I'll start this blog by saying I love Cheltenham. I love living here and have no intention of leaving. In a way, this post could be about any high street, and it genuinely makes me feel sad. Cheltenham is not even the worst affected but if we don't start doing something about the decline of our high then we may as well close all shops and turn the centre of towns into flats or supermarkets. I can't even tell if people are interested in doing anything about it.
The photos aren't great - it was freezing and threatening snow - but I think the grey helps to make my point.
My mum was walking into town the other day, down the very street I've photographed, and overheard someone say "It's looking a bit tatty isn't it".
Yes, is the answer. Cheltenham looks tatty. But only on the high street. It's plainly evident that a lot of money gets spent on the Promenade or Montpellier. When I was a teenager I didn't even go on those streets because the shops were too expensive!
Now, they don't even look like they want people to walk down the high street. The bit that stretches from The Restoration Pub down to the Cheltenham & Gloucester (a brand that itself will be disappearing, along with all the local heritage that goes with it) looks so tired. It's charity shops, betting shops and sandwich shops. New Look has a great store up that end, but it's the only one. The Disney store, next to Millets, next to HMV - a huge expanse of storefront, with HMV about to close, will soon be a big block of empty shops.
Cheltenham used to be wonderful. I used to be so proud of my town, now... I'd rather go shopping somewhere else. This is happening everywhere, and the worse thing is, I can't think of a solution. I am just as guilty of shopping online as the next person, but there's nothing like walking round a shop picking stuff up and buying on a whim. I still visit bookstores because I love books, and I love finding a random one that I otherwise wouldn't have picked, that turns out to be excellent. Same with clothes.
I also know I'm slightly hypocritical as I love shopping centres. But I do only visit them infrequently - Cheltenham is the place I WANT to visit on a weekend, and I want it to be a good experience! Am I asking too much?
But there is light for Cheltenham. They are completely rebuilding the front of the Regent Arcade and that will hopefully reignite a section of the High St that needs waking up. We're FINALLY getting an H&M (I know, I'm easily pleased!) and I can't help feeling hope that we can be proud of our town again.
And because I didn't want to be totally depressing today, Cheltenham still has it's highlights. If you're in town, check out Pepper Crescent, a lovely cafe that does lovely lunch and cake.
Cheltenham, I love you. But pull your socks up please. And not just for Race Week.
|The Party Shop is the only one that's been there for years - the rest come and go|
|The mobile clinic used to be Game|
|Bye, bye HMV. PLease someone snap up this space!|
|Another empty storefront on the right|
|It just got busier|
|The Promenade, looks better in sunshine|
|A wonderful hideaway - Pepper Crescent|