Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A Day in Atherstone - part one

Atherstone, like Market Drayton, is one of those places that I like very much without being able to put my finger on exactly why. I'm sure many visiting boaters consider it boring, run-down or even "unsafe" but I was quite happy to take advantage of the opportunity of spending a whole day in the town.

Perhaps it's the transport connection that appeals. As well as the canal, Atherstone lies on Watling Street, the old Roman Road connecting Dover and London with the Midlands. The actual Roman settlement was in nearby Mancetter but I do like the thought of walking down the town's main street, appropriately named "Long Street", and thinking myself in the footsteps of others who have passed this way for over 2500 years.  Watling Street later became a main stage and mail coach route and Atherstone has its fair share of coaching inns, including the Red Lion, in whose forecourt lies this splendid milepost indicating that the town is exactly 100 miles from London.
Later, when motor traffic replaced the horse and a system of road numbering was brought in, Atherstone found itself astride the "A5" London to Holyhead trunk road and the main street formed part of that route. Traffic approaching from the west was directed to either London or Holyhead by this sign which, in either case, sent travellers along Long Street.
The town also sits on the West Coast Main Railway Line. It actually lost its train service for a while during the reconstruction of the line but now enjoys an hourly through, if rather slow, stopping service to London although most trains rush through the station at over 100 mph. The station buildings, once threatened with demolition, now have listed building status but are no longer in railway use - you buy your ticket on the train.

No comments: