The Truth about… living in a ‘crap’ town

Crap townsI grew up in one of the most affluent London boroughs. My mum and dad were not super rich but back in the early 70s it was still possible to plough a moderate amount of savings into a house purchase and get a mortgage on a three storey Edwardian property based on two average salaries. I have it on good authority that many of the two bedroom semi-detached properties in the street I first lived on now sell for up to £900,000 (although popular names in the area range from Jonty to Vera – draw your own conclusions 😉 ).

My husband also grew up in an affluent Surrey town and both sets of parents still live in the places where we grew up. We, on the other hand, made the decision to move to a less affluent area rather than hang on the rough and battered edges of a prime postcode.
We both work in the public sector (in Surrey) so we don’t have the luxury of cherry picking our dream location, and we were aware that our future children would benefit from things such as a large(ish) garden, nearby parks and child-friendly facilities that don’t cost the earth (as well as a 99p shop for those all important party supplies).

But there is some snobbery with regards our town and I suspect that it may be listed in that famous publication ‘Crap Towns’ which has a great laugh featuring such places as the urban roundabouts of Slough, the depressing grey architecture of Luton, etc.

Once, when I went to join our local library, I was astounded as I attempted to hand over a bundle of ID only to be told it wasn’t necessary because, as ‘an area of deprivation’, the council were keen to encourage library membership and had happily removed any potential barriers (like the security of stock or the ability to trace deviant internet surfers – go figure!).

We have easily accessible NHS doctors and dentists, schools which Ofsted have slated in the past leading to massive funding with generous grants and the facitlities, staffing and materials to show for it, and areas of regeneration like our very local playground which was given an expensive facelift in 2010.

It’s true, the town centre is the kind of place where shops like Peacocks and Wilkos thrive whilst a, possibly ill-judged, glass and chrome mall stands empty like a hastily abandoned sinking ship leading critics to label the place a ‘ghost town’.

On the other hand, we have seen major improvements and developments in the six years that we have lived here, including a huge new complex with a choice of popular restaurants from Pizza Express to Prezzo, and a multiplex cinema (which I’m particularly thrilled about as, before children, I was a massive film buff and I’m itching to make the most of this lovely local facility!). We also have a brilliant arts centre for comedy, theatre, workshops and classes (which I’m ashamed to say I have never visited but this is something that I very much have on my post-pre-school bucket list!).

Things tend to be cheaper and – dare I say it – less pretentious. Since having children I have met friends in and around this area who don’t judge us for what we do or don’t have, and who I hope will be friends for life.

So judge and criticise all you like if you live out in the glorious Surrey Hills or Hampshire’s Fleet (according to a survey, one of the happiest places in the UK). Maybe I’d join you if I won the lottery or suddenly became a hugely successful freelance IT consultant overnight (get me the Tena ladies now before I wet myself laughing!) but for the time being, with the resources available I’ll take my three bed red brick Victorian semi, family friendly resources and community and embrace it for all it’s worth. Just don’t ask me to tell you where I live 🙂

34 thoughts on “The Truth about… living in a ‘crap’ town

    • I think Hull actually came as the No.1 crap town in the book I’m talking about Jo! It must be really crap! 🙂 Having said that I agree that everywhere has it’s good and bad bits. Towns that I’ve come away from thinking ‘crap’ were places like Littlehampton and then Rhyl in North Wales. But I have no right to put those labels on because all I have had is a brief impression on a driving through. X

  1. I’m keen to know where you live lovely because I’m London/Surrey borders and our areas sound very similar. Recently we’ve been lucky enough to have some funding from Boris, and things are changing. Also the development where I live is lovely (we lucked out!) but our area would definitely be classed as ‘deprived’ in places and 5yo’s school was in special measures just a few years ago (thankfully that’s turned around too lately)… Five years ago it was a different story!
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    • My town is on the Hampshire/Surrey borders hon, so it’s actually got all the benefits of being part of the home counties, close to beautiful countryside, and away from urban sprawl of London. I have the most amazing views on my drive to work (next town over) – I’ve just read that on a clear day you can see 13 counties from up on that road and you can certainly see the sun glinting off the Wembley arch, as well as the skyscrapers of London – which is amazing considering the fact that we are about 40 miles away! The town itself fades in comparison to some of the places I have seen on the Secret Millionaire programme where they focus on areas which really are quite obviously deprived and just breeding grounds for crime and anti-social behaviour. I think I have a guess for where you live! 😉 X

