This week via Twitter, an extremely cheesed-off B&B owner pointed NOT BAd in the direction of an article written by Ian Midgley from The Hull Daily Mail.
Midgley had written a piece about staycationing in Northumberland and while he had waxed lyrical over Low Newton by the Sea and Bamburgh, he swiftly dismissed Berwick, advising readers “don’t go there” in tones dark enough to conjure up a plague pit.
Ever curious, NOT BAd re-tweeted the link on Twitter and posted it on our Facebook page to see what response Midgley’s comment would provoke. Would the people of Berwick rush to the town’s defence, or would they take a more phlegmatic stance?
As you would expect, there was lavish praise for Berwick in rebuttal and white fury directed at Midgley for being such a short-sighted, real ale dependent dunderhead.
However, Ross Graham, life resident and passionate devotee of Berwick, had this to say:
“The historic Border town has seen better days and we struggled to find anywhere to eat” is a sentence that may just cause a little bit of discussion, but I would have to agree.
Whenever asked for the whereabouts of a good place to eat, I usually reel off my list of here and there, but on the few occasions when I do decide to go for a meal myself I find myself quite at a loss. And that’s without putting children into the equation.
That one is so-so, that one varies between brilliant or terrible, that one is too expensive for what you get, that one is shocking. Fish and chip shop? Other fish and chip shop? Oh look, a Wetherspoons – that’s cheap and fills a hole; it’s not particularly good but is always the same and it’s got cheap drinks. Or get a take-away since you usually get x per cent off with it.
Berwick has seen better days and as locals we can stick up for it all we want, but in truth the shops and eateries are lacking; there isn’t anything to do – you can only walk round the walls so many times, and where are you going to park your car while you are busily doing nothing around town?
What do we have in the way of tourism? What do we offer? People come here and ask if you are English or Scottish and sure, they may follow the Lowry Trail, but what should they travel x amount of miles for?
Alnwick has its castle. People want to come and see that because, hey, it’s a whopping great castle. The rest want to come because of Harry Potter. Will this film with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth bring new life to the town? Just why would people be drawn to Berwick these days?
Yes, we do have a stunning location, breathtaking surroundings, brilliant architecture, and a history that you can see and touch, but how many other places will say that?Edinburgh has that and it’s just as easy to go there plus they have so much more to offer.
I love the location, the history and the architecture of our town but, to be honest, when was the last time they were a talking point? I re-noticed it myself the other day when I decided to take a nice deep breath one morning and look up.
We forget what it looks like above the pavement and shop doorways. The upper levels of most of those buildings look amazing, each different and each with the potential to be even more striking. Look at the second floor of the closed down calendar shop – those lovely arch windows would be great for a café with a view of the high street.
As residents, we have no control over what shops go where, but we should be able to say: please, no more charity or card shops. Stores are closing and staying closed, or being filled with ones we don’t need or want when they should be replaced by shops to draw people in.
We need to change if we want Berwick to become a thriving tourist destination. I don’t really like change and from what I can see nobody else does, but out town is already changing by itself and for the worse. I have lived here all my life and we have never improved.
Berwick is Berwick. There is nowhere else like it. That is our selling point, the reason why people would want to come, but how can you advertise that? Unless you know the place and its atmosphere there is very little that words and pictures can do to bring someone here.
But here is a start:
“Welcome, I am Berwick. I brim with history and magnificent architecture that is here to be looked at and touched. Just take the time to stop for a moment and look up or down or around the corner or down that alley. Ask the right people and you will find the right places. I challenge you to find any characters more diverse, creative and surprising as the ones you will find here.”
How do you feel about Berwick – fiercely loyal or resigned to the fact that the town is past saving? Do you feel our councillors and town officials are doing the best they can or have they let us down? What can we do as individuals to help redirect the town’s future?
Simply click on the ‘leave a comment’ button at the top of the post and have your say.
All photographs have been reproduced by kind permission of Stevie Wonder (Paul Stevenson), an extraordinarily talented Berwick-based photographer with a real flare for creating atmospheric pictures. Thank you, Stevie!
Find more of Stevie’s work here and be inspired.