on facebook recently, and my youngest son has also just alerted me to the fact that there is a new version of the book about rubbish towns due for publication in October. In advance of this, it seems the authors have put up a list of 100 candidates for inclusion in the book which will be whittled down and the top 50 will appear in the book. They say any publicity is good publicity, but in this case I’m not sure.

So, excuse me for feeling indignant that Loughborough has been nominated in the top 100! Why? What earthly reason could someone find for giving the town that awful honour of being included in such a list? In this my first post on this blog, I’m going to give you lots of reasons why Loughborough shouldn’t be included in the top 100, never mind the top 50!!

To begin with, I’ll assume that the selectors are basing their inclusion of Loughborough’s on the town centre, but I do wonder if they’ve actually been and had a look round. Here are some of my reasons for not including Loughborough in that dreaded list:

1. Shops – people go to town to shop, right? So what better choice than Loughborough? The town centre is partially pedestrianised and work is currently taking place to increase this, making for a safe shopping environment. The town has a wonderful mix of shops:

We have chain stores, like M&S, Tesco, TK Max, Argos, Boots, WH Smith, Poundland, Primark, Topshop, Greenwoods, Burtons, Shoe Zone, Clarks, The Works, Waterstones, Wilkinsons etc.. These shops exist and thrive amongst a huge selection of unique local shops: Tylers, the small independent department store; Wheelers, the gift shop; a selection of jewellers (Denhams, Crown Jewellers, Nelsons, Primo); AA Stationers; Stuarts Leathergoods; Quorn Country Crafts; Genevieve ladies’ clothing; Paperweight gift shop; Andrew Hill, wine merchant; Bojangle Beads, beadmaking shop; Stuart Westmoreland, television and hi-fi specialist; Bonkers, discount store; Buckley’s carpets and curtains; Teddy Bear Hollow, the teddy bear shop; Chocolate Alchemy, the handmade chocolate store; Elf the wholefoods store … The list goes on and on!

Of course, these chain and independent stores stand side-by-side with local and national hairdressers and barbers, chemists and newsagents, greengrocers, butchers, delis, small supermarkets and health food shops, banks and buildings societies, estate agents and charity shops, print shops and sports shops, antique shops and florists.

2. Cafés - Shoppers, mums, students, business people and ladies who lunch, are drawn to the town centre by the vast array of eateries. Of course, we have national chains – Costa, Neros, Subway, MacDonalds, Muffin Break, KFC – but we also have a huge range of independent cafes, offering treats to match any pocket, to match any need. Think Cino’s, Wheelers, Tylers, Wests, Delice, Party Pieces, Baob, Two Monkeys, Sooo Coffee, Casa Café, and the Courthouse café, all catering to high standards and offering something different from the chains.

3. Restaurants – Most of the cafes listed above do a small selection of food, but if you need more sustenance, then there are plenty of restaurants to chose from, day and night. Now I’ve stopped to consider it, I think most of the restaurants are unique to Loughborough. We have the best Indian restaurants outside of Leicester (Salim’s, Mogul-e-shahi, The Red Veil, Koh-I-Noor, Taste of India, Indian Ocean), and a Nepalese one (Mount Gurkha), a strong collection of Chinese/Thai restaurants (Mr Chan’s, The Laughing Buddha, China Baby, Thai Grand, Meet All), a couple of classy Italian restaurants (Caravelli’s and La Favoita), a Mexican (The Cactus Café), an Australian place (Moomba), a middle eastern place (Tarboush), European places (Brown’s Lane, Goodliffe’s), a fusion place (The Basin), a couple of kebab shops, and several fish and chip shops.  

4. Pubs are also an integral part of town life, and we should be so proud to have all those unique places catering for different age groups, different tastes and different needs. Think Three Nuns, Moon and Bell, Organ Grinder (formerly the Old Packe Horse), Old English Gentleman, The Generous Briton, The Griffin, The Gallery, The Unicorn, 12 Degrees West, Tap & Mallet, The Hobgoblin, The Swan in the Rushes, The Royal Oak, The Peacock, The Jack ‘o Lantern and The Windmill Inn, to name but a few!

5. Night life - If you want to go into town at night then there is no shortage of venues for you to try: Mansion, Revolution, Vice-Versa, Echos, and probably more that I don’t know about. Or, if you want culture in the evening then there’s the lovely art deco Odeon Cinema and the Town Hall.

6. Architecture - Many of the buildings that remain in Loughborough town centre are of historical interest, being either locally listed or even Grade II listed. Next time you go into town, look past the shop front that doesn’t appeal to you and appreciate the importance of the actual building. Such buildings include the former Echo offices on Swan Street, The NatWest Bank, several of the shops on Church Gate, Caravelli’s (the former Manor House), Lowe’s antique shop (the former Guildhall), The Griffin pub, Mercury News Shop (Baxter Gate – in fact, almost all the shops on Baxter Gate!), the Odeon Cinema, Vice Versa, Toymaster toy shop, Midland Bank, Fearon Fountain, Town Hall, and many of the shops along Market Street.

7. Attractions - Looking for something to do that isn’t shopping, then Lufbra has a number of attractions to offer. There are several museums: The Charnwood Museum in Queen’s Park explains the history of Loughborough through a variety of displays, and has a changing exhibition area that focuses on specific small displays. The Carillon, a war memorial erected to honour the fallen in World War One (and now in subsequent wars) is also a museum with displays of artefacts related to war. The bell foundry has it’s own museum, but this is a little way out of the town centre. The Great Central Railway, a unique steam railway in Britain, being the only double track steam railway, is also a little way out of town. The public library has much to offer the visitor to town, as well as books – displays and exhibitions, talks and local studies. The Town Hall doubles up as the tourist information centre, is home to an art gallery and has recently re-opened its café.

8. Parks - There are a couple of great parks in the town centre: as well as the museums listed above, Queen’s Park also has special playground areas, an aviary, a bowls green, a bandstand, several ponds and lots of public sculpture. Leicester Road park is just on the edge of the town centre and includes a large playing field, a skateboard area, and a wooden adventure playground for older children. Throughout the town you will find hanging baskets of flowers, and standing tubs of flowers.

9.  Markets - One of Loughborough’s particular strengths is its markets. Every Thursday and Saturday there is a general market selling everything you could possibly want! Every Friday (March-December) there is a second hand and craft market, and once a month on a Wednesday there is a farmer’s market selling local produce. As if that weren’t enough, there are also regular European markets, craft markets, a pottery market, Christmas markets and much more.

10. The town was picked in the second wave as a Mary Portas Pilot Town, and this has seen much renewed spirit in the town centre. Currently, there is a Fabulous Friday initiative running, which aims to bridge the gap between the daytime and night-time economy by extending shopping hours on a Friday evening and introducing different themed markets and events, being both things for people visiting town to watch and things for them to do.

Just to put the town in context, it is situated in the middle of the triangle that is Leicester/Nottingham/Derby, and has a population of about 59,000, which increases by about 22% during the university term-time. It is almost slap bang in the middle of the country, being rather a long way from the sea!

Also, do bear in mind that my lists (of shops etc.) above are not meant to be exhaustive, nor am I endorsing anything, merely pointing out that they are there. Am thinking this is a bit dense with text, so might add some pictures at a later date. 

So, hope you didn't mind listening to my whinge above: There's plenty more to tell you about Loughborough, but I'll leave that for another day!

Oh, and I rather enjoyed reading Three Men and a Float ...


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If you have found this post interesting or have any questions about any of the information in it do please leave a comment below. I might not be able to answer immediately, but I will reply as soon as possible. Thanks for reading the blog.