story as currently spun by the media is that the British high street is not
a happy place to be. Rising rents. Onerous business rates. Employment
costs. Shoppers with new shopping habits. But as ever it is an incomplete
tale, focusing on the monochrome high street that evolved in the nineties
and noughties. Scrape away the pleadings of special interest groups and
you'll find high streets that are, well, on a high. Stockbridge is one such
place. Let me talk you through my local town.
is fortunate to stand at an intersection. It has done so for a very long
time. The Romans, an invading force with a penchant for building things
rather that destroying them, made this place on the banks of the River Test
the nexus for national roads passing east to west and north to south. Later
the town became a stopping off point on one of the great herding routes for
sheep. Hence the width of the main street and the origin for the name of
the town - a bridge over which the stock might pass. Today we stand
equidistant between the thriving cathedral cities of Salisbury and
Winchester and the commerce centres of Southampton and Basingstoke. As
Kirsty and Phil would say: location, location, location.
things will collide on the consciousness of any first-time visitor to
Stockbridge: our high street is our only street. It is massively wide. And
it has huge amounts of unrestricted parking along both sides. The locals
are always complaining about the parking: not enough of it. Too crowded.
What they really mean is that they can't park within five yards of any
given shop at any given moment. Fifty yards is an Everest-style expedition
to never be repeated, a hot topic at gatherings in the Wallops. Try going
to London I say. Or Basingstoke even.
course, our town is quaint. Even most of the new buildings look old. That
helps in the battle for shopping hearts and minds. But ultimately the clue
to the success of Stockbridge lies in a census of the 40-50 shops that line
the street. Only one is a national chain - the Co-Op. All the rest are
family owned or proprietor run businesses. We really do have everything
except a bank, post office and undertaker but fortunately the Co-Op has
those covered. Barber. Bookshop. Butcher. Baker. Chemist. Delicatessen.
Florist. Greengrocer. Masses of places to eat, drink, dine, stay or just
have a coffee. I won't recite the whole list as you get the idea.
marquee building, The Grosvenor Hotel is about to undergo a massive
facelift under new owners. The White Hart is building ten new bedrooms. The
Vine Inn, a fading pub, has been transformed into a hub for new businesses.
Rarely does a property or lease hang around for long. Stockbridge is not
alone in this success. Market towns in Berkshire, Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire,
some bigger, some smaller are similarly thriving.
something good to know.
River Test at dawn from
the stock bridge
algae is fatal
indebted to a reader with a holiday home in France who forwarded me a
cutting from The Connexion, an
English language newspaper with French news and views. On 10 July they
reported that an 18-year-old oyster farmer harvesting on the Breton coast
may have died as a result of "intoxication from hydrogen
sulphide" a potentially fatal gas emitted by the green algae as it
Breton oyster beds
where the recent death occurred
on to cite the death of a van driver in 2009 who inhaled the gas whilst
transporting the algae, a horse the same year and then possibly a jogger in
2016. The French have dubbed annual arrival of the algae, which is
prone to bloom in warm weather, the 'green tides' laying the cause firmly
at the feet of farming with the Nantes administrative court citing
insufficient protection provided by EU and national legislation.
your views on Brexit it seems that the solution for same the problem our
side of the Channel lies in our own hands.
Offer priority booking
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too many of us will be coping with the contortions of our crowded motorway
system over the coming weeks of July and August a few road related
questions to ponder as you stare at a littered verge. As ever, it is
just for fun, with answers at the bottom of the page.
1)Which motorway doesn't connect with any of the others?
2)Which is the longest motorway?
3)Who wrote and sung the 1977 hit '2-4-6-8 Motorway'