I moved to Tamworth about 5 years ago now having been brought up in the West Midlands. I thought it only fair to "review" the town now that I have experienced what it has to offer.
When I first moved here I was disappointed by the town centre. It had, and still does, have an extremely dated feel to it in some parts and is in need of some regeneration. Although the Ankerside shopping mall has a decent selection of small shops, Tamworth really lacks any of the big hitters in its town centre and unsurprisingly its residents tend to shop elsewhere. This has changed recently with the introduction of an M & S store at the nearby Ventura Park which is far better than the town centre as a shopping area. Ventura does get rammed though at the weekend as punters cram in to the newly refurbished Sainsbury's along with other warehouse sized stores such as Asda, Argos, Pets at Home, Boots and JD Sports to name but a few.
Tamworth boasts an eclectic and diverse mix of leisure options to suit all tastes. Tamworth Assembly Rooms hosts a mix of productions and live music along with an annual beer festival. The Snowdome offers year round skiing/snowboarding practice and lessons and also has a leisure centre and ice skating rink in its grounds. Over the road is the Namco Station home to the bowling alley, amusement arcade and yet another gym. The Odeon cinema is also present in the town centre. Tamworth castle is a popular spot although blighted on the landscape by six ugly high rise flats nearby. The castle grounds are home to tennis courts, mini golf and a bowling green. Drayton Manor Park serves up options for thrill seekers and youngsters enjoy visiting the newly created "Thomas Land" based around Thomas the Tank Engine and the zoo within its grounds.
There are a number of good cycling routes around Tamworth and many designated especially for cyclists only. There are also a number of pretty villages around Tamworth itself and the Coventry Canal runs through its spine offering a number of nice canalside pubs to visit.
A lot of accomodation in Tamworth is modern and there are no shortage of new estates being built as it offers a cheap housing alternative to those working in Birmingham. That being said, there are some beautiful old houses in Tamworth if you can be bothered to look for them and a rich history lies beneath the towns more contemporary image.
The town is served well for transport with both buses and trains heading to nearby Birmingham. The train line links to all the surrounding major towns and is on the London Euston line. The A5 road runs through the heart of Tamworth and the M42 offers access via the East of the town.
At first glance, you might assume Tamworth to be typical of a satellite town. Being close to Birmingham, it has the usual array of shopping centre, cinema, sprawling housing estates, and the odd dash of parkland. But if you take the time to look around, you'll see that Tamworth has a lot more to offer... Although much of the town development took place in the last 50 years or so (including the disasterous placement of 5 tower blocks in the centre of town, spoiling the view of the castle and St Editha's Church), Tamworth is steeped in history. From it's origins in the stone age as a small settlement, it grew to become the capital of the Kingdom of Mercia, ruled by King Offa from 757 AD, (he of the dyke!)until 796. From then on, Tamworth was destined to be an important part of the Midlands' history. More recently, Tamworth has been the home of Thomas Guy (founder of Guys Hospital in London), Robert Peel (created the modern police force, and Prime Minister), William MacGregor (Vicar, founder of the Tamworth Co-operative movement) and Colin Grazier (Rescued Enigma Coding Equipment from a sinking German U-Boat). Scattered in and around Tamworth are buildings and monuments in tribute to these men (as well as being immortalised in street names, of course!), including Drayton Manor (home to the Peel Family), Tamworth Castle, Tamworth Town Hall and the Alms Houses. But before you think Tamworth is just living in the past, consider what it's like today. Many people know of Tamworth for one thing only (and I should know - I was once one of them!) - The SNOWDOME! When the Snowdome opened, it was the only indoor, real-snow ski-slope in the country. There are now more popping up all over the place, but Tamworth remains the first. The Snowdome is the focal point for many of the sportier leisure pursuits in the town, and many Tamworth teens are hooked on snowboarding. It also houses a swimming pool and gym,
and there are plans for a large ice-rink/arena (although these are currently on hold). Just a bit further along the dual carriageway (on the other side!) you'll find Stryker's Bowling Alley. A little while ago, it also housed Quazar, but that has since closed. It does however provide the venue for one of the infamous Tamworth Nightclubs. Infamous?! Tamworth seems to really hot up at night. With 3 main clubs and numerous smaller ones and pubs, the town centre fills with people after dark. Yes, there's often trouble, but that's the same in most small towns. There are a couple of good hotels in Tamworth - particularly worthy of note are the Colin Grazier Hotel (fairly new, and quite small, but with incredibly friendly staff - and it's where Bob Geldof stayed when he came to perform a concert in Tamworth!), and the Castle Hotel (most recommended, because it's where we spent the first night of our honeymoon!) Which brings me nicely onto my next bit - entertainment! (not the wedding, the Bob Geldof bit... keep up!) Tamworth Borough Council, although generally frowned upon for many things (particularly the aforementioned town planning sins!) are a bit more on the ball with organising events. (Although even "Tammies" were appalled with last year's "Christmas Lights" Display!) We frequently get reasonably big names appearing at the Assembly Rooms (Paul Daniels, Danny La Rue etc.!!!). But the council doesn't do it alone. (And here I get a bit biased!) My father-in-law organises many events in the town. In the 80's, he ran the "Rathole", an Indie Music club, which attracted many of the big bands of the time (Wonder Stuff, Carter...) and he was responsible for the Geldof gig last year. There is also a caberet restaurant (The Lady Meadow), which provides weekly cabaret/dining evenings. There is plenty of music talent within Tamworth. Edwin Starr (War... huh!) lives just down the ro
