Darlington; better for business or sandwiches?
As I’m settling into my new post as Head of BIM Strategy Ltd, I’m also settling into a new location in Darlington. I immediately fell into the trap of thinking Darlington was a city based purely its grand Victorian train station, fortunately for me a former colleague, expert in quality assurance and proud Darlingtonian set me straight on Twitter. It turns out it’s a market town. In my short time here it’s already clear that quaint description doesn’t quite fit, Darlington clearly has more ambition and clout than the green stripped tarpaulin and hanging baskets that ‘market town’ brings to mind.
A great illustration of this came about when I was looking for somewhere to enjoy the unseasonably hot weather over lunch last week. Darlington was hotter than Barcelona, which doesn’t happen too often. It can’t be hard to find a nice bench, in a park nearby, to eat my sandwiches and still get back to the office comfortably in time to get on with a packed afternoon of BIM focussed endeavour, so I thought. I checked the council website and found a map showing Darlington’s sixteen parks and nature reserves dotted around the centre of the town, I was impressed. I chose Central Park, grabbed my lunch and set off…
I encountered a huge building site creating new business space, a new university building, a new college building and finally a new housing estate before deciding that Central park had been swallowed by Darlington’s ambition. This was unified progress on a scale not befitting a market town; places to live, learn and work had replaced the greenery I was expecting. But my sandwiches were starting to get warm now. I did find a bench on the university campus and as it wasn’t term time I had a quiet break next to an empty and well landscaped carpark, I even saw a rabbit.
It hadn’t gone to plan but I was still impressed. As a leader of a growing business it is really encouraging to be surrounded by growth, any forward looking digital business would be delighted to be in our situation and have high quality resources like these on their doorstep. And this site isn’t alone, the hoardings of some of the country’s biggest contractors like Willmott Dixon (@WillmottDixon) are dotted around the town, big things are definitely happening here.
However, come the day after the weather had held and I had more sandwiches… time to try again, fifteen parks to go I thought. Next up was South Park, a ten minute walk but that’s ok with me in the sun. As a strolled through the terraced streets which harked to a booming Victorian industry much like those of Newcastle and Liverpool, I wondered whether I’d find a green spot, or more heras fencing and growth. Much to my delight South Park isn’t just a park, it’s a great looking park with plenty of people young and old enjoying a space more befitting again of a city. Children playing, people walking dogs, skateboarders, picnickers, a duck pond and plenty of benches, all boxes ticked, the other fourteen parks will have to wait because I’ll be heading back here time and time again.
Coming back to the original question; is Darlington better for business than sandwiches? It turns out its really good for both so instead of passing through like I have for years, why not stop for a while and explore?