Swadlincote - A Hidden Gem?
 
Swadlincote known to its inhabitants as simply, "Swad". Probably a place you've never heard of. It’s an ex mining and pottery town located in South Derbyshire a few miles from the famous brewing town of Burton-upon-Trent . It might not be as famous as its Staffordshire neighbour but, in my opinion, it has a lot more to offer.
 
Once the home of the famous Bretby Art Pottery it is still the home of T.G. Green better known for it’s highly collectable "Cornish Blue" ware. It still has a free to visit attraction in Sharpes Pottery which is located in West Street . Sharpe’s pottery closed as a working pottery some years ago. It was well known for manufacturing sanitary ware and perhaps more interestingly, Mocha Ware. Sharpe’s Pottery visitor centre is housed in an historic and restored bottle kiln. It is an interesting place to browse and a place to learn a little about Swad's history. There is a small gift shop and a good cafe in which to relax and enjoy a coffee and homemade cake or perhaps some lunch.
 
Probably the first thing you will notice about Swad as you approach is the large open air ski slope. What is not so obvious is the exciting "Cresta Run" ride that circles the dry ski slope. I don't know whether you would actually "fly off the slope into the scenery" if you failed to brake for the numerous sharp bends but it certainly feels like it!
The most notable son of Swadlincote lived in nearby Gresley Hall (sadly nothing much to see now). This was Sir Nigel Gresley who is probably one of the most famous locomotive designers. He served as the London North Eastern Railway’s Chief Mechanical Engineer for most of the LNER's life. Gresley was born on the 19th June 1876 , the fifth child of the rector of Nethersale, the Reverend Nigel Gresley. Gresley was schooled at Marlborough College , before becoming an apprentice at Crewe Works. Gresley was knighted in 1936, and died in office on the 5th April 1941 . Sir Nigel Gresley is best known for his wonderful A4 Pacific locomotive design and in particular, “Mallard” which on the July 3rd 1938 set a new speed record for steam traction. A record which has never been beaten. Today the name of Sir Nigel Gresley still lives on in locomotive Number 60007 “Sir Nigel Gresley” which has been preserved for posterity and in a much lesser way, as a J.D. Wetherspoon Public House called the, “Sir Nigel Gresley” located in Market Street next to the Town Hall.   
 
I suppose that what has really revived Swad's fortunes since its numerous potteries and collieries closed is the new National Forest. Swadlincote is right in the heart of the National Forest. The National Forest was a truly inspired idea which literally breathed new life into closed down mines and old clay pits. The forest is still fairly immature but no less beautiful for that. There are lots of interesting walks to be had, many of them suitable for the disabled. Details can be found in Swad's public library or at,"Conkers" the National Forest Visitors Centre located a 15 minute drive away in Moira. Moira is in fact in Leicestershire so you can now see that Swadlincote in Derbyshire is very close to the Staffordshire and Leicestershire borders. There is plenty to do in Conkers especially for children. There is even a very interesting narrow gauge railway that runs daily around the grounds. Near Conkers is a new marina for the newly restored Ashby-Leicester canal (the original canal drained away through shallow mine workings to become pretty useless!).
Swadlincote is soon to get its first hotel which just shows how the fortunes of this small town in the Heart of the National Forest have changed for the better. Until that hotel is built there are some good guest houses nearby (an AA recommended one as close as Overseal) and a few reasonable hotels in Burton-upon-Trent and Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
 
Swad has some good local shops (an excellent traditional butchers shop in Colliers located in the High Street), a good local market that trades 3 times each week (including a Farmers Market on the 3rd Saturday of each month) and all the other services you would expect to find. Ah yes, and Swad boasts a very rare commodity as well. It's something that is now rarely found in the UK but is rather more common the other side of La Manche in France . That rare thing is Free Parking. Yes, Swad has free parking . There are no nasty parking wardens or attendants to give you an unwanted souvenir of your visit!
 
Strangely, this is not the only reason that Swadlincote reminds me of a small town that you might stumble upon the other side of the channel whilst on your holidays. What Swad has in buckets is a sense of community. Walk down the traffic free High Street on a Friday or Saturday morning and you can't miss it. Groups of people chatting and passing the time. Queues of eager shoppers in the bakers and the butchers shops. A thriving traditional hardware shop and a busy greengrocers. A couple of cafes full of friends taking the weight off their feet. A bustling market with good fairly priced produce happily trading alongside the other shops all helps to make a local town with a good feeling about it.
 
Close your eyes. Imagine a bit more sun perhaps. Listen to the bustle. Imagine you are in a provincial french town. You would be enjoying yourself wouldn't you? Now open them and see Swad with fresh eyes........... A gem isn't it?

AAC 21/04/2006