Cambridge is high on many visitors’ lists of places to go in England. The historic colleges of Cambridge University are almost as impressive as those of Oxford, and punting on the River Cam rivals a boat journey on the River Isis.
Oxford and Cambridge have always been rivals, but now Oxonians can sit back, smug in the knowledge that the “other” university is in a town deemed the blandest place to shop in the UK. The New Economics Foundation just released a list of 117 UK cities and towns ranked by the variety of shops in their centers. Cambridge came in dead last.
In a scathing review, the NEF described “a bland homogeneity” in the city center with only nine different types of shop.
Perhaps Cambridge students are too busy preparing for Suicide Sunday to think about shopping, or perhaps like many university students they only want to go to the same old, predictable stores. The study’s organizers point the finger at the university, the town’s main landlords, for pushing up rents too high for independent businesses to afford. Personally, I’ve been to Cambridge several times and while I’m not an avid shopper I didn’t notice it to be terribly homogeneous. At least the range of independent used bookshops is great thanks to students unloading their books at the end of term. But I haven’t been since 2004, so perhaps things have taken a turn for the worse.
So who ranked the best? Whitstable, a seaside town near Canterbury, which the survey said had an amazing variety of independent shops.
[Photo courtesy Andrew Dunn]