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SOMETHINGFOR THE WEEKEND?

12-08-2006

Last Saturday afternoon we were driving round and it was one of those ‘where shall we eat?' moments writes Dave Woodhall.

Too late for a decent pub, no desire to spend £10+ in some chain abomination, no shops in sight.

We were heading in the vague direction of Wombourne, one of those overspill villages where aspirational Black Country folk end up living, when my Far Better Half's attention was caught by a sign for a tearoom, in something called Baggeridge Country Park.

May as well try it, and we pulled off the road.

A quarter-mile drive through a very nice wooded area and we arrived in what was, indeed, a parkland setting.

And we spent a very pleasant couple of hours there. The food was nice, cheap and the staff in their tearoom made us feel as though it was us who they were welcoming, rather than our money.

The park itself had a large picnic area, plenty of grass and playgrounds for kids to let off as much energy as they wanted.

There were rural walks of assorted lengths and difficulties, one of which led to the top of a hill with spectacular views for miles around. It was clean, there was no sign of graffiti or vandalism, it was friendly and everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there.

And just as important, it didn't cost much.

A pound for parking, and that was all you needed to pay.

Baggeridge might be one of the biggest, but there are plenty of these greenfield sites all over the Black Country, where industrial dereliction has been landscaped to provide clean, attractive and enjoyable areas where man and beast (well, a lot of birds and the odd fox or two) can live in harmony.

Now compare that, to say, Star City.

As a temple to corporate greed, it can hardly be beaten. Everything about the place screams ‘Give us your money.'

Cinemas, over-priced and third-rate restaurants, a casino, amusement arcades. It's all about getting you in, taking every penny, then telling you to have a nice day as you leave. And the irony is that whenever I walk round Star City, no-one really seems to be enjoying themselves.

There's no spontaneous laughter of the type I saw at Baggeridge, no exicted voices talking about what they've just seen or they're going to see.

It's as though you have to have your enjoyment in the areas provided, it only arrives once you've paid for it, and what's left over gets handed back at the exit.

Even on a warm Saturday afternoon, Baggeridge was virtually empty. Star City at the same time was probably packed.

The staff would have been overworked, and would probably have preferred a quieter time.

So why not help them out? This weekend, and for the rest of the school holidays, don't go to Star City, Touchwood or anywhere else where fun comes ready packaged and at a price.

Head for that green stuff on the horizon. I bet you enjoy yourselves.

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