Bath Road: The Notting Hill of Cheltenham

PUBLISHED: 15:20 05 September 2011 | UPDATED: 19:56 20 February 2013

Illustration by Shelly Perkins.

Illustration by Shelly Perkins.

For Lizzie Smith it was love at first sight when she ventured onto Bath Road in Cheltenham. Illustration by Shelly Perkins.

The Bath Road is an eclectic mix of cafs, bars, supermarkets, banks, independent food shops, health shops, florists, charity shops, kitchenware, opticians, shoe shops, furniture shops, stationery and card shops, a Post Office I could go on.

As out-of-town shopping centres continue to be built it is such a pleasure to find these pockets of independent traders who work actively to ensure their communities and businesses thrive. It isnt an easy time to own a business, particularly in retail, but we are confident that through our continued strive to deliver our businesses with those good old-fashioned values and customer service, we will all come through these difficult times with our heads above water.

When was the last time you received outstanding customer service? When did you last leave a shop feeling good about, not only your purchase, but also about yourself? When was the last time a shopkeeper remembered your name or your childs shoe size?

When did you last visit a caf and they remembered your favourite cake? Part of the charm of spending your money with independent traders is that they do know their customers, they do try to ensure that you are always pleased with your purchase and they do appreciate you spending your money with them.

Anyway, thats my opinion; come see for yourself.

Lizzie Smith isowner of COOK, 248 Bath Road, and chairperson of Bath Road Traders Association.

For Lizzie Smith it was love at first sight when she ventured onto Bath Road in Cheltenham. Illustration by Shelly Perkins

Ten years ago I helped move a friend from Great Witcombe to a lovely, personality-filled, mid-terrace house in South Cheltenham. Desperate for a break (or skive as my partner would call it), I walked off to a local shopping area and fell in love.

Never one to have previously believed in love at first sight, I was taken completely by surprise and my feet havent touched the ground since; in fact the feelings now run deeper.

So, where was I? Well, some call it the Notting Hill of Cheltenham, but I now call it home; living only a few hundred meters from it and very proudly running my own shop on it. For me, its the most precious place on the planet and I am almost loath to share it with you for fear of spoiling the magic. It is the very heart and soul of South Cheltenham and goes by the name of The Bath Road.

After settling my friend in to her new home, we packed ourselves in to our car and my partner and I headed back to Farnham with heavy hearts. Within months of finding this magical place, my partner and I packed up our own commuter belt Surrey home and moved to The Bath Road; we have never looked back.

I am not alone in my thoughts. Every day my shop fills with local people who have the same feelings as me for this place that embraces newcomers from all walks of life and delivers those old-fashioned charms and principles that I havent known since I was a child brought up in a working class town on the River Thames by old fashioned parents who not only taught me how to tie my shoes, but polish them also.

During a recent belt-tightening exercise by the Council, The Bath Road Traders Association (BARTA) was notified that the Bath Road Public Toilets would be closing. I was brought up with a principle: a family that eats together talks together and, it would seem, the Bath Road Community live by the same principles. Within 48 hours of starting a petition, we had raised the profile of our objection to this decision and the Council entered in to discussion with BARTA to identify a resolve.

I am now the very proud lease holder of the Bath Road Toilets and, through the Bath Road Traders, receive funding from the Council for cleaning and maintenance. A win-win for both parties, and also the start of a great new project.

There is such a feeling of community throughout both the residents and traders along the Bath Road, that I am establishing a new Group, The Friends of the Bath Road, whose first project will be to work with me and have a little fun with the toilets. We are hoping to find some local businesses to sponsor the toilets with a view to decorating them to a standard good enough to be entered in to the Loo of the Year Award! It will also, hopefully, be a little fun along the way.

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