Favourite Things: Heritage, green spaces and connectivity, Doncaster has it all
Kath Finlay arrived at North Bridge to take up a 'stop gap' job at the former Doncaster Evening Post, Nearly four decades later Johnston Press' Head of Advance Content for the North shares her affection for the town.
This nine-mile route extends across the borough from north to south. I’ve recently re-discovered my love of cycling but I’m no Lizzie Armistead so traffic free and with only the gentlest of inclines suits me. Two favourite stretches are in the north leading down to the beautiful Don Gorge and Sprotbrough Falls and to the south from Lakeside to Rossington, where lovely cafe bar Fika provides the requisite refuelling stop.
Kirk Bramwith Snowdrop Festival
I love snowdrops; from Christmas I am on snowdrop watch desperately seeking the first signs that winter is on the wane. The organised snowdrop festivals that some of the large gardens organise are fine, but I much prefer the low-key charm of this village event in early February which raises funds for St Mary’s Church in Top Road.
King’s Wood, Bawtry
As spring heads towards summer this is a favourite spot for a short walk. It’s one of the best places to see native English bluebells in Doncaster. The colour and fragrance are so intense. I love seeing the shimmering haze of a wave of bluebells. You can head into Bawtry, a lovely 12th century port come market town town, via Station Road to extend the walk.
I’m not from Doncaster, though I have lived in the town for nearly 40 years so it is home. I married into a family whose roots lie in the industries on which the borough’s wealth - and international reputation - were founded, coal and railway engineering. My husband’s grandfather was an engine driver in the days of steam and I enjoyed hearing my late father-in-law talking about how he used to stand at the bottom of their Balby garden waiting for his father’s loco to pass by on its return to Doncaster. The link gained me enormous kudos with my little great nephew; a family link to Gordon’s brother from his facvourite Thomas the Tank Engine film was beyond exciting! I think the family connection also helped ignite a love of those fabulous railway travel posters of the 1930s that showed rail travel - and English seaside resorts - as the epitome of glamour! I arrived in Doncaster when coal was still king. My own roots on the banks of the Tyne in the Durham coalfield meant that I was given a warm welcome in the villages that made up a unique community. My early working life charted the decline of the industry and, sadly, the destruction of many of these once proud villages.
The Draughtsman’s Alehouse (and other station buildings lovingly restored)
I love to see these closed up and forgotten station buildings brought back to life. This tiny former ticket office on platform 3B at Doncaster station has fantastic Victorian tiles, an open fire and a warm welcome, even if coffee is your preferred tipple! My other favourite station tap is the 1920s wooden structure at Kew Station in West London.
Town Moor Avenue
This too is linked to a love of Doncaster’s heritage. The broad, tree-lined road sweeps down to the racecourse past the open space that is Town Field and beautiful Victorian and Edwardian villas that played host to the great and the good, including royalty and Charles Dickens, in the days when the famous St Leger attracted crowds of scores of thousands. It remains a beautiful, impressive road with fine houses and trees that are a delight, heavy with blossom in spring and burnished gold and red in autumn. I often take a detour to walk or drive down the avenue.
Part of the old Great North Road, this elegant street of Georgian terraces is straight out of Bath or Cheltenham. It’s a lovely gateway into the town from the south. Regent Square - reminiscent of those fantastic North London garden squares lined with houses now populated by Russian billionaires - is a real gem. It’s lovely during Leger Week when the Regent Hotel hosts drinks parties on the lawn for race-goers. It would be great to see it used more often.
There are few towns better placed in terms of connectivity than Doncaster. We’re on the East Coast Mainline with a journey time of around 90 minutes to London - less for me to head north to catch up with family - motorway links are fantastic, extending, work, study and leisure opportunities for its residents (who benefit from some of the most affordable housing in the country) and to top it all, one of the fastest growing airports in the UK right on the doorstep.