Apparantly Hull in East Yorkshire is one of Idler's 'Crap Towns'. In fact, Hull has been top (or bottom, whichever way you look at it) on at least one occasion. I am from Hull. I have lived there most of my life. I'm telling you this for a good reason, so bear with me.
I want you to know that I'm reviewing Leek from an outsider's point of view, and from someone who's not been 'tainted' by living somewhere nice, leafy and posh. I'm telling you all this because I want to say that the one night I spent in Leek was pants. Pants with a big capital P, and then a bit more.
Our family recently stayed in Leek. We stayed in Leek because Alton Towers hotel was full. We booked a nice B&B, and it was actually very nice (The Green Man on Compton to give them a big thumbs up).
However, Leek itself was (and you'll have to forgive me for over-using the word) pants.
It looked pretty enough. Lots of old cotton mill conversions. Lots of relics from the past. Lots of antique shops. My kind of place on the surface.
But if you've ever tried getting something to eat in a pub on a Sunday evening, with two small children in tow, then you might as well be on another planet. It's like some wierd cult. Every pub we went into "Oh no love. No food on." "Why not?" "Well, it's a Sunday, of course!". Oh, silly me to even think about eating on the day of rest, on the sabbath, on the holy day.
People were drinking ok. They were even getting into the spirit of Stoke having been promoted to the Premier League. What they weren't doing were eating.
We ended up back at the hotel, hungry and a bit scared from the menace that was the drinking circuit in the town centre. We then went to the chinese takeaway and ended up eating sweet and sour chicken balls and rice with plastic forks on the hotel bed. It was a nice takeaway, as it goes, but not what we had in mind when we decided to have a family break away.
Leek looks like the kind of place you would be happy living if you were working in nearby Stoke, or maybe Manchester. But I can't imagine anyone would want to stay here, live here, work here without going completely stir crazy (and I live in a village with one shop and a church).
Overall Leek was very pretty, and had a lot of nice people. It was also very menacing, and seemed to cater for, how can I put this without getting lots of hate mail from people in Staffordshire - the less picky punters.
I didn't see one theatre, cinema, music pub, or playground. I also didn't see one other child, apart from my own - which was a bit wierd. Anyone see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
Outside the immediate town centre, it was also eerily quiet, especially considering the number of houses and flats.
Would I live here? No.
Would I work here? Possibly, but get out as soon as the whistle blows.
Would I come back on a visit? Not on your nelly. Will beg Alton Towers hotel for a linen cupboard to sleep in next time.
Why do I live in a town that’s name is synonymous with a vegetable? Most people have never heard of Leek: a small town in Staffordshire, which lies at the foot of the Peak District. Up until 7 months ago I had never given Leek a second thought. I was living in Portsmouth, having just moved from London where I’d lived for 6 years. I wanted peace and quiet: a more sedate way of life than I had been used to for those last few years. As I originated from Staffordshire (having been dragged up in Stafford) I decided that it was time to return to my routes and settle down. So in March of this year I moved to sleepy Leek. The advantage of describing Leek, from my point of view, is that as soon as I moved here my eyes were open to the sites, and I was eager to find out about my new hometown. Had I been describing a town where I had lived all my life, I could probably give more details of places to go and see but wouldn’t be able to explain what the attraction was. To set the scene…Leek is a medium-sized market town near Stoke-on-Trent. It literally is a town stranded in the middle of nowhere. From all directions of a compass there is glorious countryside. It is a town which has managed to retain its history and character whilst moving into the 21st Century. The town’s main attraction is the market, which is held on Wednesday on Saturday. The Wednesday market has many outdoor stalls containing the usual goods of clothing, plants, cheap toiletries, haberdashery stalls and a fruit and vegetable stall. The Butter Market is located in an entrance onto the market square, where the regular stall holders reside and a table top market where again you can find a selection of other bargains. The one great thing about the Butter Market is that the Women’s Institute has a stall and I like to buy a freshly baked cake when I’m there! The market on Saturday is similar in the Butter Market, but outside t
here are antique stalls, which are fantastic for browsing around and are even better when I spot a bargain. There are also a few of these stalls that sell a vast variety of new and second hand books. The town centre is pretty basic, but varied. This isn’t a town to go shopping in major stores, although there is a Woolies, Wilkinson’s and Boots. The main attraction is the antiques' shops, gift shops and charity shops! Overall, these types of shops make up most of the main shopping area in Derby Street. Of historical interest, there is the Brindley Mill. Built in the 1700’s, it was a water-powered corn-mill built by James Brindley, who was a leading canal engineer at the time. Even a lot of the buildings that are now used commercially, retain a great deal of their history. There are still a great many of Tudor design. There are walking groups organised in the area, where you can learn about the historical aspects of the town, that will take you past St. Edwards Church and a few of the hostelries that are in Leek! Perhaps the most famous of Leeks’ connections is that of William Morris, who was an innovator of dying techniques, stained glass and tapestries in the 1870’s. As Leek was then a thriving and prosperous silk town, Morris stayed regularly at Leek and collaborated with a number of local embroidrers, designers and local silk businessmen. His work can be seen at a variety of places around the town, especially at St. Edwards Church. I really was amazed when I moved here of how much there is to do in and around the town. Just on the outskirts of Leek, Churnet Valley Railway, is a working steam railway where many of the original stations have been renovated. Have you heard of Alton Towers? Who hasn’t! Well, this is merely a 45-minute car drive away. Not bad, eh? Probably the most astounding aspect though of a stay in Leek would be its proximity to the Peak District. Leek is in the S
taffordshire Moorlands, which lies at the foot of the Peak District. I don’t think I need to mention at this point how marvellous the scenery is, and that the best way to appreciate the area is to go walking or cycling on the nearby routes. I can recommend Tittesworth Reservoir, which is owned by Severn Trent Water. I went with my family, including 2 young nephews during the summer, and I can say without doubt that everybody enjoyed it. There’s a large play area for kids and a display of the uses of water, how it is cleansed for consumption and ideas of how to cut water usage at home. There’s a restaurant, and large grassy areas where you can have a picnic, and there’s even a designated area for barbecues. Unusually, the public transport in Leek is fairly well equipped. There are regular bus services to Stoke-on-Trent and also buses serve a lot of the surrounding towns and cities – there are even buses that go directly to Manchester, Derby and Sheffield. We also have the wonderful advantage of post buses, which are used to get to the smaller villages around Leek, and I’ve been told that these are the best way to find out about the area from the long-established locals! Leek is a wonderful town that I have no regrets moving to, however it is also not a particularly affluent town. The cost of living is fairly reasonable which is good for when I want to buy a house, but it is in need of help at the moment, especially when a lot it’s money relies on visitors during the summer. Unfortunately this year, like many rural towns it has been affected by the foot and mouth crisis. I believe though that it is now one of the towns that will receive government funding in order for it to re-instate itself as a renowned market town, and it also receives a lot of support from Britannia Building Society who have its headquarters in Leek. The future looks very bright for Leek at the moment, and I’m pretty glad to be part
of it. USEFUL INFORMATION Population: approx. 20,000 Ambience: cobbled streets, historic and a bargain hunters paradise! Famous for: William Morris, Antiques Shops, Leek Market Most common expression: “Ta, duck!” Local cuisine: North Staffordshire Oatcakes and Savoury Ducks (Faggots!) Useful websites: staffsmoorlands.gov.uk, leekonline.co.uk