Sunday, 2 August 2015

Don't judge a book by its cover

Wide, smart boulevards of handsome Leamington
You will have heard the expression 'don't judge a book by its cover'. Well I've come up with another: 'don't judge a town by its canal'.
Nowhere is that more true than in the case of Leamington Spa. The town we passed through by canal a couple of days ago was a shabby, down-at-heel place whose visitor moorings are by a noisy scrapyard and whose streets are lined with decaying shops.
Quite a contrast to the depressing canalside scene
The one we arrived at by bus yesterday was a handsome spa town, whose gleaming white Georgian stucco houses and discreet shop fronts line wide boulevards that are more reminiscent of the south of France than the south of Warwickshire.
Shops blend neatly into Georgian streets
The Old Town – as the area that evolved near the canal – may have declined but the New Town, which grew up above the River Leam as Leamington became a popular Spa has clearly thrived, even if visiting the Pump Room to bathe in warm salt water or have a steam bath is not our idea of a holiday any more.
Restored Turkish bath in the Pump Room
How often have we seen this phenomenon: above the river prosperity rises with the rising ground; below it, decline. I suppose it's logical: high ground was secure from flood, pestilence and attack in ancient times where low ground was vulnerable.
How ironic it is that these days people pay premium prices to live by riversides and then stare in shock as the river rises up into their millionaire homes.
The beautifully laid out and maintained Jephson Park
Leamington is quite unlike an English town. Its wide streets have a continental feel, the buildings are handsome and it is pleasing to see that the shops have had to restrain themselves and not spoil the classical street scene. It has a beautiful riverside park, too, which was teeming with visitors.
A lovely town, in short, even if you have to moor by a scrapyard.

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