Friday, 12 July 2013
Banbury makes me cross
To be fair it's no worse than many towns, probably better than some, but that's not saying much these days. And I expected more from a town in the middle of such traditionally English charm.
But no, most of the centre has been blitzed by developers and replaced with the modern concrete charms of a huge shopping mall, sports centre and busy ring road. As usual, you only need to walk a few streets away from the same-as-ever brands of shopping gloss to find squalor and mess.
After a few sunny days in the quiet countryside my feeling of inner calm and relaxation was soon jolted by the sights of noisy drinkers, smokers hanging around outside every cheap cafe and the grotesques on their fat carts motoring towards the nearest Greggs. A typical English town enjoying a summer's day in a haze of smoke, beer, noise and grease.
Banbury, of course, has a unique place in canal history as the place where Tom Rolt had Cressy prepared for canal live at Tooleys Yard. The yard and adjacent wharf were an important centre for working boats on the canal for many years but all of that vanished with the developers' bulldozers in the '90s.
The yard that survives is rather like a non-alcoholic beer. It may be called 'beer' but has nothing of the taste or spark. It's a sorry little place with a ramshackle collection of memorabilia of no particular relevance to the site and a little brick blacksmith's forge all overwhelmed by the surrounding shopping centre. Tom Rolt would have been saddened and so were we.