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MY NN: Writer Julia Thorley shares her favourite places
Kettering Arts Centre and Weekley Hall Woods and Meadow are among her favourite spots
Author, editor and environmental activist Julia Thorley is a native of Staffordshire, but has lived in Kettering for over 30 years and is happy to call it home. She works as a writer and also teaches yoga.
Her latest book, Jurassic Way: A Walk Through Northamptonshire, is a personal and gently humorous exploration of that footpath and demonstrates her fondness for her adopted county. She is, then, well placed to share her thoughts on Kettering.
Julia posts writerly and observational comments on Facebook as Julia Thorley – Author, and on Twitter @JThorleyAuthor.
By Sarah Becker
Which is your favourite cultural place?
“I’m lucky to live within walking distance of Kettering Arts Centre, which is housed within St Andrew’s Church. This is a fabulous little venue that puts on a huge range of comedy, music and drama shows, and I’ve had some great nights there with family and friends.
“The joy of its monthly Rolling In The Aisles Comedy Club is that you never know what you’re going to get, but it’s always a good night out. I’ve seen some A-listers there, including of course Kettering’s own James Acaster, but also lesser-known comics who work the circuit all over the country. Throw in a licensed bar that stocks beer from Kettering’s Pot Belly Brewery and you can see why this is my favourite venue.”
Where is your favourite place to eat?
“The go-to place for any special occasion in our family is The Exotic Dining on Newland Street. From the outside it doesn’t look very tempting, I’ll admit. It’s on the first floor of the range of buildings opposite the bus ranks, up a narrow staircase. You need to know it’s there!
“Once inside, though, it’s another world. Quiet and calm, it’s beautifully set up and offers a vast menu of largely Indian and Asian food. Portions are satisfying but don’t overface you, and the staff are attentive without hovering. There’s plenty of choice for vegetarians and vegans, and levels of spiciness to suit all palates.”
Which is your favourite street?
“This is a tricky one. Kettering town centre has suffered from years of neglect and poor planning decisions that has left it struggling for an identity. The whole place needs some love and a massive injection of cash.
“However, there are little pockets of loveliness. For instance, Silver Street might look forlorn, but raise your gaze and there is some lovely architecture above street level. Throughout the town there are signs of its historic past; check out the QR codes that have been put up around the place to link to stories about Kettering’s history.
“There are also some quirky independent businesses, such as The Bean Hive and Caféness. If pushed to pick one street, though, it would be William Street, a stone’s throw out of town. The western end takes you to Rockingham Road Pleasure Park, with its traditional bandstand. The street is lined with some beautiful buildings including a converted factory unit that is now swish town houses.
“The real treasure, though, is the William Street Community Garden in the grounds of All Saints Church. This project is a prime example of the neighbourly spirit that exists here, a road known for its approach to life that can be summed up as ‘Any excuse to put up the bunting.’
Where is the place you go to for inspiration to write?
“Don’t laugh, but I go and sit in our allotment. I say ‘our’, but it’s my husband who does the hard graft and I confine myself to a little gentle weeding and picking. However, our plot is at the top of the field, so it backs on to farm land. It’s a tranquil spot, and I can lean against the shed and watch the red kites overhead, listen to the birdsong, count the bees… you get the idea. Not only is nature there to inspire me, but there are plenty of colourful characters up there, too.
Where is your favourite place to go for a walk on a beautiful spring day?
“This is easy. Weekley Hall Wood and Meadow is my favourite place to walk whatever the season, rain or shine. It is known as ‘the forest on your doorstep’ and is home to a huge range of birds, animals, butterflies, insects and plants. The benefits of getting out into nature cannot be overstated, and it is no exaggeration to say this place has saved my sanity on many occasions.
“Unfortunately, plans have been submitted to destroy this area and build more warehouses here. I am one of many people campaigning hard to stop this happening.”
Where is your go-to place for a local day out?
“Just on the edge of the county is Stamford, a beautiful town centred on the Welland. Any town with a river at its heart is always worth a visit, and it has many green spaces to enjoy. Stamford is steeped in history and has some stunning Georgian architecture. It has a vibrant arts centre and cracking little theatre, and plenty of places to eat, drink and shop. For me, though, it is the start of the Jurassic Way footpath, which threads its way through the length of Northants and just over the border into Oxfordshire at Banbury.”
Which spot would you say is your favourite 'hidden gem'?
“The Ise runs along the edge of Kettering and is lovely spot to visit at any time of the year, though you need your wellies in the winter. I usually head for Warkton village and pick up the footpath by the old bridge. It’s so secluded you can easily forget you are so close to the town.
“A short route is to take a circular path to the left that comes out in Warkton village, but I usually keep going to the crossing point that brings you out at the Green Patch community garden, a hidden gem in its own right. For a longer walk, keep on to Deeble Road. From there, the Ise Valley Greenway can take you all the way to Wicksteed Park (another Kettering gem).