Why we're all bowled over with living in Wombourne
To ‘e’ or not to ‘e’? That is the question people in Wombourne – or Wombourn – have been debating for decades.
Indeed it got so tasty in the mid-1980s that persons unknown started amending the signs around the periphery of the village, adding or subtracting the letter ‘e’s, according to their personal preference.
These days, it seems most people have settled on the spelling with the extra vowel, although older Ordnance Survey maps still use the shorter version.
What they all seem to agree on is that Wombourne is a wonderful place to live. Reputedly Britain’s biggest village – although that is also subject to some debate – it is now home to more than 14,000 people, and still growing.
Life in Wombourne revolves around the cricket field, with the three main streets arranged in a triangle around it. High Street and Maypole Street are lined with small, independent shops and restaurants, with the black-and-white Osbourne Cottage providing a scenic focal point, while Church Road has St Benedict’s Church at the one end and the library at the other.
Just off the main green is a newer row of shops in Windmill Bank, with the award-winning Boxleys butchers at the head of it. Behind the counter there, Ade Jackson talks about how he moved from Oxley in Wolverhampton when he took over the business from Keith Boxley in 2007.
“It was like I had come home,” he says. “Straight away, I was in a place where I felt I wanted to live. It’s beautiful in the summer when you can just sit around the cricket pitch.”
A couple of doors away is G M Home Discount, a real old-school hardware shop selling a little bit of everything.
“The difference with a shop like this is that if we haven’t got something, we will get it for our customers,” says Nikki Singh, who has worked at the shop for five years. Mrs Singh, 57, lives in Bilston, and says Wombourne is a delightful place to work.
Standing outside, opposite the village’s famous maypole sculpture, is retired history teacher John Calvert. He says it was a “fantastic piece of paternalism,” that has allowed the village to keep its traditional character while other places have succumbed to development.
“The lord-of-the-manor of the Wodehouse gave this land in perpetuity to Wombourne with the express condition that it should only be used for cricket, sport or recreation,” says the 64-year-old, who moved to the village in 1987.
Mr Calvert says that, like many places, Wombourne has problems with people dropping litter. The fact that the village remains clean and tidy is down to a dedicated army of volunteers who make sure it stays that way, he says.
“There are so many voluntary groups in Wombourne for different things,” he says. He is also saddened by organisations such as banks which are closing their branches in the area.
Ade Jackson says Wombourne is an extremely friendly place to live and work, and has got to know most of his regular customers since he moved to the area.
He does have some concerns about the number growing number of empty shops, though.
“I suppose that is part and parcel of everywhere these days,” he says. Dan Kinsey jokes that he is an ‘immigrant’ to Wombourne, having moved to the village five years ago from neighbouring Penn.
But despite his newcomer status, the friendly nature of the people meant he slotted into village life straight away.
Mr Kinsey, a graduate teacher at Wolverhampton University, is now chairman of the parish council. He says it is the people that make the village so idyllic.”
He feels that the constant pressure to build new houses is one of the biggest issues facing the community, though.
John Pike says when he and his wife Doreen moved to Wombourne in 1960, he had real doubts about whether the village was for him.
“We both thought it was a bit far out of town,” he says.
“But the house was a nice price and we thought it might be a good place to live.”
Sixty years on, the 88-year-old former radio sports presenter has never looked back – although he does miss the sea, having spent his formative years in Sidmouth.
Standing in the winter sunshine next to the Wom Brook, he says it is the combination of beautiful countryside and proximity to nearby towns and cities that makes it such an attractive place to be.
He says the lack of car parking in the village is a problem though, which is partly down the constraints of being in an historic location.
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