Trip to Chichester

Uneventful trip down, train to Havant, then train to Chichester.

Chichester, as the name suggests, is a Roman town.

Basically it is a cross roads, with the Buttercross at the centre, a Cathedral City, the cathedral having moved from Selsey to Chichester 1075, or at least the seat of the Bishop moved.

The Buttercross known as the Chichester Cross, is where in Medieval times people would bring their produce to sell.

The centre is quite small, and the inner core pedestrianised.

Sadly Chichester is a classic example of how to ruin a town, not as normally the case a town centre ruined by corrupt planners in the pockets of greedy developers of which there are too many examples across the country, but ruined by corporate chains, the same crap corporate chains that blight every town centre, but at least the planners could have done something about the tacky shop fronts out of character with the buildings.

Writing in The Telegraph, Boudicca Fox-Leonard writes of Chichester having lost its soul.

In a city with such solid historical foundations, where the Romans based their AD 43 invasion of Britannia, and Cicestrians still talk fondly of routing the Vikings in Kingley Vale, the homogenising hand of high-street capitalism has been allowed to walk in without contest, and conquer all.

A tantalising mixture of high and low, like an upmarket, al fresco Westfield. I reckon you could find anything you want in Chichester: just probably not something unique.

Earlier this year, a flesh-eating piranha was found dead in the sewers, but locals are less concerned about the prosaic dispatch of a carnivorous pet than they are about the insatiable hunger of local landowners who have driven up business rates so that only the same old chains can afford shop rents.

The locals’ refrain goes something like: “There are 82 cafés in the centre of Chichester: we’ve got a Starbucks, Pret, Caffè Nero…”

This is not a boast. How could a city that prides itself on a cultural history, famous for its groundbreaking theatre, its arts festivals, its links to Olivier and Larkin, sell out quite so blandly?

Where are the independent retailers? Who is in part to blame? The same response comes from all in a stage whisper: the church.

Along with a few old families, the Diocese of Chichester is the main landowner in the city. And it has presided over its assets with maximum economic nous but, perhaps, minimal foresight.

Chichester has one of the UK’s highest concentrations of chain shops.

Meanwhile, on the fringes, in the fascinating medieval and Georgian lanes fanning hither and thither from its rigid Roman centre, there are still a few independent cafés, record shops, crafters and bric-a-brac purveyors. The architecture is beautiful, as is the wisteria. The pulse is weak, but Chichester’s once mighty heart is quietly beating.

Not though everywhere ruined, still some excellent unspoilt buildings.

And where there was not corporate chains, greasy spoon cafes masquerading as tea shops and coffee shops.

Today was market day. I was surprised how large, down two streets. But most of it was tat.

The only quality stall, a French stall. I do not know who was the more surprised to see each other, he or I.

The other a Sicilian stall that I see on the street food market in Winchester. Sadly still peddle rubbish. But I am not the only one to tell them. Hopefully they will heed what everyone is telling them and revert to their excellent pasta. There are few people who can make excellent pasta, they are one of the rare examples.

And Rasta man who has a fruit and vegetable stall on the Guildford market.

And the cheese guy and coffee woman from Guildford market. Neither seemed to have customers. Not a lot different to Guildford.

And coffee shops, excellent speciality coffee shops? Could I find? No, or at least not as I expected, to be spoilt for choice.

I had sent a message to Chichester Tourist Information Office to ask. No response.

Why have a twitter account if do not know how to use social media? Social media is not broadcast, it is not PR, it is not marketing, it is social interaction, it is implicit in the name, social networks, many to many, social meaning interaction.

Not only the Tourist Information, Chichester farmers market too. I had asked when, how often? No reply. I learnt locally, twice a month, I think first and third Friday, though that needs double checking. At the very least their twitter account could state.

It is not though only lack of understanding of social media, it is pig ignorance, lack of common courtesy. Is not the role of Tourist Information to encourage visitors, therefore if a potential visitor asks questions, should they not promptly respond?

And the coffee shops?

I thought maybe only Harris + Hoole. Marvellous job done on the interior, but now Caffe Nero, death by a thousand cuts.

I think East Street, but maybe wrong, I went to the end, and then a little further, where I found Draper’s Yard, a yard with lots of interesting businesses. But out of the way and does anyone know it exists? I guess not, as deserted. But well worth the effort to find.

Within, an old van, Edge, outlet for Edgcumbes, a local coffee roaster.

Did they have cold brew? Yes, but seems perverse to make with espresso blend not high quality single origin coffee.

I thought I had misheard when told brewed for 72 hours. It must be so over extracted as to be undrinkable. Brewed in a jug. I asked could I try.

The young guy put an ice cube in a plastic cup. Plastic! Poured in a small amount of the cold brew. Very dark to the point of being opaque. I thought this was for me to sample, it did not even cover the ice cube. No, it is concentrate, as it was snatched from me.  He then topped up with lukewarm tap water.  At least I assumed tap water. As a van, maybe not.

To say the least, it was undrinkable. It was like coffee that had been left to go cold, then watered down.

I asked for a cappuccino. It was not good either.

Coffee beans on display were high Q grade, 85 plus, and Ethiopian was 90. And surprisingly cheap, £6 a 250g bag.

I picked up a bag of Ethiopian. £8-50 including the cappuccino. I handed over a tenner. Sorry, we do not take cash.

I have never ever come across anywhere that does not take cash. I may be wrong, and stand corrected if wrong, but I believe it is illegal to refuse to take coin of the realm, legal tender.  And the reason why? Inconvenient for them.

But as the neither the cold brew nor cappuccino were good, maybe I was fortunate.

It was then to St Martin’s Organic Coffee House which I had looked in earlier for very late lunch.

A beautifully restored town house which apparently was derelict.  Excellent food, lovely little garden out the back, but not somewhere I would recommend for coffee.

Then I learnt of Coffee Lab to which I was directed.

I have had my reservations Coffee Lab opening several coffee shops, but I  was not disappointed. The guys knew their coffee and I was served an excellent cappuccino. I also tried their cold brew. It put to shame what I had tried at Edge aka Edgcumbe Coffee.

I had intended to catch a train at six, but having now missed, I decided to have a wander around the Cathedral.

In doing so, I encountered the wonderful Bishop’s Palace Gardens.

The cathedral was now closed, but I noticed no entry free. Too many are charging for entry.

But why all the corporate chains in Chichester? Landlord is the Church and they are screwing tenants, destroying local businesses. The Church once again showing its lack of moral leadership.  The Church at Church House recently hosted an arms conference, the Church has failed to divest from oil.

Then there is Greene King, one the three pubcos the other two Enterprise and Punch, that are screwing pub landlords and destroying pubs.

One in Chichester, the building was leased, that is not a tied pub, excellent businesses built up, Greene King in their greed took back the lease, fired the staff, and now serves their standardised crap, yet anther local business destroyed.

On my way in I passed Artie’s Kitchen. A Spanish tapas restaurant. Three tapas for £15, pricey, though included red wine and bread, which I did not want.

On my way to the station I decided to eat. Had tortilla. OK not as good as I would have in Puerto de la Cruz in Tenerife. I was the only one dining.

Opposite, queuing outside a pub for football.

As a result of stopping to eat I missed my train a little after seven. Next train late, missed train at Havant.

Opposite restaurant queue to get in a  pub to watch football. Another pub the same outside the station. A little dumb, are going to get into a  pub full of football supporters? They are not going to leave until end of the match.

On leaving the tapas restaurant, arrived home three hours later, very very tired and physically exhausted.

From various places compostable coffee cups these to be added to the compost heap.

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