Friday, 19 July 2019

In praise of Stockbridge

In praise of Stockbridge


The 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.

Stockbridge 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.

Three 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.

Of 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.

Our 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.

It is something good to know.

River Test at dawn from the stock bridge

Green algae is fatal

I am 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 decomposes. 

Breton oyster beds where the recent death occurred
They go 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.

Whatever your views on Brexit it seems that the solution for same the problem our side of the Channel lies in our own hands.

Special Offer priority booking

I'll be running special offers in July and August: 2-for-1's and half price tickets. You will receive news of these in this Newsletter.

However, if you are signed up for the Special Offers newsletter you will receive at least a 24 hour heads up for priority booking.

If you'd like to sign up for the free Special Offer alert, click here. Don't worry if you can't recall whether you've signed up in the past or not; the system is smart enough to tell so you will not receive multiple emails.

The Quiz

As far 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. 

Tom Robinson Band 2-4-6-8 Motorway

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'

WARNING: Clicking on the TOTP video clip opposite
for the answer to 3) will make you feel very old.

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature    
Founder & Managing Director


1)      The M2
2)      The M6 at 262 miles
3)      Tom Robinson

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