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Slough's fit for humans now!
Slough in General
Member Name: yabbadabbadoo
Slough in General
Date: 14/11/08, updated on 24/02/11 (929 review reads)
Advantages: Great transport links, some regeneration
Disadvantages: Still a work in progress -never going to be a work of art
It always seems to me that pretty much anytime anybody brings up the subject of Slough a certain famous poet laureate's work from 1937 invariably gets a mention, alongside it being the setting for that widely regarded cringe-worthy "The Office"
Now, I'll be honest, my connections with Slough are purely work related, my experiences with Slough therefore limited to hotel stays, town centre strolls, restaurant meals and the like.
That said, having been a regular visitor of the last few years on various multiple month dragging IT assignments frankly too mind-numbing and tedious to mention, I have developed something of an understanding of the place which I hope you'll permit me to share here.
****Good, Bad and the Ugly****
With a population estimated at around 120,000 (census 2001) handily placed on the London commuter belt with easy access to the M4 and train routes into Paddington station, in the heart of Royal Berkshire, and just a short hop away from Heathrow airport, logistically Slough is perfectly positioned to attract and serve corporations and businesses.
But here's the thing, whichever way you want to look at it downtown Slough is never going to win any beauty contest prizes, in fact quite frankly at it's worst, particularly in the central town roundabout by the grisly Brunel Bus Station, it can only be described as a higgledy-piggledy mish mash of concrete misery.
The town's potential for inferiority complexes is only exacerbated by it being nearest neighbours to the unerringly attractive and historic royal dwelling place of Windsor, and the public school symbolism of those Eton playing fields.
****Slough Poem version 2****
And so it was that one particularly dull and lifeless lunchtime, just a few weeks back as I escaped the office and headed into the depths of the Observatory Shopping Centre, I made a very interesting discovery. In 2006, Slough Borough Council had run a competition inviting school children to rewrite the Betjeman version - and right in the heart of the shopping centre the winning entry by 11 year old Joanna Okolotowicz is proudly displayed in huge white lettering.
Horrible bombs don't fall on Slough,
Because it's fit for humans now,
This town's much better, and how,
Old poem die a death!
Sikhs, Muslims and Christians too,
All are welcome and so are you,
All come here to live life anew,
One town, one breath.
A centre of learning you can see,
With a library and university,
A life's training for you and me,
Work hard, get paid.
Ice skating, swimming and fitness places,
Playgrounds, parks and open spaces,
Children laughing, smiling faces,
Getting together, friendships made.
Queensmere, Observatory and High Street,
Cafes, restaurants where you can eat,
See a film at the cinema for a treat
Brand new Tesco open now.
Trains from Reading, London and many more,
Cars and taxis along the M4
Buses drop you at your door,
Climb aboard and come to Slough
****The New Evidence****
So does this mark the dawn of a new beginning for the town?
Well, putting my work weary cynicism aside momentarily, there's no question that Slough does have a very diverse and multi-cultural population, and like many towns these days there's plenty of efforts being made to redevelop and reinvigorate the place. Thames Valley University has a big campus in the town ensuring a thriving student population.
The Queensmere shopping centre at the heart of the High Street has a multi-screen cinema and basically all the big high street names you'd expect to see. Just down the street is smaller but well designed Observatory shopping centre I've already mentioned. If you go through the Observatory, and out to the main A4 Bath Road link through the town, sure enough you will see one of the biggest Tesco Extra Stores you've ever seen in your life - Escalators up to the top floor 24/7 opening the works.
As you drive along the very busy A4 trunk road, back towards the suburb of Langley (which was actually where a lot of the housing that Mr Betjeman took a dislike to) you can now see plenty of open Parkland and greenery, and the refurbished houses lining the road are now highly sought after properties. If you head in the other direction, you'd go past the leisure centre and a large ice-rink (just behind the Slough Borough Council buildings) where the legendary duo of Torvill and Dean perfected some of their routines...
****The nagging doubts****
But what does all this add up to? Is there really any distinctive new identity here? At the far end of the High Street there's a Wetherspoon's pub, with the less than imaginative title taken straight from the fictional paper merchants portrayed in the Office "Wernham Hogg's" - hardly an example of original thinking...
For all the good progress being made, there are still quite a few eyesores tucked away behind the new facades - the Hatfield 'multi-story' car park is a classic case in point, falling to bits, shabby, dimly lit, so bad that where we work they offer security escorts for people working out of hours, that's assuming your car survives the terrifying experience!
****Accentuate the positives****
Then again it's by no means my intention to in any way look down on or cause offence to people who happen to live and work in the town, so I've really no wish to dwell on the negatives that if we're honest can in some shape or form be found in basically any town up and down the land
So let's finish on a positive note with a list of my favourite things about the place.
Food generally comes top of my list, and the Thai Orchid is a great example of a thriving authentic well-run restaurant with a really wide-ranging and high quality menu of dishes.
If you are staying in the area on business, would recommend the Heathrow Slough / Windsor Marriott in Langley - very comfortable rooms, high standard of service and one of the best hotel gyms and pools I've seen - so well equipped they attract a lot of local membership as well.
If it's fresh air and greenery you're after, just a mile or two up the road you will find the Burnham Beeches Forest, which up and till fairly recently the England Football team were happy to use as a base camp.
And talking of bases, for family's on a budget looking for somewhere to stay when visiting nearby attractions such as Windsor Castle, Legoland Windsor, Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park, there are plenty of hotel choices - Quality Inn, Premium Inn, Holiday Inn Express, conveniently located around the town
So to sum up, I do genuinely believe it's unfair to pigeon hole Slough as well a "pigeon hole" of a place, or words to that effect.
I feel sure if the Betjmeister had actually known just how convenient that mighty Tescos would be, he'd have never been so disparaging about the place!!
It's never going to be a tourist haven, but why would it want to be - it has all the amenities and facilities you would expect in a town of its size, and in terms of transport links to Greater London and beyond, you'd be hard pushed to find a more convenient spot.
So in the spirit of that lazy Wetherspoon's naming, I'll leave it to the mighty David Brent to sum up my thoughts:
"My world does not end within these four walls, Slough's a big place. And when I've finished with Slough, there's Reading, Aldershot, Bracknell...."
Summary: Are you just jealous cos you've never had a clubcard Mr B....