Laura Carter is Garstang born and bred and in a personal celebration here highlights how her hometown has maintained its strong community feel and character
I have always enjoyed being a part of Garstang’s town community. I love that I went to school here and now the children of school friends are also growing up in our town.
As we all know from the signs welcoming us to our town, in the year 2000 Garstang became the World’s first Fairtrade Town.
This accolade promotes the sale of products carrying the Fairtrade Mark, an international certification label that guarantees producers in developing countries get a fair deal. There are many local shops and businesses selling products which carry the Fairtrade Mark highlighting a wonderful achievement for the town. But, I believe Garstang offers so much more.
It is wonderful that Garstang continues to support so many independent shops, retailers, cafés, market stall holders plus many other local businesses. I particularly love that our town hasn’t succumbed to high street chains or national coffee outlets.
I, for one, am very happy I can sit down for a cup of coffee in a local café that isn’t branded with a Costa or Starbucks logo. I delight in the more personal, attentive service we all receive in our local shops and love the unique discoveries we can find while enjoying some retail therapy in town. Of course, there is no denying it is sometimes easier to buy online and comparing prices on the internet is so much simpler. But there is a certain unparalleled joy in walking down our High Street, through our weinds and admiring our historic buildings which you cannot replicate in a shopping mall or while surfing on the internet.
Many families have lived here for generations. I unexpectedly met the mum of a school friend from St Mary and St Michael’s Catholic Primary School the other day.
We were chatting as we waited for the swimming pool to open and I commented how I had learned to swim in Garstang swimming pool and how wonderful it is I am still able to use the facility now. She reminisced about taking her children to peer into the hole that had been dug for the pool as it was being built in the 1970s –we laughed that they likely wouldn’t be allowed to stand that close to such a hole now! And as our conversation progressed, it turns out her daughter and I had attended the same school in the same class in the 1970s. And attended swimming lessons together in the same pool. What a small world.
Garstang maintains its distinct character and history, but it also embraces diversity. Over the past few months I have spoken to people originally from far and wide across the country who, for various reasons, have moved to Garstang and are already loving their new town. Indeed our calling goes further than just the British Isles, more than 30 years ago we had residents here from as far afield as Norway, Finland and the USA and this wide community appeal still exists today.
A colleague of mine, whose in-laws have moved to Garstang from Manchester recently, commented to me that they were delighted by the home delivery service they could receive from a local pharmacy – a simple service, but one they had to move here in order to get. The local touch. The diversity in our town makes us richer in many ways. We hear different perspectives, meet new people and in turn we come to appreciate aspects of Garstang life that perhaps we had taken for granted or simply forgotten.
The cities of Preston and Lancaster are on our doorstep providing employment opportunities. In less than an hour we can be in the centre of Manchester, walking in the hills in the Lake District or even jetting off from Manchester’s international airport to a far flung destination for work or a holiday. Cyclists pass through our town from the surrounding areas, often stopping for a break in one of our many cafés.
Sport and exercise enthusiasts can enjoy the local facilities; ramblers can take advantage of the many paths and trails around the town. A large number of charities have a presence on our high street. If you want a spa treatment, you are spoiled for choice and if a pub lunch is your thing then there are many options to choose from. There really is something for everyone.
All the local primary and secondary schools have been rated either good or outstanding by Ofsted. Following completion of secondary school, students can find further education opportunities in the wider local region.
Garstang has achieved success in the Britain in Bloom Awards, winning the Small Country Town category in 2002 and winning the Small Town category in 2005, 2006 and 2010. Visit Garstang was named as a finalist in the Visitor Information Provider of the Year category of the prestigious VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2014. The town can even boast being home to the UK’s largest wind turbine, built in 2011 to provide power for Dewlay, the local factory producing the award-winning Garstang Blue cheese (it’s 158 metres tall, by the way).
In short, Garstang offers so much to so many. The benefit of accessible transport links to get far and wide, together with our town’s distinct charm and appeal makes Garstang a wonderful place to live and work. Our town’s history is visible to all as Garstang is overlooked by the ruined remains of Greenhalgh Castle, built in 1490.
I would argue that all residents have a role to play in maintaining the town’s distinct character and history.
So, let’s continue to support local businesses and preserve our town’s wonderful uniqueness. Purchases made in our town will help boost our local economy, enable local businesses to remain trading and in turn, Garstang’s wonderful community will continue to flourish.