ST Helens, you are awful but I like you. That sums up respected travel writer Tim Moore’s view of St Helens after he included the town in a book about unloved Britain - then found he rather liked the place!
The best-selling author and journalist undertook an epic voyage around Britain’s underbelly for his latest book, You Are Awful (But I like you): Travels Around unloved Britain, in a battered Austin Maestro.
Towns were picked for a visit if they were given a low rating on housing market website or had a particular reputation.
But the author was ‘disappointed’ to find St Helens failed to live up to its billing.
“I must stress that St Helens was not one of those places that had a low property rating but one or two friends had mentioned it,” said Tim, whose previous books have seen him cycle the entire route of the 2000 Tour de France and complete the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.
“But what I found was that while obviously, like a lot of other places, there’s been a lot of lost industry but there was a real warmth to the area. I would definitely return.”
The idea for the book came from an ill-fated trip almost two decades ago. And while his short stay in St Helens ended well, others didn’t fare so well.
He explains: “I was chased out of Cumbernauld by an angry father who thought I was taken pictures of his daughter, which, of course, I wasn’t.
“I’d have to say of all the place I visited the seaside towns were the saddest because while it’s sad when the industry leave a town, there’s something really sad about a place which is build pleasure which is deserted.”
Tim’s other book have included trips around his hometown of London to place named in the game of Monopoly.
“I was really aware of not wanting to seem like that pounce from London coming up and flipping the finger at other people’s towns,” he said.
“The publishers were also worried about legal redress so I went to places where I had been told about a place by someone else.
“Then I can go and either prove or disprove what they’ve said.
“With St Helens I think I disproved it!”
* You Are Awful But I Like You: Travels Through Unloved Britain is out now, published by Jonathan Cape.