Tuesday, 4 July 2017

A lap of Leicester

The lively, likeable St Martin's area
We only spent a day and a half in Leicester but that was long enough to say we like it.
The compact city centre seems to have a bit of everything. Except traffic, which is of course a good thing. Even the ring road that keeps the cars away isn't too daunting for the pedestrian to deal with.
And the glamorous modern John Lewis led zone
Once inside (and it's only minutes from the mooring) we found a healthy mixture of old and new, of flashy stores and arcades and cosmopolitan independent bars, shops and restaurants in the picturesque St Martin's district near the cathedral-ette. Sorry but that little church really doesn't cut it with the likes of Winchester or Ely.
But never mind, the city has a youthful multicultural vibe, as it should with two large universities and a large Asian population. It has a terrific indoor market which reflects that cultural diversity too and elsewhere you'll find everything from an Eritrean restaurant to a Serbian Orthodox church. Oh and plenty of signs telling you that Richard III would have, could have or might have visited just about every old part of the city.
Frog Island; the graffiti is great, the rest is not
Anyway our time on the moorings was up so we headed out of town today to discover that Leicester, like so many of our old industrial towns, is still a city of two halves. Literally round the corner from the moorings comes the familiar picture of industrial decay. Frog Island – a genuine island between the river and the canal cut – is pretty squalid though the graffiti was imaginative – and the water beneath us had become a treacle of thick, gluey blackness oozing a stench of diesel and filth. A few ducks and a lonely heron braved its polluted waters (oddly, we saw a heron here on our last trip eight years ago: I wonder if this one was related?)
But things are happening: the demolition teams were at work on the landmark old Wolsey factory and only the tall chimney remained of the famous purveyor of Y-fronts.
The lonely chimney: a sign of the past
And the Space Centre: a sign of the future maybe
The surroundings did improve once the river re-entered at Belgrave Lock, where the futuristice Space Centre can be seen in the distance, and as we eased out of town the waterway followed a picturesque, wandering course between old, worked-out gravel pits that are now Watermead Country Park. Tomorrow Leicester will finally be behind us but I'm sure we will be back.
And in case you're wondering this is that cathedral:

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