  2. Fantastic post, Sam. I think the most important thing is being happy where you live (and being thankful to have a roof over your head!) but agree that there is a lot of snobbery about ‘crap towns’. I live in a village surrounded by a lot of affluent areas although where we live is more affordable. We made the decision to look for a smaller, cheaper house in a less affluent area so that I could have the option to stay at home and be a full- time mum. I grew up on a council estate and had a wonderful childhood but was later bullied for being ‘council estate scum’ and encountered a lot of snobbery from parents as well as children. It was a fantastic place to grow up though and I’d rather live somewhere like that that had a sense of community than in a huge house in a very snobby area.
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    • I guess you’re always going to get snobs who think they’re better because they’ve got more money. Look at that bloody Katie Hopkins – won’t let her children mix with others if they’ve got the wrong kind of name! It sounds like you made the right decision for your family and you’ve found a place where your kids can grow and thrive X

    • You are allowed to think your own town is crap I guess but I actually quite like all the good things about where I live and I get a bit defensive when people poke fun! I’ve never heard of Castlefields but I guess I should give it a wide berth? 🙂 X

  3. I too live In a crap town – Grimsby. It has had a lot of jokes made about it, and a new series of ‘skirt’ has been filmed here recently. However, I have lived here all of my life, and wouldn’t move anywhere else.
    My grandparents were poor working class and we grew up on one of the estates with a ‘rough’ reputation. Despite it all, I’ve grown up loved, protected and safe. And we have proved that where you live doesn’t have to define who you are – I am now a social worker, my sister a teacher.
    I love my town, for all the bad things said or written about it xxx
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    • I presume you mean a new series of ‘Skint’ not ‘Skirt’ (made me laugh though! 🙂 ) I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say, born and bred and it’s home right? And as everyone else has said even the ‘best’ places have their crappier areas. I see living in really posh places as a bit like owning a really posh car – you are going to be forever worrying that someone is eyeing up your property with a view to nicking or damaging it somehow. There have been a spate of burglaries around where my in-laws live (nearby affluent town) and I have to admit to feeling a bit smug sometimes that we don’t have those kind of issues! 🙂 I loved where I grew up too but obviously no-one was to know that the housing market would price their own kids out of the area back then. Hopefully my kids will never be priced out of their home town! X

  4. One of the things that always annoys me when people label a town is that they forget that every large town has good and bad areas! I’ve only lived in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, so all ‘great’ cities, but walk a few blocks in any of them and you get to a crap bit. The town we live in at the moment is lovely, but head to the borders of a couple of the neighbouring towns and then, not so much. It’s so much more about people and community and facilities – and it sounds like you have those!
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    • Well cities – yes, they certainly all have their good and bad bits for sure. It is nice to have like minded people around though – our town has a real mixture of people from all different economic backgrounds – it makes the school drop off quite colourful in terms of people watching! There are certainly plenty of people like us though who have come to this town as well educated middle class children of white collar workers who wanted to get more for their money in the property market. We have so much right on our doorstep and one specific element of this town keeps it from ever really going down the pan but I won’t say what because it’ll give the game away 😉 X

  5. That’s a great post, Sam! The way the housing market is going, you cannot help but wonder whether our children will ever be able to buy anything bigger than a shed to put in our gardens. My poor little monkeys don’t stand a chance: there’s no space for even 1 shed in our tiny courtyard!
    What matters at the end of the day is who you’re with, the friends you make and the facilities in your area.
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    • The housing market is just crazy. The gap between salaries and house prices – how is that sustainable?? Something’s got to give eventually, right? We have been so lucky with what this town has to offer though and some great friends who I wouldn’t want to move away from now. X

  6. Lol, love it 🙂 our town (technically a city… If a very small one) is a bit naff and there is so much snobbery from people who live in the surrounding towns… But I just cant be bothered with that nonsense. There is lots of lovely parks and open spaces for kids, good shopping centres and I love living where we do. So boo hiss to the snobs! Great post 🙂 xx
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    • I like your no nonsense attitude Caroline! From everything I’ve seen of the places you take Monkey, it looks like a place full of green spaces and I guess you have the facilities you need to make family life as easy as possible. Boo hiss indeed! 🙂

  7. While I am entirely unfamiliar with your part of the world, this post made me chuckle as I grew up in a town that is the hub of a cluster of crap towns here in Iowa. After moving from one desolate area to another, I’d rather go back to the first one where at least I had access to family!
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    • Oh yes, it’s definitely all about the people I think. Sometimes there is a lot of snobbery about people with less money but it just doesn’t bear out in reality – people with less are often more friendly, open and accepting than those who are jealously guarding their lot! Being near family is a huge factor to how you feel personally about your connection with a place too. X

