Stafford was recently listed in the OMG list of top 3,700 towns in Britain and as such has received quite a lot of press attention (Stafford Post 06/06/11 'Stafford ranked as quite good', Stafford Chronicle 07/06/2011 'Stafford recognized, sort of', Stafford Newsletter 13/06/2011 'OMG states Stafford exists' & Crawley Gazette 05/06/11 'Crawley one better than Stafford, "Nah-Nah-Ne-Nah-Nah" says Mayor').
As it's being recognized I thought I'd go & check it out.
Stafford is a medium sized town in the Midlands, in the county of Staffordshire. It was founded by Dame Judy Dench in 1603 although records of a settlement here go back as far as December 1602. A Castle was built on the outskirts of the town and at various times over the past 4 centuries has been demolished, rebuilt, left to fall into rack and ruin and now enjoys it's status as the finest pile of bricks in Stafford. During the summertime Shakespeare festivals are held in the grounds of the castle and in the winter it tends to look a bit cold and damp.
On arriving at Stafford station you find yourself welcomed by Victoria Park complete with band-stand, a newly revamped childrens play area and statue of Fran Healey from Travis (officially the 3rd most famous son of Stafford after Genghis Khan and Tom Jones).
Walking through this park replete with flowers, an aviary and many, many fine examples of pensioner playing bowls you come to one of Stafford's many traffic roundabouts (at last count they had 434) and from here it's a short walk into Stafford's town centre via a courthouse, several pubs (some still open in this day and age) a churchyard, a multitude of chavs and MacDonalds (surely Stafford's most famous export).
Once in the centre you will find the Shire Hall which contains an art gallery which is frequently updated, access to the old courthouse and cells, the town's library, a café and (my favourite) the world renowned Stafford Pea Museum.
The Pea Museum, for those of you unaware of this period in Stafford's rich and vibrant history pays homage to those wild and crazy days of the early 1980's when the town council which was led by the Monster raving Looney Party tried numerous schemes to raise the profile of the town following the decline of the shoe industry.
They came up with a plan that would forever link the town to that most famous of foods, the humble petit pois.
An anthem was written for the town by local resident Derek Holt, of Climax Blues Band fame, which included lyrics such as 'Come to Stafford where we eat peas' and 'Come to Stafford where we eat peas a lot'. Statues of famous people enjoying peas were commissioned including Bryan Ferry and the Delai Lama and Delia Smith was invited to give pea cooking lessons at Stafford College. Children in local schools were encouraged to make pea-per mache sculptures and there was even a scheme to build a new shopping centre made entirely out of peas.
The impact that this had on Stafford's economy is still felt today and the tragedy that occurred when the pea-constructed shopping centre collapsed bruising several visiting MP's led to Tom Jones denying any links with the town and effecting a Welsh accent that he uses even now.
I love the museum but think that they should include more exhibits - they have 2.
Outside of the Shire Hall you can find many pubs, some of which are independent of the large breweries including the Bank House, Joxer Brady's, The Hanging Thatcher and Bernard's Wine Bar (specializing in home brew and turnip soup).
For the dedicated shopper Stafford can offer Estate Agents, Banks, Building Societies, Book Makers, Charity Shops, Cafes, Cake Shops, Letting Agents and quite literally 6 other shops.
With a confusing road system, lack of parking, over-zealous traffic wardens and occasional pedestrian areas (depending on the phases of the moon) it's an ideal place to visit on foot and as it's only £6 pounds to take the train from London it's not unusual (sorry, Tom) to find denizens of the Capital milling about in Poundland, Boots the Chemist, Mr Chatsworths Unusual Balloon Emporium and The Works, marveling at the quaintness of the town.
Stafford also boasts the Ancient High House, the UKs oldest Timber Framed Building where Charles Dickens apparently once sneered and the Altern 8 park bench where tourists can be photographed sitting on a bench that members of Altern 8 might have walked past at some point.
But, it's not all excitement in Stafford as there's also a handful of hotels where you can take a nap and a cinema which shows the occasional film.
Stafford is also home to Stafford Rangers Football Club which, although largely forgotten by the population continue to churn out the odd point and as a bonus if you hang around outside you may be able to nab a free football as it's hopelessly punted off the pitch and out of the ground.
Stafford enjoys good transport links being positioned on the M6 motorway, on the major rail link and only ten minutes drive from Cannock Chase a legendary Celebrity Dogging Spot as made famous by Stan Collymore.
All in all I would recommend Stafford as a good place to visit for anyone with no ideas of their own.
Stafford is a nice town centre right in the heart of Staffordshire. I have been coming here ever since my university days because it was a nice place to spend the day shopping or at the castle. Now I live by Stafford and although I know it is not the best place in the world, I do like it there and I think it is a decent place to visit if you want to go shopping, or just fancy a day out somewhere different. I will try to get over to you with this review why I do like it here.
