Bench 10: Little Lane

Here's a bench with a little bit of sass. it's near the top of Little Lane - running parallel with Church Street - and not far from the junction with Mount Pleasant. That's far enough out of town to make a useful rest point if you're carrying a couple of bags of groceries up from Morrison's.

It's had a spruce-up recently, and not in regulation council colours neither. This is a bench that's been cared for. That means something. This is a bench with a nickname. The Perch. How long has that name been in existence? Is this recent, or has it always been The Perch?

It's not always wise to generalise from specifics, but maybe you can tell something about a place by its bench. By its design. Its materials. Its state of repair. The absence / presence / quality / wit of any graffiti.

This is a bench in very good order. And that reflects well on the 'hood. The Perch has a little something extra on top though. It's been pimped.

Calling it The Perch indicates a hang-out spot. This is where you cluster in those years between being too old to stay in but too young to go out anywhere that needs transport or money. Feet up on the seat, bum on the backrest, texting your mates to find out where they've got to.

This isn't a bench for bitterness and recrimination. Yeah, there might be some tears, but like as not they'll be from laughter, and if someone's been dumped and they're feeling bad about it, they'll soon bounce back. Plenty of fish. Not just in the sea, but on the bench as well.

And it's the same on the other side.

Once you know this is called The Perch, then the painted concrete sides make a little more sense, and you get the whole open-mouthed fish thing. There's somedthing a little PacMan-ish going on, perhaps, or of some Lovecraftian snake creature erupting through the verge, but it's all cartoonish cheerfulness. Nothing really bad happens here. I don't think the fish would let that stand.

A swift bit of googling followed when I got home. Turns out there's a residents' association for Little Lane, Mount Pleasant and the surrounding streets, and that The Perch got a makeover in 2014 in the run-up to the annual "In Bloom" beautiful town competition judging. They even got a little money from Louth Town Council to help out. A blog post on the refurbishment is here.

You might half-expect a hang-out spot to be disparaged. A place to warn your own children from, as it being where the bad kids go. But that doesn't seem to be the case. The Perch is just that. The Perch.

The houses round here are mostly Victorian terraces, some small, some larger, with the occasional newer build intruding. At one time Little Lane and Mount Pleasant were street names used interchangeably. Cait Green records as much in The Streets of Louth, charting the development of this bit of town from the mid-19th century. Much of the land here was given over to smallholdings and market gardens. If you were to walk to the far end of Mount Pleasant past the Mount Pleasant Avenue turn-off, you can still see the last evidence of these. The bulk of what was market garden land has since been turned over to new build developments, most notably Robinson Lane (named after the family that worked the land) off Mount Pleasant. There's a greengrocer's on Eastgate that's called Robinson's and has been in a Robinson family for generations. Makes you wonder if there's a connection.

More houses means more people and traffic. The infrastructure's not really designed for it. Narrow roads, not much parking space. But at least there's somewhere to sit down.

The view's not bad from The Perch. A clear shot of the rear of St Michael's church between two houses. The home to the left is the present vicarage. Presumably there's a gate in their back garden that lets you through. That means that you might have the occasional cleric checking out what's going on at The Perch. If there's someone at the window, beckon them over. Even better, why not cajole them into bringing you out a brew?

Even the van's joining in with the religious theme: Revelations. And if you've ever flicked through the last book of the New Testament, you'll have an appreciation for the lengths to which "building and landscape gardening" can be taken.

This bench has got a real community feel to it. There's a sense of neighbourliness and of folk keeping half an eye out for each other. That's no bad thing. And it's surprising the positive feelings you can stir with a modicum of care and attention given to a humble amenity like a public bench, and with just a few quid spent on paint.

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Here's the Google Street View image link: it's from September 2009 and so pre-dates the paint-job.

Eamonn Griffin

Field notes for a personal geography of a Lincolnshire market town. You can find me here on Twitter: @eamonngriffin and also here: www.eamonngriffinwriting.com
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