IT SEEMS astonishing now, but there was a time, 100 or so years ago, when Staines was considered a riverside resort to rank alongside the likes of Marlow and Henley.
Large posters, similar to those of later decades which extolled the virtues of Skegness and Margate, could be seen at Waterloo Station with the aim of enticing day trippers to the town on high days and holidays.
The advertising worked, because in the years leading up to the First World War, throngs of people descended on the town to promenade along the towpath, mess around in boats and enjoy the delights of the various pubs and eating places.
With the moustachioed chaps in their blazers and boaters and the parasol-carrying ladies in their crinolines, the area around the river buzzed with activity on sunny days.
Staines turned its back on the Thames in later years, almost forgetting that this world-famous river flowed past its doors.
That anomaly has been rectified to a certain extent in recent years, with the council providing the money to completely restyle the gardens down-stream of the town hall.
The town’s riverside location has been further enhanced by the fact that it’s now possible to walk from the iron railway bridge to the Lammas recreation ground while staying on the riverbank, something that was denied to generations of townsfolk.
But there is more that could be done, without spending boatloads of cash. For a start, the rear of the old town hall – a beautiful building, now converted to a public house, is an eyesore surrounded by wooden hoardings.
There was talk of this site being used for a riverside cafe.
The financial situation has deteriorated since that plan was mooted, but something simple could be done to enliven the area, even if it is just the provision of a small, temporary wooden kiosk with a few tables and chairs outside and some strategically-placed containers of plants.
And what about the idea of restoring the old ferry, which took people across from the steps near the railway bridge to the towpath on the Surrey side?
Two companies, French Bros and Salter’s, operate day boat trips from the town during the summer months, the former to Hampton Court, via Shepperton and Sunbury, and the latter to Windsor.
Yet casual visitors to the town would not even know that these services exist.
Even people living in the town are unaware of these pleasure boats.
The services need to be promoted on a permanent riverside noticeboard.
All these are relatively cheap and simple ideas. I’m sure readers will come up with a few more.
And with money tight and everyone encouraged to enjoy more of the leisure facilities in their own area, what better way to revive some of those halcyon Edwardian days when Staines was a riverside resort?