ad, Tina McBain (again, biased, she's my mother in law), who is well respected on the UK folk scene, plus numerous talented younger bands. (Ooops, she'll kill me for that!) And then, when you want to get away from it all, Tamworth provides the perfect solution. Two rivers pass through Tamworth, the Tame and the Anker. Add to that numerous canals, a couple of large lakes and many parks, and you have the perfect place for a stroll or bike-ride. The footpaths are well laid out, and the cycle paths zig-zag all over the town - a cycle map is available free of charge from the Tourist Information Centre. Nothing beats the feeling of cycling along the canal towpath on a sunny day, believe me! So you're all walked out? What next? Why not keep the kids entertained. Drayton Manor Park, just outside town, towards the M42, is a large amusement park, and seems to be a mecca for adrenaline junkies. And Alton Towers is only half and hour up the road. And for Mum (blatant sexism aside...) there are plenty of shops, mainly focused around the town centre/Ankerside indoor centre, and the Ventura Park Development, near the Snowdome. And I think that just about covers it. Consider this a request, no, even a demand! Visit Tamworth. The people are friendly (apart from the muggers and car-jackers), the town is picturesque (OK, a blatant lie), and there's plenty to see and do (and that's the truth!).
I visit family in Tamworth three or four times a year, on average and after a recent trip I realised this medium sized town has a lot going for it.Perhaps Tamworth is most rewarding for visitors, but that's far from saying there's nothing there for the inhabitants. The centre of the town is awash with history. From the 16th century castle to the story of Sir Robert Peel (founder of the police force), Tamworth has more than enough to satisfy the average historian. The town centre is a decent size with the castle grounds at its heart (see my op on the castle itself for more detail on that aspect). Known first as a small market town, Tamworth has grown over the last twenty odd years which have seen it play host to the overspill from Birmingham. The population is now reported to be around 75,000 and the ever expanding new estates such as Stoneydelph are offering more and more facilities to residents all the time. The Stoneydelph estate, for example, offers two primary schools built in the 1980s to a modern design, a central shopping area with a spacious modern church and community centre, a health centre and an in-shop cashpoint. Bus services into the town centre are regular (usually less than a 15 minute wait) and reasonably priced, and the buses themselves are up to date with facilities for wheelchair access and easy manouvering of pushchairs. The town centre itself comprises just a few streets but the shops are varied. There are some long standing family run retail businesses such as the art shop and the pet shop, but the common newer chains such as WH Smiths, Argos and Iceland are present as well, mainly housed in the Ankerside indoor shopping centre where the main parking complex for the town is situated. For many years the town centre was the best place to visit for shopping excursions, but in recent years the Ventura Park retail development has been building up. This is an out of town shopping area that boasts huge branches of J
JB Sport, Asda, Pet Store and many more big name stores. This is within walking distance of the town centre, although it is best accessed by car. In transport terms, Tamworth is well served. There are regular bus services from the town centre to Sutton Coldfield and Lichfield and buses run throughout the town outskirts and into Birmingham daily. The train station is on two main lines (the station is an unusual two level structure) and affords easy access to London Euston, Preston and Scotland with many stops along the way. Again, this is an easy way to reach Birmingham, be it for the National Exhibition centre or just to shop in the city centre. For leisure, few towns can beat Tamworth in terms of quantity. Tamworth started to build its entertainment facilities in the late 80s with the introduction of one of the first UCI multi screen cinemas. This ten screen picture house replaced the smaller one in the centre of town which has now become a facility for residents to make use of editing facilities. To complement the cinema there are now a couple of restaurants just outside the building, including a Frankie and Bennie's. The castle grounds I already mentioned are well landscaped and maintained but they also offer a more exciting form of entertainment in the shape of a bowling alley. The bowling alley is set alongside a bowling green and a large adventure playground to keep children happy. Further along from here stands the huge green building known as the snowdome - the only indoor ski slope in the country to offer a slope made of real snow. Despite being termed a ski slope, the centre is also used for both snowboarding and tobogganing at various times. Between these facilities lies a large area of grass suitable for kite flying or dog walking, and a small skaters half-pipe is situated here. Once a year, though, this becomes the site for a rock festival during the summer and visitors are treated to new bands playing live in the town cen
