Sunday, 23 February 2014

Workington, Cumbria

After our visit to Cockermouth we headed west on the A66 to Workington.  More often than not I like going to places I know nothing about and the only thing I check is whether it has charity shops.  So after a quick Google I knew Workington was good to go on the charity shop front.

Workington is an industrial, working class town perched on the Cumbrian coast.  It’s quite an isolated part of the world and is at least one hour away from either the nearest city or the M6.
On driving into Workington the place appeared to be a little on the grim side with lots of industrial developments and some unloved buildings.  We parked up in the local pay and display car park near to the local shopping centre.
The shopping centre was basically pedestrianised streets, served by regular high street chains.  Clearly regeneration money had been spent in recent years to make the shopping centre inviting with random street art and in Washington Square there appeared to be a multimedia installation.  I expect this is where they hold local events like the annual Christmas lights and stuff. However there were still a few empty shops including a branch of HMV, which is always sad to see.
What I really noticed walking around the shopping centre were the people.  It was like walking onto a set of a soap opera where everyone knows each other.  Gangs of kids congregated outside shops having a gossip, a punk mother dragging her teenage goth kid shopping and hard faced young girls were pushing prams.  I reckon Sport Direct must do great business considering half the population appear to wear sports gear.
There were plenty of charity shops in Workington and we popped along to most of them.  We didn’t find much to buy but I did notice most of them were very clean and tidy.  Whilst some charity shops I’ve visited over the years can resemble an episode of Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder, I really do appreciate a well ordered charity shop and gold stars should go to the ladies of Workington who run these shops.
Apart from the shopping precinct the architecture of the town was typical of an English port town with old buildings covered in render with small windows and Victorian red brick terraces.  Surprisingly the bus station is housed in a 1920s Art Deco building, which apparently was the first purpose built bus station in Britain.  Workington Library appears to have had a makeover in recent years and it’s great to see it houses a community run café.  There are a few independent shops on the edge of the town and Rosie’s Corner gift shop caught my eye with its colourful retro shop front.
We were intending to walk towards the port area, but the weather was a bit wet and the town hadn’t filled me with much joy to explore it any further.  In the end we headed back to the car and decided to make a trip to nearby Maryport instead.
I can’t say I was that impressed with Workington, then again it doesn’t pop up as a tourist destination for Cumbria.  It’s an industrial town that’s off the beaten track and with that you do get deprivation.  Clearly regeneration money has been spent on the town to create a half decent shopping area, which is needed as the nearest city is over an hour away by car.  However, personally I can’t really find a reason to go back there in a hurry.