Ipswich: a town for all seasons – June 2016

Let it be said, first and foremost, that I like Ipswich.
Fair enough, many people complain about its lack of decent shops, a lack of joined up thinking about connecting town centre with waterfront, and the disastrous thinking of the 1970s that saw wonderful old buildings and streets destroyed, all in the name of progress.
But there’s a lot to appreciate at the same time. I believe that Ipswich has some of the finest parks and gardens in the UK. (It’s a shame that nobody has thought to connect them up with walking trails, and market them as such, but there you go, but you could apply the same thinking to a lot of the town’s assets.)
It’s got some wonderful old buildings. The Ancient House is one of many Ipswich sites where gloriously spooky paranormal sightings have been reported! The spooky ghost walk that you can book via the Tourist Info Office is a wonderful experience.
But if seeking out diaphanous ladies in grey isn’t your scene, then we’ve got wonderful restaurants too. OK, no Michelin stars, but for a great meal in lovely surroundings, you’re spoilt for choice. The marina is particularly attractive, especially on a summer’s evening, and a trip downriver on one of the commercial boat trips is a delight, whatever the time of year.
Of course, a preponderance of coffee shops isn’t everyone’s idea of a good town centre. But we have all the national chains, as well some gems – really good small independents with real character and charm.
Many of the smaller streets have some charming little retail outlets. You can happily while away your day drifting from interesting shops, to historic buildings, such as the wonderful Christchurch Mansion, and see any number of interesting sculptures celebrating the town’s colourful past.
So, it’s my belief that we shouldn’t get too downhearted about recent hard times. Yes, we’re shortly going to be losing BHS, which occupies a very central position in the town centre (but that’s going to happen to every town centre across the land).
But we’ve got a huge new cinema complex arriving and a bevy of new restaurants to fill the adjacent properties. We’ve got Jack Wills to be moving into the lovely old Croydons’ building (it’ll always be that to me, regardless of who occupies it!)
University Campus Suffolk is being given university status in its own right, and space is being cleared on the old Archant site to make way for further development connecting town centre to waterfront.
Ipswich will long continue to be special. Not as we’ve known it in the past, because the days of the large independent shops like Grimwades, Footmans and Corders have long since gone.
But there is a future, and it’s a bright one.
Talking to a business contact recently who has just returned from a road trip of the United States reminded me that we’re not in danger of going the way of America’s soulless retail model.

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Vanessa Penn

About Vanessa Penn

Vanessa Penn was formerly Director of Commercial Agency for Countrywide Commercial, Bradford & Bingley and Douglas Duff part of Erinaceous Plc. Vanessa now runs her own agency Penn Commercial located in Ipswich, Suffolk www.penncommercial.co.uk. Penn Commercial boasts a number of local, regional and national clients and has formed an excellent and loyal client base.
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