I took a trip to York before Christmas; the first time for over 20 years and I wasn’t disappointed. If you’ve not been there, York’s a thriving University town with ancient Viking remains, walk-able Roman wall, narrow medieval streets (the Shambles is the crowning glory) and an impressive railway museum documenting York’s long transport heritage. With the North York Moors and pretty coastal towns like Whitby nearby, it’s surely got to be up there as one of our best cities.
York industrialised more slowly than other northern cities; the reason it was able to hold on to it’s historic charm. At the time of the industrial revolution it became known for it’s fast expanding banking and insurance sectors. The coming of the railways then further revolutionised things and by the 1850s trains were leaving for London up to 13 times a day.
Today, the North is struggling. According to Zoopla’s house price index, 7 out of 10 of the worst performing towns in 2013 were north of Birmingham. Rotherham and Bolton suffering the most. There ‘s higher unemployment in the north, lower investment, greater health problems, higher teenage pregnancy, greater alcoholism. This list unfortunately, goes on
So is it all bad news? No, is the simple answer. House prices aren’t suffering in York, for example, like many northern cities. Indeed they performed quite well this year. According to Zoopla York came 10th in the best performing of 2013 with a rise of 6.6%. According to Nationwide, Manchester too, saw a massive 21% annual increase. (though to be fair they had fallen a VERY long way since the 2009 crash). There are signs of recovery in other northern towns and plenty of news to bring encouragement.
Walking past the Minster, York’s hugely impressive cathedral, I reflected on the unfairness of just focusing on the economics. How much is the North responsible for it’s changing fortunes after all, and not a victim of national and global circumstances?
Take the economics out of the equation and the north becomes hugely attractive.
The estate agents, landlords, shopkeepers, even car salesmen, (thanks Ray Chapman motors for the new car by the way!) that I meet, do a great promotional job. Put simply, northerners are seriously friendly, welcoming and humorous people. Communities ARE a bit tighter here. People DO talk to each other more and they DO look out for one another – fact!
I might point out that I was born and grew up in the Midlands, have lived in Yorkshire and thanks to the Youth Hostelling Association and a dogged determination by my parents to keep 4 spirited children occupied over the school holidays, have spent much time walking almost every corner of ‘the North’. On that basis I feel qualified to comment.
What about the North/South debate then? It’s all a bit old hat in my view. Yes, the north has a rough deal. The disparity in almost every indicator of wealth and prosperity between north and south is striking.
That aside, any sensible minded person only has to ‘go north’ to see why making derogatory remarks is frankly a bit silly. The North is ‘great’ in the both senses. Great in terms of it’s breathtaking industrial heritage and economic contribution for which we should all be grateful but great too because it really is a fantastic place to live, work, bring up a family, explore and enjoy
My advice; get yourself up there, see what your missing and if it’s quality of life you’re after, you won’t do any better. As for what you get for you money compared with the south, no contest.
Hull. City of culture 2017: http://www.hullcc.gov.uk/2017hull