Yesterday saw me at Evesham and Worcester. I hadn't been to either for eleven years.
Evesham was a shock. Back in 2003 it was a cheerful place (it was Christmastime, after all), and there were all kinds of touches that showed confidence in the future. A newly-created civic square. Lots of shops. But now...well, it was obvious that Evesham had taken a hard knock in the latest Recession, and was still stuck in it. The town centre wore a forlorn air - so many empty shops! So many of the open ones that were only the cheaper sort, or just charity shops. You really had just the banks and solicitors on one hand, and shops for cash-strapped people on the other. To walk through, say, the Riverside shopping development was to appreciate the death of the High Street. It's difficult to see how town centres in places like this can ever now be revitalised as retail hubs.
I passed another icon of the last decade on one of the routes in - a Tesco. It was in fact offering diesel at a very good price, but there was nothing else about it to tempt me in, as a Waitrose would have. I suppose that I've come to see Tesco as so much a regular part of the Old Life (M--- and I always used it) that subconsciously I now avoid it. It's the same with Lidl. Nothing to do with the quality or price of the goods on offer: it's the associations, something these stores will never be able to remove from my mind.
Evesham did have one shiny new construction: a white-and-silver concrete-and-stainless-steel road bridge over the River Avon. The same Avon that Shakespeare's Stratford straddles. It was most impressive. The approach from the town centre was raised up over green meadows clearly prone to winter flooding. But this bridge was really Evesham's best modern offering. Sad.
In contrast, Worcester was bustling and obviously doing well. I caught it in bright (and surprisingly warm) afternoon sunshine, and, after parking Fiona, treated myself first to the path that runs by the River Severn, then (largely ignoring the shops - I'm being iron-willed about spending money on myself on this trip) I examined the magnificent Cathedral. The Cathedral deserves a post to itself, including my daring ascent to the top of the Tower, via the 11,000 steps up. Actually, it may have been no more than 250 or so, but it felt like a lot more. A description, with pictures, will have to await my return home.
Today should be hazy sunshine and remarkably mild. So I'm going to potter around the countryside, checking out pubs (I'm meeting up with Angie and S--- three days from now) and maybe even getting my walking boots on. (Though tea and cake at a National Trust place is the more likely activity!)