    • Ha ha! I think it’s all made up by journalists who can’t come up with anything better! I was Googling the whole ‘crap towns’ phenomenon and I read an article by a Guardian writer – a critique of the book – and whilst he agreed that one of the places mentioned (where he grew up) was a bit crap, he also pointed out that the guys who wrote the book were having a laugh at others’ expense from a position of privelege and affluence – professional idlers (they wrote the original article for a publication called ‘The Idler’). Another critic described it as ‘the modern equivalent of watching a hanging’ – the fortunate ones getting their jollies laughing at the misfortune of others (although living in a supposedly ‘crap’ town is hardly as bad as being hung)… 🙂

  8. Home is where the heart is and I reckon the happiest people are the ones that figure that out, rather than obsessing about neighbourhoods and postcodes! I live in what has been described to me as ‘the arse end of Canton’ and it’s true that my road is scruffy and run down. But good schools, great parks, family friendly arts centre, library, community centre – all that sanity saving stuff that really matters when you have kids – all close by. Lucky us, I say!
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    • Aw this is exactly my thoughts Michelle – people on the outside judging don’t really know all the benefits you get from living where you do – particularly when you have a family and there are very specific things you need on hand. Plus, we have a lower council tax 😉 X

  9. Great post, Sam, and very timely from my point of view. You know where I’m from (RBK) – affluent isn’t the word…. Then we moved from there to a notorious ‘crap town’ (Mitcham). And call me a snob, but it truly is crap. I hate it here. I’ve never seen so much litter and dog mess in my life. And if you want to avoid all that, walk along the main roads with their traffic. So we’re biting the bullet and buying a house waaaaaaaay out of London – probably East Anglia, and probably to a listed ‘crap town’. I believe London itself got voted a crap town for various reasons. I’m inclined to agree, but that is largely what Mitcham has done to me… 🙂

    • Ah what a pity Fiona! But you have just made me realise why calling my town crap is nothing but snobbery – it is a well maintained town – Hampshire County Council is actually much better than Surrey county council – grass verges are always mown in summer, potholes are dealt with and a lot of effort goes into the landscape and garden design of public spaces. There are town centre celebrations and, whilst I wouldn’t walk through the parks at night I wouldn’t anywhere – the area I grew up – Hampton, Twickenham nearby – that’s where the hammer attacks of Levi Bell happened (Millie Dowler) and that’s essentially Richmond upon Thames.

  10. I live in one of the least affluent parts of the town Sam and I both live in. I was a bit worried when I moved here but now I’ve lived and worked here for over 10 years and I really like it. The driving is a bit scary (where isn’t it tbf??) but people are straightforward, kind and honest and it’s a relatively cheap place to live. I’ll be forever grateful for our town as life has definitely had its ups and downs in the last few years but I have managed to continue living here

    • I think you’ve captured my feelings there Keri – nice, community spirited people and relatively cheap! I think that a fair bit of effort goes into the upkeep of the town too – we definitely have certain things better than our Surrey neighbours!

  11. Apparently, our home town of Wokingham is the safest place to live and the best place for families – who makes this stuff up anyway?! As if living in a place makes you happy?! I’m glad you like your town, anywhere with less snobbery is good in my book 🙂
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    • I used to live in Wokingham too Suzanne (Finchampsted) – but I was childless then and renting with my ex boyfriend and I found it incredibly difficult to break into the community there despite all my best efforts. Maybe it would be the same anywhere and it’s the kids that bring us all together… I’m not sure how they get these statistics anyway – as far as I know ‘crap towns’ is just based purely on the personal opinion of the two authors.

  12. Much of this fantastic post really chimed with me. We made a conscious decision to move from the edge of an affluent town out to Thatcham, further away from London and not quite so smart (although hardly Benefits Street). We had a lot of reasons for doing so: getting more bang for our buck (our current house would have cost 40% more had we stayed where we were), more convenient for work for both of us, a choice of decent state schools, a big-enough local high street within walking distance etc etc.

    Is our postcode now less posh? Yes. Do I regret moving? Not for one minute. As Jane says, home is what we make it, and our current home is where our three kids were born (two of them actually *in* the house) and will grow up (at least for the foreseeable future).
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    • I went out to my ex-boyfriend’s work Christmas do at an Indian in Thatcham once Tim – that’s my one experience of the town! We lived in Wokingham at the time and he commuted out to Newbury whilst I commuted back to Twickenham for a while. The fact that Thatcham is more convenient for your work is brilliant – that combined with more bang for your buck – what’s not to like?!

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