Up in the North of England in the County of South Yorkshire is a large town called Doncaster. I live here in a village called Balby which is just on the outskirts of the town centre. Balby itself is also fairly large although it's taken me nearly 27 years to realise just how much it has to offer and what a great place it is to live. It's always the case that when you're a child you would rather live anywhere in the world other than where you actually do live and to fully appreciate your birthplace I think you have to distance yourself from it. I first moved away from Balby a good few years ago and lived in various places for quite a while. I thought i'd never go back to Balby, after all what does Balby have to offer? But when it came to putting down roots for myself, buying a house and starting a family where did I go? Yes, I went back to Balby. So what makes this place so great? What does it have to offer? Why did it pull me back after I thought I loathed it for so many years? Let me take you on a journey with me, I'll warn you right now this is a very long review so if you fall asleep i'll understand.
Balby has changed greatly over the years. At one point you even struggled to find it on maps, it barely seemed to exist. These days more and more houses have been built for a start. When I see all the new houses and estates I get flashbacks of all the empty and disused wasteland of my childhood years. Some people might not like the increase of housing but for Balby it seems to have done us the world of good. More businesses have opened up as a result, more amenities are now available, both of these things create more job opportunities which in turn leads to a better environment to live in.
More houses of course means more schools but there's always been an abundant supply of them in Balby anyway. The schools of my childhood years are all still there barr one. Balby Middle School was knocked down some years ago as it was so old but the rest of them are still there. One in particular has been expanded beyond belief and now has a great reputation and is quite widely known. Balby Carr was my final school and it was OK but some things about it were not up to sctratch. Bullying was rife, drugs were smoked under the stairs daily, some of the rooms looked very worn, but overall the teachers were great. Once (and possibly more) it even had one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Yorkshire and Yorkshire is Britains biggest county. These days the school has been totally transformed and goes by the name of Balby Carr Community Sports College. This is a quote taken from the school website (http://www.balbycarr.doncaster.sch.uk/) "the school has seen the awarding of Sports College status and the building of a City Learning Centre within the school grounds, both of which have had a positive impact on the school and its pupils" My my how it has changed. I've got to say that this school now looks very impressive. We can't go forgetting the music department either. I was a member of the music department between the years 1990 - 1994 and it was the best thing about the school in my opinion. I was in the choir even though I can't sing for toffee. Yeah I know being a choir member isn't the most exciting thing in the world but we got to do some really fantastic things. For example we were asked to sing to the traffic jams on Balby Road (busy main rd leading to Doncaster) at 8 in the morning. That sound crap? Well we were asked to do it by the Big Breakfast, remember that show? We had Mark Lamaar standing with us (he was chainsmoking tut tut) at the Swan Inn and he was stopping cars because for some reason on that particular day there were no traffic jams. Typical! Anyway that's getting a bit off topic, the music department also travel abroad and perform concerts throughout Europe. I went to Prague for a week and i've never forgotten that trip. I still see pictures in the newspaper of the concerts they do, or the occasional charity drive like singing or playing concerts at Asda. This must surely be a school worth considering moving to Balby for.
Balby Carr may be the best school in terms of what it is but it's not my favourite school. The one place i'll always have a soft spot for is the one my Mum and three brothers also went to. Woodfield First School was my first school and I absolutely loved my time there. The school is still there just like it was when I was a kid and when my Mum was a kid. Nothing has changed except a bit of inside modernisation and they've replaced First School with Primary School. It looks exactly as I remember it at 5 years old. I really wanted my Son to go to this school but where I live is closer to another school, Waverley, so it's just easier to take him there. But there are other first/infant/primary schools in Balby too. Not forgetting there's also a private school just at the top of the small hill where I used to live. Then there's the special needs school. I could go on and on and on. Basically all you need to know is Balby is a great place when it comes to schooling and whichever part of Balby you live in you'll have a school just down the road. Families with children are the main residents of Balby.
The Alverley Estate is a young families idea of housing heaven and is situated towards the back end of Balby close to the villages of Loversall and Wadworth. I always ALWAYS wanted to live there as a kid because all my mates lived there. I've never come across a place so child friendly and family orientated. Back when I remember the Alverley all the neighbours knew each other, there were water fights in the cul de sacs in summer, a youthclub on the field in school holidays (Christian orientated) It was the place to be and I loved being friends with people who lived there as it made me feel a part of it. I'd have prefered to live there though.....I can't comment on the atmosphere of the estate these days as it's been a while since I played in the streets with my mates but I take a drive around there once in a while and although I don't see as many kids playing in the street it still looks how I remember it. Even the houses don't seem to have aged. Back then they were new builds whereas today they're probably going on for 30 years old, perhaps even more. I wouldn't want to live there today though. I think because i've such fond memories of it as a child it wouldn't live up to my adult expectations. You can never enjoy things like you did as a child when you are an adult. A very nice place to live, just a shame I didn't live there as a child.
