So a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how we got on the property ladder, and how we chose an area near Windsor that was about to be regenerated… well, if you haven’t guessed by now, I can now reveal that area is… Slough.
Poor old Slough has had a bad rep since forever, with help from the famous John Betjeman poem that asked for bombs to fall on Slough (and that was in the 1930s!) to more recently Ricky Gervais’ series The Office, that painted the picture of the dullest town ever. And just this week, the guy that sits behind me at my office was on a rant slating the town. We work in Kentish Town and there was a conversation about how boring the lunch choices are there, then the guy behind my desk says, ‘oh my god my friend has just started work in Slough, it is a dump! He says there is NOTHING there, blah blah blah….’ My goodness, I wanted to die in my seat, when my manager blurts out to him, ‘hello some people might live there!’ I was like ‘Shhh!!!’ Talk about embarrassing!
Now I’m not denying the town looks dull, it is a real concrete jungle, full of 1960s buildings and offices that span as far as the eye can see. It really is not one of the pretty places I visit with my toddler. And yes there are homeless people and junkies here, and teenagers hanging out like in any big town. Windsor was where we wanted to settle, but whenever we searched on Rightmove or Zoopla for properties, Slough always came up as being 1 mile away from Windsor but at much more affordable prices.
We spent a day there to see what it was like. I was still like, no way, I cannot live in Slough. It was so grey and the high street was full of pound shops.
Then our weekend break in Birmingham happened. The city has been regenerated beyond recognition, like a brand new shiny city. We thought wouldn’t it be great if we could settle somewhere with affordable properties that’s a bit rough, but is about to be regenerated. And that’s how we got back to looking at Slough.
Slough is on the Crossrail route which is opening in 2018, and, with a bit of Googling, we discovered the £1billion Heart of Slough regeneration scheme. It has already started, with the High Street having brand new paving and seating, the shiny new bus station that replaces the 60s monstrosity made famous by ‘The Office’, and the £22m building called The Curve which is being built right now – it’s going to be a Learning Centre housing the library, museum, cafe and a cultural centre (EDIT – this has now opened, see here). There is also going to be a new business centre by the bus station, but work has yet to start on that project for now.
So that’s how we settled on buying a new-build apartment in the centre of Slough – an area that is rough and ready, but has a bright future. We have been living here a year, and I can say it is the friendliest place I have lived in! We really love it, and there are lots of things to do here that I think the public are just not aware of. So I am going to start a weekly series called ‘Slough – it’s not so bad’ at themummystylist.com/slough and each post will be about something fun to do in Slough!
For now I will tell you my Top 10 Reasons why we like living in Slough:
1) The people are friendly! There’s a real family atmosphere here, and people smile and say ‘Morning’ here. At the local playgroup, the mums are approachable and there are no mummy cliques! Even the Asian folk are friendly here (we’re used to the more miserable kind in West London :-P) They all start talking to us in Urdu or Panjabi, we don’t understand, but it’s okay! I was in Asda and the checkout lady was so jolly, chatting away to me in Urdu, I just nodded having no idea what she was saying, but it’s better than being frowned at.
2) The Train Station. Windsor is 6 minutes away by train and it costs only £2.50 return! It’s amazing. The trains run every 20 minutes, so anytime my boy wants to go on a train, we just jump on one of these, and we’re in Windsor! In the other direction, it’s 20 minutes in to London Paddington, or 40 minutes to Oxford, and we’ve done many a daytrip on the trains from Slough to places such as Reading, Henley-on-Thames, Maidenhead, Newbury and Basingstoke.
3) The shopping centre. We have the Queensmere Observatory here, and all the big brands are here, so I can pop into town and get literally anything I need. The stores are clearly not the most well-loved, and could do with a refurb, but they sell the same stuff you get in any other high street. As it’s not a destination shopping centre, it’s often quieter in the week, which is good as there are less queues and more space for the boy to run around in.
4) We have the biggest Tesco Extra ever. It is huge and 24 hour too. I think it was the biggest in the country in 2005, but that title has been taken by another Tesco now. It has a huge Home and Clothing department, and the biggest Food of the World aisles that you feel like you’ve gone to another country! There’s a trendy restaurant called ‘The Cafe’ at one end and a Harris & Hoole Coffee Shop at the other. Whenever we have people visit our apartment, they all want to check out the giant Tesco!
5) Absolute Bowling is a favourite of ours. It has a soft play area for toddlers, an arcade games area, pool tables, eating area as well as the bowling alley. And this is all about 5 mins walk from the Town Centre. It’s right next to Salt Hill Park, where there’s a lottery funded playground for the kids.
6) We have another favourite soft play centre inside the Observatory Centre called ‘Activus’, which the boy loves. It’s great to let him have a play and I get to relax with a coffee, as there’s plenty of seating. We like going on a weekday morning so it’s more quiet and he has it all to himself!
7) Herschel Park – this is a Grade II Listed Garden that is absolutely beautiful. You would not believe you are in Slough. There are ducks and geese on the ponds, and the park is surrounded by pretty character houses, it’s so very picturesque, especially on a sunny day. There’s also a Nature Reserve, which we haven’t yet visited, but it’s on our to-do list! As well as this park, there are many others a short drive away from the town centre, including Black Park and Langley Country Park which we discovered back in April.
8) More shopping – haha. If you drive a little bit out of the town centre, you have every brand of ‘Retail Park’ store you can think of along the Bath Road, like literally EVERY brand (Matalan, B&Q, Homebase, Smyths, Asda, Furniture Village, Sports Direct, M&S Food, Next, New Look, Boots, Mothecare and I’m sure there’s more), as well as a McDs for a shopping break. We’ve had many a cheeseburger in there 😉
9) On the subject of food, my boy is a regular at the Slough Burgerking. He loves it in there, whenever we walk past we have to get chips. Then we sit in the comfy sofa seats by the window and watch the world go by.
10) The best bit about Slough is how alive it looks from our apartment. It never sleeps, there are always lights on everywhere, and we can see trains, buses, taxis, cars and planes from our window, so the boy is always entertained. We can see the planes flying out of Heathrow on the left side, and to our front we can see Windsor Castle. We love looking out of the window, and it was especially amazing on New Years Eve with all the fireworks going off.
Please note, I have NOT been paid to write this post. These are my real, genuine opinions and experiences from living in Slough for the past year. (But if anyone wants to pay me, please feel free :-D)
EDIT 08/17 – Please note, you may notice a lot of big brands stores closing in the shopping centre over the next year – it is rumoured that the Queensmere Observatory will be demolished and a new Westfield-type shopping centre will be built in it’s place. This is all word-of-mouth from shop workers in the centre, I have seen nothing confirmed on paper. This will be a slow makeover as they are waiting for the leases of each store to run out apparently. So if you are thinking to move to Slough, just be aware that although it looks like the High Street is dying, this should be only temporary.