OK so I get to three and I’m struggling. When I Google it tells me what to do in Leicester and Nottingham but not this town. What will all those Olympic tourists do next year when they visit the town? (The Japanese team will be based here). When I ask family and friends they say the same (few) things. There must be a reason why we have lived here for 26 years. Few outside of the UK have heard of it. When Stewart worked at East Midlands airport people would ask the way to ‘Looga-bor-ooga’ (sounds more exotic). It’s in the centre of the Derby-Nottingham-Leicester triangle. There are loads of things to do in Leicester and Nottingham but that’s another blog.
So here we go… If any Loughbouroughites can think of any more please add to ‘Comments’.
1. See the Sock Man
He sits in the marketplace with his legs crossed. Green and totally nude a part from a sock. Bet you’re dying to see him now! When he was put in place there was an outcry. ‘Spend the money on hospitals, roads, car parks’ boring people said. As if this was a real choice. ‘What use is a sock man?’ Well he makes you smile and you need a sense of humour to live here. Children sit on him, the market stalls position themselves around him and new students take photos next to him. Locals should pay homage to him. There’s a flashmob on the internet worshipping him. For this town practically invented socks.
I had a friend who made socks in a local factory (for M&S in the days when it was ‘90% British made’) and once went to great lengths to explain how to do the turn on the heel (alternative to watching paint dry). I don’t see her any more. I once tried to knit socks but you have to do it with three needles and I couldn’t figure out what to do with the third needle. So socks are important and Loughborough people love the Sock Man now.
2. Taste Indian food
There is no shortage of Indian restaurants here. If you want a great meal out try any: Cinnamon, Red Veil, Eastern Garden, and more. We love them all. British restaurants have the usual over-priced, over-cooked fare but you can usually rely on Indian food when you want a freshly cooked delicious meal. And the customer service is second to none. They serve you as if they like you. What an extraordinary thing to say. But you know what I mean.
3. Walk in Bradgate Park
It’s a well-kept secret. We love to walk in the woods. Climb the craggy summits and drink in the amazing panoramas. See the deer and paddle in streams. There are lovely villages nearby where you can stop for a drink or a meal (as long as it’s not after 2pm). You might even capture a glimpse of the local Quorn Hunt so that you can jeer or doff your cap, whatever your political stance. In Bradgate Park there’s the ruins of the castle where Lady Jane Grey was born. She was later beheaded in the Tower of London. There are lots of royal connections here. We even have a local squire called ‘De Lisle’, some distant relative of the queen. He lives in a grand house nearby and a local school is named after the family.
4. Buy at the market
Leicestershire has a few surviving textile factories and you can buy seconds at the market quite cheaply. Next is based nearby and their stuff is easily recognisable: big bright buttons, embroidery and colours your gran would like to see you in. Fruit ‘n’ veg is a good purchase if you eat it within 24 hours or you are making jams and chutneys. Magazines are cheap if you want to cook Christmas lunch in August and there are great stalls for material, wool and cottons, hard to get elsewhere these days and much cheaper than John Lewis.
5. Visit the Carillion
There’s a museum in the centre of town which is reported to be the finest Carillion in Britain. You can often hear the bells ringing out in town, it’s a lovely peel that draws you to Queen’s Park where the monument is situated. The bells were cast in Loughborough which has one of the two remaining bell foundries. There’s also a museum of military artefacts. It was built in honour of the men from the town who died during the first world war. I hear that it’s worth seeing.
6. Walk around the university
I would not want to live here if it wasn’t for the university. It brings young people, vibrancy and jobs to the town. I once sent a letter to the local paper saying this and got hate mail. There’s an area of town the locals call ‘the golden triangle’ where students are supposed to run amok. We have never experienced this as we live on the other side of town. I don’t know when they do this as if you drive through town on a Friday night the town is dead. If you are lucky you might see someone famous. The award-winning super athletes jog and run along our (main) road. I once backed into the gate after craning my neck to see Paula Radcliffe. We have acted as hosts to foreign students a number of times. And attended university high table where we have met all types of interesting people. One of our best friends, Richard, came to study here. He is professor of mechanical engineering at Rio university and was here to research the Maglev train, invented here apparently. (Not many people will know that!)
7. Visit Quorn Crafts
Walking around this shop is the same for me as a toy shop would be for children. Owned by Sue and her family who will happily explain anything (including how to knit socks), the shop is crammed pack full of jewel coloured materials, tools and kits for sewing, quilting, knitting and other handicrafts. They run workshops too. I attended one on ‘advanced knitting techniques’ which was a real fun day as I learned a lot from the Rowan specialist and met some really nice women. The quilts are amazing. I have it tucked in the back of my brain that I’ll have the skill to make one, one day. and if you visit here call at Bo-Jangles next door. Beads and things. And they do workshops too!
8. Go Italian!
There’s a strong Italian influence in Loughborough. There’s a great shop where you can buy the real stuff – mozzarella, proscuitto etc – rather than the poor imitations you get in supermarkets. If you want the bread you have to go early Saturday mornings. There’s a really good restaurant, Ferrari’s in Quorn and the town hosts an Italian market a couple of times a year. There is also a Dante Alighieri Society that organises all kinds of cultural, linguistic and culinary events. At our church, St Mary’s, we even have an Italian Mass at 4pm most Sundays. Our order of priests were founded by an Italian, Antonio Rosmini. Apparently many Italians came to the town from the Naples area after the war, married and stayed. I spent a couple of years learning Italian at evening classes and met some great people. We love Italy and Italians, don’t we girls?!
9. Great Central Railway
A real railway. Voted number 12 on the list of the 50 greatest railway journeys in the world the Great Central Railway is the UK’s only double track, main line heritage railway. It’s the only place in the world where full size steam engines can be seen passing each other – just as it was when steam ruled the rails. Just outside of town it has steam engines, an old-fashioned station and all types of organised events. Meet Santa at Christmas. Go for a Teddy Bears’ picnic. Or Murder Mystery night, Bonfire Night. You can even have a 5 course meal travelling from Loughborough to or a Leicester. We took my Dad for a ‘Wartime journey’ that he talked about for ages. The staff were dressed in 40s uniforms and posters were from the era too. I found his ticket in his wallet after he’d died.
Right now I’ve run out of ideas. Can anyone add to this list? At least make it 10.