tre. At bank holidays the area often becomes home to a fairground. Meanwhile, outside of the castle grounds, the town has a number of pubs and nightclubs, some newly opened, others old favourites of many residents. It is often a livelier place at night than during the day - and should the day be market day (Tuesdays or Saturdays) then that's saying something! Although the town is always expanding it still sits in the middle of a decent expanse of countryside and near to some farm land. The sandyback pig, also known as the Tamworth pig is still bred in the area and has also given its name to some of the local pubs. A neighbouring village, Polesworth, also holds a massive regular bank holiday market that people travel miles to visit. The Coventry canal runs through parts of Tamworth and travelling by train or boat one of the first things to see of the town is the huge expanse of woodland and lakes around an enormous slag heap, all by products of a now dormant mining era. Although the town has plenty going for it, it is not without its problems. There has been a growing crime trend over the last fifteen years or so, as is obvious from glancing at vandalised property, such as bus stops and underpasses. The Tamworth Herald, the local newspaper seems to have far more column inches devoted to stories of attacks and fights. Tamworth hit the national news last year when Heather Tell, a teenager from the town, was found strangled after a sexual assault; this week the headlines read "Pervert strikes twice in one week". That said, the perpetrator of the former crime is thought to have been caught and is awaiting trial, and the town centre has a reliable modern CCTV network which is aiding police in pursuing crime. The community spirit of Tamworth is evident in the pages of the same paper that reported the less savoury stories as the parents of the murder victim write to thank the local arts group for a show put on in memory of their daug
hter. On the whole Tamworth offers more plus points than negative. It is a great alternative to Birmingham for a day out as it has more to offer visitors in a smaller space. For residents there are ample facilities, plenty of communication and a nice small town feel.
Tamworth is located at latitude 52 37' 55" and longitude -1 41' 34". in other words a few miles Northeast of Birmingham. Tamworth is on the junction of two rivers, The Tame and the Anker, And gets its name from a Celtic word "Tame", a word which means shallow stream or river and a Saxon word "Worthe" which means farm or habitation. Tamworth has existed since ancient times and maybe even before 43 AD. Wow, Now that's old. and was once a capital of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia. Tamworth has a castle in the town centre which has a Norman Keep and a Jacobean Great Hall, There is also a museum of local history. The castle is also reported to have its own ghost, Although I have never seen it myself and to be honest don't wont to. There is also a town hall which was built in 1701 and a church called St Editha's which has an unusual double spiral staircase. Tamworth in the late 1900's was a town of industry, with agricultural engineering, paper manufacture, clothing, brick and aluminium factories. These days I feel the town is moving towards business and leisure developments. Tamworth is now home to a population of around 75,000 and today's people can enjoy a wide range of facilities. Among them the highly popular artificial snow slope known as the Snow Dome. There is also Strikers bowling centre and a 10 screen UCI cinema. And for the adults there are plenty pubs and clubs and a night-club. If you like water sports you can go to Kingsbury Water Park, Which is just outside Tamworth, to enjoy some boating or wind surfing. or you could take the family to Drayton Manor family theme park. You must be able to find something to do here. On the shopping side you have the town centre with many small shops and well known chain stores some of them in the Ankerside Shopping Centre. Dotted around town and on the outskirts are many superstores selling anything from food, carpets, household
furniture, craft and hobbies, pet accessories and much more, And there are new stores going up all the time. Tamworth market runs twice a week on Saturday's and Tuesday's. Well all those shops will keep the shopaholic's in our life's happy. If by some chance you can't find anything to do you could go to Birmingham, There are plenty of ways to get there. By road you can use the M42, A38 and the new A5 bypass. There is a bus station in the town centre with a regular service to Birmingham. And a train station not far from the centre. Just hope the trains run OK and the rails don't need fixing, (LOL). I've lived here for 12 years + and find it much better than the over crowded cities. So why not pay us a visit and see for yourself.
Tamworth is to Birmngham what Watford and Crawley are to London, a dull, quiet satellite town. Ask anyone what's the first thing that comes into their head when they hear "Tamworth" it will almost certainly be the Snow Dome. The Snow Dome is great - ski-ing in the West Midlands! But that's about all Tamworth has to offer. The castle and gardens are attractive and worth a visit on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but the shopping leaves a lot to be desired. Of course being a satellite town the direct train link to Birmingham, usually running every 20 minutes, and it's position on the A5 means it's easy to get away from Tamworth, which can only be a good thing!