Ok so first I better give you some sort of address to follow to get here. The best thing for me to do is give you the address of Stafford train station which is in the centre only a two minute walk from the main centre:
Stafford Train Station
Ok the train station is very nice with good links and a lot of platforms. There is always staff on hand to help and screens everywhere telling you what is happening. There are bus links and taxis just outside so you should be ok to get to Stafford or out of Stafford. Stafford is in the centre of Staffordshire as you can imagine and it is a town.
Now it is easy to get to with two junctions of the M6 quite near and good public transport links. When you have found Stafford you can find a lot of car parks which are massive so you can always find somewhere to park.
Ok Stafford is a lovely little town with nice buildings and even when you are walking around the centre you will find that most of the buildings have a very old look about them. The centre is always bustling with people and it has a very nice atmosphere around the whole town.
Ok let's now go through what Stafford has to offer;
Stafford has quite a lot of shops including all of the main ones you would expect to find in a town. Many of them are quite small but still have the essentials in. so you can expect to find Dorothy Perkins, Burtons, WHSMiths, New Look, Woolworths, Next, Waterstones, Game, HMV, Topshop and many more.
Each shop is well laid out for you to see and everything is always clean and tidy which is nice as many shops do not have that much space so they have to keep them looking nice at all times. Like I said above some of them are quite small but they all are well stocked which is good and they are all within a few minutes walking distance of each other which is nice.
The shops are on the streets around Stafford and then there is an indoor shopping centre which has quite a few of the main shops. This also links to the market which I have had a quick look at and it is nice and practically sells the same as most indoor markets you will have seen do.
With regards to supermarkets there are quite a few with a Sainsbury's right in the centre and then a massive Tesco's and ASDA just a short walk / drive away.
Food and Drink:
Stafford has many places where you can have a quick bite to eat or a drink. There are places such as Costa coffee and café Nero if you fancy Paninis and cakes. Then there is a McDonalds if you fancy fast food and a nice café within the Stafford Department store. All of these places are useful if you want to stop off quickly.
Then there are several places that you can have a proper meal such as my favourite Pastiche bistro which is lovely and specialises in very good food at great prices. This is yummy and well recommended.
These of course are all in the town centre but what you could do is if you have driven, drive a small distance out and you will find a huge array of country pubs and restaurants.
Things to do:
You may notice when you are there that there are always crowds drawn to a square in the centre of town. Sometimes there are market stalls and sometimes there is just entertainment but I would say 80% of the times I have visited Stafford there has been something going on.
A small distance away is Stafford castle where you can have a very pleasant walk around the ruins and even stop for an ice-cream at the shop. I really like it here as it is lovely especially when the weather is a bit warmer.
Also just outside of the centre as I mentioned above you will find an array of nice country pubs and also Stafford is very close to Cannock Chase which is a gorgeous place and Halls such as Weston and Shugborough which are definitely worth a visit.
Stafford also has a lot of Vets, estate agents, Doctors, Dentist, Opticians, a Hospital, Banks and a post office so everything you need really.
All in all Stafford is a pretty nice place with quite a bit to do and see whatever you fancy. It is well placed within the UK and has great links to other major places. I would recommend a visit and am glad that I do live near here.
Thanks for reading.
I've live in Stafford for around 11 years now and although I've only begun to appreciate its finer points when returning from University, these are quite few and far between. Stafford is a town of 40,000 or so folk last time i counted, well positioned in the country and enjoys good transport links (two junctions to the M6). However it fails to live upto its County town status and doesnt draw many tourists because of its dearth ammeanities and attractions. The main draws of Stafford from my point of view are, errmm, well none. Its pubs are small and/or crammed, the nightlife is predictable and the shops are almost terrible. Stafford is saved by its newest clothes shop Mode, my favourite in the world perhaps, with friendly staff. I suppose that can be extended to Stafford in general - it is quite a friendly place. For the venturing type, Stafford can be visited if feeling quirky. Whilst here you can enjoy a reasonable theatre (the Gatehouse), the county show (once a year) and maybe the town park - which is quite nice. Activities range from MegaBowl,the Odean cinema, the RAF base (though im not sure you can actually get in, its certainly looks interesting) to errr the University? Stafford is quite nice to live in, with leafy surburban areas to be found in and around. It does not have any particular problems with crime or youth deliquincy, but one must question the motivation behind visiting such a place. Unless you are catching the V bus to V2002 at Weston park that is.... Nice but boring. Live here, but dont bother visiting - its not that we dont like or want you, but for your own benefit. I hope you understand. Thankyou.