While we're on the subject of The Alverley i've got to mention the pub. The Alverley Inn is right next to the estate and is definitely the best pub in Balby, no question. The first time I went there was probably about 8 years ago and i'd been dying to see the inside of it for so long. When I was a kid one of my classmates parents owned it but I never managed to weedle my way in so you can imagine my excitement when at 18/19 I went through that door for the first time. There was so much to it. It's not just an ordinary pub, it's a pub for absolutely everyone. You want child friendly? You go here. You want smoke free? You go here. You want a quiet drink? You go here. You wanna go out with your mates? You go here. Hell even local teenagers go here. The pub discriminates no-one and i've never seen a bit of trouble (although trouble is bound to happen at some point when alcohol is involved) There are seperate bars depending on what kinda thing you're looking for. It's pretty much reminiscent of a holiday camp entertainment area actually and looks nothing like a pub from the outside. There is a family lounge area which is the pubs biggest plus point. This area is where smoking is totally banned. It's well ventilated and even has a little bar/shop for the kiddies complete with sweets, chocolate and I think I even saw lucky dip bags for sale the last time I went. You can't even buy alcohol in this area although you can buy it in another bar and fetch it back with you. Not to mention the soft play area tucked away in the corner, which is much better than any Wacky Warehouse as this one never gets over busy. This pub has won multiple awards and I can see why. If we ever leave Balby I will miss this place. It's very rare you come across family orientated pubs these days and this one's been a godsend to us. I'm sure my Son Jake will miss the outdoor park and indoor play area too. We've had some great days out here. I wish they did food then it'd be the most perfect place ever (They still have highchairs though so full credit to them. Half the time even food places don't have decent highchairs)
Up at the other end of Balby around 1 mile from Doncaster town centre is my old gymnastics club which is still alive and kicking today. Rainbow Gymnastics Club can be found in an area of Balby called Cross Bank which is near Bridon Ropes and all the other industrial workplaces (see lots of job opportunities there) I wouldn't say it's a huge club, or indeed a successful club. In fact as I remember it the two head coaches were horrible most of the time. Just my luck that these two coaches were also teachers at one of my schools. I've since heard the Son of one of these coaches is now running it. Although it may sound as though I hated this club I did in fact love it. I was a member here for about 8 years and would love to go back and do it all over again. Gymnastic was my sport of choice until I became too tall, my Mother had ideas on the swimming front for me. Thank God Balby doesn't have its own swimming pool otherwise i'd have ended up living there. Incidentally Rainbow started its life based in the sports hall of Balby Carr School until they could afford their own building. The club grew and the rest is history. It's still going strong and i'd recommend it to anyone searching for a childrens gymnastic club in this area.
So who wants a bit of culture then? There's a few churches here too. One is called St Johns and is on Balby Rd (straight rd leading to town centre) This church has an impressive and quite rare Lyche Gate and the only reason I know such a trivial fact is because my Grandad helped to make this gate and there's an old black and white photograph somewhere as proof. Churches are definitely not my kinda thing but it's nice to know there are historical places of interest just down the road and I appreciate the fact that it's there. Strangely the chapel next to St Johns church is now a pharmacy. It looks very cool.
Of course you get the rough areas of every place and Balby is no exception. I didn't like walking through or past the rough council estates on my way home from school as that was where all the trouble seemed to be. The council estates are still there but some of the houses have been pulled down and rebuilt which has transformed the atmosphere in those areas and they're now non recognisable as council estates. I don't like the new idea that Doncaster Council has come up with though. They're turning an old retirement home into a drug rehabilitation centre. I know these centres have to exist somewhere but when it's at the bottom of your road it can feel a bit close for comfort.
Then there's also a large hospital, doctors, library, many childrens parks (complete with the standard dog poop), dentists, fitness clubs, McDonalds, giant Tesco store.....You name it we got it. The guy who sings St Elmos Fire (John Parr) used to live in Balby on Shepherds Road and the Open All Hours shop was one of those down the Carr Hill area. Now those are the kinda landmarks I prefer over churches any day. Want another trivial fact? Jeremy Clarkson crashed a very expensive car on a very quiet road in Loversall, just up the road from The Alverley. How the hell did he manage that one?
Summing up time..... Balby has improved beyond belief and really wasn't that bad to start with. Just 5 years ago you could pick up a terraced house for £15,000 whereas now you're lucky to get the same one for less than £70,000. Have a look on this page towards the middle http://www.britishsurvey.org/Doncaster/Balby/#houseprices ... it all seems good to me (also good for the bank balance as we bought our property when they were at rock bottom prices) And what with Doncaster International Airport opening in just a few short days it is sure to attract more people and companies to invest around here. I can't see house prices dropping for quite some time. They're still below the national average anyway so as far as I can see the only way is up. Buying a house here right now has to be a good investment, but you best be quick if you want that bargain.
There is also an almost direct link to Doncaster Train Station which is just over a mile away. You can walk there in 15 - 30 minutes. It must be a commuters dream. Not to mention how easy it is to just hop on a bus or how close we are to the A1 which sits nicely on our doorstep. We've got it easy here. Everything is within easy reach without the massive over congestion and crowds of big cities. It's about time Balby was noticed and put firmly on the map. This aint no small poxy village, it's a great place to live and i'm glad I see it differently now.
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Submitted on: 23rd April 2005