I’m treading carefully writing this, for I know at least one Brummie will read this, and I need to get my facts right. A mere scenic romp across the Lickey Hills from the Southwestern-most reaches of Birmingham’s sprawling conurbation, Bromsgrove is actually my first recorded venture into Worcestershire, home of the sauce, the Warriors and the world’s only remaining working needle mill. It’s a world apart from the teeming diversity, the vast regeneration and the massive industrial heritage of Britain’s second city – Bromsgrove is overwhelmingly white and Conservative, compared to Brum’s large, Labour-voting minorities; a town of less than 30,000 compared to over a million in Birmingham alone, never mind the industrial sprawls of the Black Country.
Bromsgrove is to some extent the aspirational escape for true Brummies, somewhere to move to once you can afford it. Which might take a while: from the looks of things, you’ll be paying 50-100k more for the same property in Bromsgrove as in Longbridge, just within Birmingham city limits. My guess is that it’s the better-off commuters who move in here: those who can use the direct train to Brum, or the extremely convenient motorway access. I can’t see that the town centre itself is the reason for moving to Bromsgrove: not that it’s horrible or anything, but it’s hardly the most characterful shopping district I’ve visited. For me, the small town life would be maybe the bustling market square of Saffron Walden, or the atmospheric histories of Falmouth. Bromsgrove has most of the smaller chain stores you would want, a few independent gift shops/hairdressers/cafes, and that’s about it. Apart from the huge Asda, of course, leering at the town over the little brook. A few attractive older buildings remain, but they’re dominated by newer shopping blocks and pedestrianisation, giving the town a nondescript, generic feel.
The charity shops help, of course. Mostly clustered along the high street, we have Blue Cross, Cancer Research, Extra Care, and Acorn Hospice in close proximity at the Eastern end. While none are particularly noteworthy, they’re not rubbish either, and some handy stuff is to be found here. Further down are Oxfam Books and Music, Scope and British Heart Foundation, which confirms my hypothesis, once again, that someone, somewhere has been put in charge of the layout of BHF shops, and that that person is a dolt. While I’m no minimalist (just see my house/bookshelves), sometimes you just have to lay back on the amount of stuff there is: repeatedly squeezing past a grumpy Bromsgrovite is an awkward experience at best.
The last two are on the car-friendly section of the High Street. Occupying a former McDonalds and still proudly displaying its original, period, McD’s doors, YMCA has moved itself into a vast shop, filled with sofas, nightstands, dressers, and chairs, dotted with chintzy crockery and strategically placed books. This is a truly huge charity shop, one of the biggest I can remember seeing, which is fun in itself. Finally, on the other side of the road, Primrose Hospice is one of the more pleasant, with some tempting crockery and other nicknacks. The charity shops make this town a destination (to me, at least), where little else is all that much of a draw.
Find: Bromsgrove @ Google Maps
Consume with: a really filthy burger from the van.
Visit: How about the National Telephone Kiosk Collection at the Avoncroft Museum? Surely a contender for Nothing To See Here.
Overall rating: three Rebuses