My Boston - it's not half bad, y'know
Many will be familiar with those blogs and social media comments which are all too often down on Boston - commentators quick to highlight all they perceive to be wrong with the town.
So how refreshing to find the antidote to those which only ever reflect all that ails the town. It's a new blog, well-written and with balanced views, focusing on some of the town's positives.
Gerry (Ned) Brooks has just launched his Facebook blog "My Boston" under the sub heading "Promoting a better Boston for everyone".
One of his introductory essays is reproduced below. Gerry is not viewing Boston through rose-tinted spectacles however. He has also tackled immigration and street drinking.
He said: "I think Boston has a lot going for it. It may not be perfect, not many places are, but Boston has a lot of potential."
He says his blog - also available at www.myboston.co.uk - will be a one-stop shop showcasing Boston with a strong leaning to promoting understanding and integration and... "trying to get everyone involved in making Boston a better place to live. There will be praise where it's due, but plenty of criticism as well."
THE GOOD THINGS ABOUT BOSTON ARE....
I used to live in a quite respectable part of North London until, twenty years ago, I did the whole 'move to the countryside' thing, which brought our family to a small village situated between Boston and Sleaford. To be honest my natural gravitational pull for a bit of country life was towards Essex, but my wife knew a little about Lincolnshire and two things swung it. The first was the obvious differential in the cost of houses compared to London or Essex, or pretty much anywhere else for that matter. The second was the Grammar school system, and, for a family from London with a ten year old and a new born, this was indeed a prize!
And for almost two decades we settled happily into village life.
Then three years ago, with the eldest now working in central London and the youngest about to go off to Uni we decided that a move to a large town may suit us better. Some while before that we had bought a run-down house in Boston with the intention of renovating and either renting it out or selling it on. Instead, once all the work was complete, we decided to move into it and thus began our small love affair with Boston.
For many years my work had taken me all over Britain, usually staying for a couple of days at a time in scores of towns and cities. Some were great and some, not so. London is fabulous, a world city, but fast, noisy and incredibly expensive to live there. Give me Sheffield, Leeds or Manchester anytime, these are cities which are getting better every passing year. Or let's pick a town, Harrogate perhaps. A lovely town which is a delight to visit and which has twice recently been voted 'the happiest place to live in the UK'. Sounds good, but it also has the highest incidence of drink driving in the UK and the 'happiest place to live' is also reflected in the average house price being around £300,000 with many quite ordinary four bedroom houses at around half a million.
So, although it's easy to knock Boston, and often justifiably so, here are quite a few reasons why I think it's actually a pretty good place to live.
From my house, near the centre of town, I can walk to any of the shops within a few minutes. But if I go in a different direction, then within the same few minutes I can be walking along the river and into the countryside for pretty much as far as I want to go. There are not many places that have these two great opposing conveniences right on the doorstep.
Should I wish to go to London (or anywhere else really) I can pick up the motorway system quite easily, or get on the rail network 'reasonably' easily or travel on one of the cheap and cheerful coaches. None of these are spot on perfect, but overall it's not that difficult to get anywhere and access to all is right on the doorstep.
High Streets everywhere, with a few exceptions, are suffering from a general change in shopping habits. With this considered, Boston isn't doing too badly at all. Whether I need a new suit or a set of saucepans, a new bed or some printer ink, I have a good choice of products at a wide range of price points. There are also lots of interesting shops tucked away in the side streets and, although it may not be as big as it once was, there is still a very good market twice a week. Believe me, many towns would love to have as vibrant and diverse a shopping area.
It has a large and very well kept park literally right next to the main shopping area, with excellent seasonal flower arrangements and a lively aviary. The park has tennis courts, exercise machines, a children's playground, a small cafe and a bowling green. Various events, both large and small, are regularly held in the park. And all this is within a moments walk of coffee houses, various restaurants and several pubs. Nearby, Boston also has a lovely and well kept memorial gardens which, unlike many around the country has neither been disrespected nor vandalised.
Boston has history. Just look around, and look up, past the ground level facade of the buildings to some of the wonderful Georgian and Victorian architecture. OK, so some of it may be past its best, but it's there, it has a sense of the past. Compare it to somewhere like Harlow or Milton Keynes, both of which are perfectly good, but lack that tangible history of the bricks.
It has some fabulous and unique old buildings. The Maud Foster windmill, The Guildhall, Fydell House and so many more. All on the doorstep. And of course, it has the stump. A lovely and quite famous parish church. A real landmark. There's not so many buildings around where for a few pounds and a bit of keep fit you can have a fabulous view of twenty miles or more.
Boston has good clean air coupled with a lovely sea breeze and a reasonably temperate climate. Spend two days in London and breath the difference, even with all of its clean air policies. Or Manchester, where the rain seems ceaseless at times. Or go to the south west coast, which has a good climate and a lovely sea breeze but where a simple cottage won't give too much change from half a million.
Which leads nicely on to the next benefit. The cost of housing. Lincolnshire generally is still one of the cheapest places to buy good quality housing. It's still possible to buy small houses, and certainly flats and apartments, at under £100,000 with lots of excellent properties between the one and two hundred mark. For many people this puts mortgages within touching distance of 4 or 5 times annual salary. Something completely unheard of for many years in most other parts of the country where the multiple is closer to ten or twelve times.
Two of the most important things for young families is the cost of housing and schooling. Lincolnshire has the former covered, and also has (which for many is the holy grail) a Grammar School system. Something that may well make a return to many other parts of the country.
I understand that not everyone approves of the grammar system, but for those who do, Lincolnshire offers a great opportunity. I'm personally only familiar with the excellent Carres Grammar (Sleaford) but understand from parents that Boston Grammar is equally good. If more parents from other parts of the country knew about this then I'm certain local house prices would shoot up - so do keep it to yourself!
Contrary to one years skewed statistics, Boston is not the murder capital of the UK (I go into more detail on this in a separate article). Boston is still a pretty safe place to live and with a low crime rate. You are unlikely to get mugged, threatened or robbed at any point going about your normal daily life. There are many, many places in the UK, including quite a number of the swankier ones, where you are far more likely to be touched by violent crime.
And, as you're unlikely to be a victim of crime whilst you do so, why not go out and about in Boston. A trip to out to sea to see the seals. Pick up the boat from the Marina, just a short walk from the town centre. Feeling more energetic? There are several gyms, a couple of swimming pools and a bowling alley (albeit the latter is slightly out of town). Want to relax? A good, clean and modern cinema complex, right here in town. And nearby there's a theatre, in a historic building, putting on regular and good quality shows.
Like to nightclub? There's the younger orientated Assembly Rooms, a well run, modern club, again in the centre of town. If you're perhaps a little older then maybe the very famous and very large Gliderdrome may suit better. And there's several more too, catering for all tastes.
Oh, and of course there's a well supported football team and, if you want to venture out of town a little, Frampton Marsh, Witham Way Country Park, the Bubblecar Museum and so much more.
We, like many people, often have friends to visit for a few days and we have never been at a loss of what to do. One couple put it very well recently when they said that if Boston, with all its amenities and benefits, was picked up and plonked down just about anywhere in the country, then people would be flocking to live there.
Boston really does have a lot going for it. It may not be perfect, it may have its problems, but sometimes people just don't realise how good what they have actually is.