Three years ago I moved to Crawley rather reluctantly and for personal reasons. Well I have to say I really like the place. Here are some reasons why.
1: Crawley Parks
Crawley has some genuinely lovely parks. My favourite is the Memorial Gardens, right in the middle of our shopping centre. The planting and landscaping is really good, and it is a popular place to hang out in the sunshine. Special mention also of Tilgate Park – a vast area which includes a lake, a mini zoo, wonderulf gardens, and the beginning of a forest.
Unusually for a town of its size in SE England, Crawley has an excellent bus service. We even have an extensive network of guided busways – which are fairly pointless but are used by some very comfortable and frequent buses. Because a key function of the buses is to take workers to and from Gatwick Airport, the good service levels continue to late at night, with some buses running 24 hours per day. Fares are reasonable and there is a good range of season tickets.
3: Good Train Services
There are four stations in Crawley. Three Bridges and Gatwick Airport have excellent train services to lots of destinations. I don’t really need a timetable to pick up a train at any time to London or Brighton, and trains run through the night. I can get to London in around 40 minutes in an air conditioned train. And the trains are very reliable.
4: Close To Brighton
Its a good reason to live here: I can get to Brighton easily in less than half an hour. We spend a lot of our time there, just hanging around and enjoying the atmosphere of England’s coolest city.
6: Crawley Shops
If you want chain stores, Crawley is a good compact shopping centre with all of the usuals. County Mall is a decent sized modern shopping mall. There are virtually no independents in the town centre, but every community in Crawley has a local shopping centre, built from the 1950s to 1970s. Many of these include wonderful independent shops including specialist Asian food stores, music shops, and even a specialist model ship shop.
Crawley has a much higher percentage of people from minority communities than most towns in the South East. We have a very large Asian community, including Muslims and Hindus. We also have some more unusual communities such as the Brazilians and Portuguese, Mauritians, Irish, and even the UK’s main concentration of people from Diego Garcia. They all make a unique contribution to Crawley, of which the Brazillian cafes and new Hindu temple are good examples. My hairdresser is Mauritian. She says “There is no racism in Crawley. We all get on very well and its a fantastic place to live.”. I wouldn’t say there is no racism, but one thing any visitor will notice is that the groups of people you see around town are often multi racial.
I’ve seen surveys that suggest that Crawley is the 4th most equal town in the UK. I puzzled about this for a while. It means that the gap between rich and poor is smaller than in most places. I think this is for two reasons: we have very low unemployment; but we also have very few very well off people – there are no big houses for them, so they mainly live in the Sussex countryside around us. It means we have a distinct lack of high calss clothing stores, posh restaurants, and 4 wheel drive cars. If that’s not a good reason to live here, I don’t know what is!
8: The Hawth
The Hawth is one of the better regional theatres, but we rarely go to the theatre there. But I love the various festivals and free events such as the Beer and Folk Festival, and the Mela. Its a great facility set in a wood with open air and indoor stages. The Hawth is 300m from my front door (although to be fair that would involve walking across a railway line).
9: The Library
Shortly after I moved in a new library opened. Modern, airy, and busy, it holds regular events and has made big efforts to attract young people. Best of all there;s a great coffee shop there too. This year the library won an RIBA award.
10: The Countryside
Around Crawley there are hundreds of hectares of open space. Nearby we have St. Leonards Forest and various parks and gardens such as Nymans. Further afield is the south Downs and Ashdown forest (one of my favourite wild places).
In general Crawley has a friendly non-snobbish atmosphere and is a good example of how a new town can be developed succesfully. Its not to everyone’s taste but take a closer look before you knock it.