Here at Do Not Disturb we rejoice in the unusual, the characterful, the quirky – which is why we’re on the hunt for Britain’s most independent town. In an age when our country is becoming a place of ‘clone towns’, offering a dull, homogenised retail experience, it’s time to celebrate the different, the individual, the bloody minded.
So which British towns really still have characters – and minds – of their own? And which is the most independent of all? For Do Not Disturb reader Gill Wright from Shropshire it’s Shrewsbury, a place of cobbled alleys and black and white buildings. Christina McDowall from Devon chose Looe in Cornwall with its tiny winding streets and harbour full of bobbing boats, while Andy Robinson from Rotherham loves the quaint and quirky charms of Whitby in Yorkshire.
We’ve a few other suggestions of our own. Perhaps it could be Totnes in Devon. A magnet for artists, druids, therapists and hippies, this bohemian little market town at the head of the Dart Estuary was declared the ‘capital of New Age chic’ by Time magazine. It was the first town in the UK to launch its own currency, the Totnes pound, to boost local trade, and rickshaws fuelled by recycled cooking oil carry passengers up the steep hill from the river to the High Street.
Maybe it’s Louth, a Georgian market town in the Lincolnshire Wolds that has become something of a foodie mecca. Spirited resistance to incursions from supermarkets and retail chains, spearheaded by the Keep Louth Special campaign, has ensured a diverse and thriving town centre with specialist grocers, poulterers, a fishmonger, and no less than five butchers.
Or could it be Keswick, a town that counts a 25-foot pencil, the Batmobile and a 664-year-old stuffed cat among its tourist attractions? On the shores of Derwent Water and in the shadow of Skiddaw, Keswick is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts, but when the rain comes (as it frequently does), you can take shelter in the weird and wonderful Cumberland Pencil Museum, the Car of the Stars Motor Museum or the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery with its quirky collection of artefacts.
Llanwrtyd Wells in Powys in Wales must be in the running too. Britain’s smallest town had its heyday in the 18th century as a spa retreat, but it has reinvented itself by playing host to some of the country’s quirkiest events. Highlights of the calendar are the Bog Snorkelling World Championships, the Man versus Horse Marathon and the Real Ale Wobble.
But do you know a ‘town of character’ you want to shout about? A contender for the crown of most independent place in Britain! Tell us where and why in the comments box below.