What it’s like growing up in Bracknell, ‘Britain’s number one chav town’
It’s where Tracy Beaker is from
Bracknell – a town mostly known as being the home to Tracy Beaker, where Nicholas Hoult went to school and home to the real life Privet Drive house from Harry Potter. It was even said by Hugh Dennis on Mock the Week to be “twinned with Hell” (sorry Leverkusen). Another title the town has managed to earn is even ‘#1 chav town’ as voted by many of the residents.
Despite this Bracknell is a town on the cusp of such notable places as Ascot, Windsor and Reading to name but a few, however despite its affluent surroundings they are not accurate indications as to what it is like growing up in the town lovingly nicknamed “Cracknell” and the features that provide its ‘unique charms’.
When you think of Bracknell the first thing that comes to mind is its old cement heart – the town centre. As any local will tell you if you need to do any actual shopping then your best bet is to hop on the next train to Reading (don’t worry, you’ll probably end up telling people you’re from here anyway so you better get familiar with it), as the most Bracknell has to offer is Princess Square shopping centre – complete with a WHSmith, Poundland and an assortment of shops you’re likely to never go in. The exception to this rule is of course the crown jewel that is Bentalls, one of the only two stores in the country, and yet the only reason anyone goes in here is as a shortcut from Princess Square through to the High Street on the other side.
Granted the High Street has never had an exceptional amount of choice available, however with the long overdue regeneration that aims to take Bracknell from the 1960s cement look into the modern day has taken with it most of what once was the High Street and left it as more of a building site. Two of the greatest losses were of course the 3M building and the market, but one thing is for certain – at least we’ll always have MS Cheney’s.
Although the town has never had much to offer if you’ve grown up here you will have managed to somehow spent hours loitering around town and accomplishing absolutely nothing. The exception to this is of course the odd occasion where someone will put washing liquid in the red marble water feature outside McDonalds so it will foam up – simply inspired.
As you get older and loitering in the street gets tedious you can then have the rewarding experience of loitering in The Manor – the main difference here being with a pint in hand it becomes a socially acceptable pastime. If you begin to lust for nightlife however, Bracknell cannot offer it to you as your main choices are between seeing everyone you’ve ever known at The Manor or going to The Goose , but this is something that is quickly resolved through pre-drinking on the train to Reading as you prep for a night in the Purple Turtle or Sakura and then bleed your wallet dry for the taxi home.
Cross over to the other side of Bracknell however and an entirely different experience takes place at South Hill Park – the cultural capital of the town. A beautiful old mansion that is said to be where Oscar Wilde wrote many plays including ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ and inspired the character name of Lady Bracknell, which later led to the theatre built next to South Hill Park being justly named The Wilde Theatre. Normally the mansion and the grounds surrounding it are quiet and make for a lovely walk, but as soon as any sunshine makes an appearance you can be certain that every inch of grass will be covered by clusters of scantily clad families looking to make the most of the weather.
So does the town have a bad reputation? Definitely, but this is mostly due to in the past years areas such as Great Hollands and Crown Wood being thought of as ‘chav havens’ when in fact they’re about as bad as anywhere else in the UK. If you speak to any locals they will also tell you how horrible Bracknell is and how they cannot wait to move away, yet nobody that says this ever seems to actually do it, instead just preferring to moan without taking action. Although it may not have much to offer on its own, with the town being only one train away to Reading or London, it’s located on the brink of opportunity and is a small haven compared to the hustle and bustle of city life that surrounds it.