My love affair with Clarendon Park began six years ago, when I first visited the area for a colleague’s birthday celebrations. I’m not sure if it was her stories of guerrilla gardeners or the excellent tapas at Barceloneta, but the next morning I found myself searching online for rooms to rent and a couple of months later I made the move.
On that first day, hungry from unpacking boxes, I stepped out in search of lunch – and almost immediately bumped into a friendly neighbour who warmly welcomed me to the street. Fifteen minutes later, the guy chattily wrapping up my doorstop sandwich at Salvador Deli offered to lend me a hand if I needed any help shifting heavy boxes or putting up shelves. I was going to be happy in this house.
Since then I’ve moved one road along and grown to appreciate the South Leicester community even more – drinking flat whites in Northern Cobbler, riding happily away from Julie’s Cycles, attempting a decent downward dog under the guidance of Zoe (from Yoga Leicester) at the Quaker Meeting House, noting down interior design tips from neighbours’ houses during the annual Art House, and spending hours perusing the various vintage and charity shops. It’s not unusual for us to have whole weekends without leaving the area – and not because we’re too lazy to leave our house.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect – if reports on the community Facebook page are to be believed, there’s been something of a mini crimewave in recent months, and parking is always a challenge (particularly on City match days).
For the uninitiated, Clarendon Park actually takes up a pretty small area of the LE2 postcode – according to Wikipedia it is bordered by Viccy Park to the north, Knighton Road to the South, Welford Road to the west, and London Road to the east – but locals would probably argue about the exact territory. Back in the day (pre-19th century) it’s thought much of the land belonged to the Quakers – who still have a presence, alongside a Hindu temple, Sikh gurdwara, Jewish synagogue, Islamic mosque and several Christian churches. And on top of the various religious communities, there’s a hive of other cultural activities to get involved with – from the annual summer and Christmas fairs, which close Queens Road, to a colourful selection of different social and hobby groups.
But don’t just take my word for it – here’s a selection of thoughts from other people living and working in the area…
The Tiny Bakery on Clarendon Park Road has been open for just over three years, selling tasty, locally made bakes – including artisan breads from David Belcham, aka One Man and His Loaf – who grew up in the neighbourhood. He says it took a little while for them to figure out what the locals and passing visitors wanted (popular buys include the sesame seed sourdough loafs, chocolate twist pastries and vegan cupcakes) and to hone their skills to match, but they’ve been rewarded with supportive customers who are eager to share feedback – both good and constructive. “I think people in this area are probably slightly more artistic, probably like something that is a little bit more unusual. In this homogenised society now where you can go into a supermarket or a coffee shop chain and get the same thing every single time. I think Clarendon Park support small independent places because, people realise they can get even better quality, with a little bit more attention to detail. And people in this area I think appreciate craftsmanship.”
Ruth Clowes started her blog Clarendon Spark after moving to the area five years ago as a way of getting to know the people and places, both present and past; “It’s been much more popular than I ever expected – I’ve even been told by one new resident that reading my blog had encouraged them to move here. One thing I’ve really got into is the local history side of things – it’s not one of the oldest areas of Leicester but there are some little historical gems hidden away and digging them out is great fun.” Ruth, who is a freelance writer and communications manager for a charity, loves the sense of community and the number of independent shops, bars and restaurants on her doorstep; “It’s only a small area but it really packs a punch in terms of variety.”
The Charity Volunteer
Adham Fisher is a sales assistant at Spiral Scratch, a LOROS charity shop specialising in music and media – from DVD boxsets to top end vinyl. As we speak, Adham points out a donated original US vinyl pressing of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation, priced at £40. He says this shop, and the charity’s bookshop a few doors down, suit the area’s vibe; “Clarendon Park is what I would call a bespoke area – it has many specialist shops and I think that probably works well for us. We have people who come in every week and we have one off customers as well. There are people from outside of the county who will come once or twice a month.”
Sue’s owned the Flower Corner on Queens Road for the past 22 years, but there’s been a florist on that spot for around 40 years. Customers who first visited as children are now bringing their own offspring in.
“I think it’s a lovely community around here and a lovely area to have a shop in. We’ve got a lot of regulars – we have a lot of students coming in and a lot of older people who’ve been coming in for years, who do like a chat.” Over the past few years she had noticed a number of shops closing, with more bars and restaurants appearing in their place. Sue feels it brings a more cosmopolitan feel to the area and it’s done nothing to dent her business; “We feel quite privileged that we’re still going strong and the locals still support us.”
The Music Lover
On James Hickford’s first visit to the area, a freezing and snowy January day, he popped into Fingerprints Delicafe – “As soon as I sat down with a warming brew they were playing Gil Scott Heron on the stereo and I knew I was at home!” Since then the marketing manager has searched out some other favourite spots and spent plenty of time appreciating some of the area’s “world class architecture” – including Lutyen’s Arch of Remembrance on Victoria Park. But it’s not just the places – “I’ve been lucky to live alongside some great neighbours sharing BBQs and planting parties to brighten up our road and be part of the active Friends of Clarendon Park group too. I’m not from Leicester but now proud to call the area and city my home.” James’ only criticism of the area is a desire for more tunes – “The Donkey’s great for live music on Welford Road, I’d love to put on a DJ night on Queens Road, just need to find the right place for it!”