Youngsters still laugh on the swings at the Big Meadow and narrowboats continue to pass down the River Avon - but the Warwickshire village I grew up in has gone through changes in the 20 years since I moved away.
Bovis Homes sales advisor Claire Keville with PR officer Chris Campbell at Bidford Leys in Warwickshire
Visiting Bidford-on-Avon, where I lived for over a decade in a new-build house at the top of Victoria Road, I took a stroll around the village, including to Bovis Homes’ recently-built Bidford Leys location, on Salford Road.
I moved away as a teenager and now got the chance to return as PR officer at Bovis Homes, meeting the sales team and looking around popular house types, including the development’s five-bedroom family homes.
Bidford Tennis Club, where I learnt to play and competed in annual tournaments, remains largely unchanged apart from a new clubhouse and court surface, and stands a short distance from Bidford Leys, which opened in 2017.
Now called Bidford News Store, the newsagent where my brother and I enjoyed Cadbury Creme Eggs after school, Billy Shears where we'd get our hair cut, and Avonside Chinese takeaway, owned by my school friend’s family, are all still there.
Over time more young families have moved to the village, which lies seven miles south west from Stratford-upon-Avon and north east from Evesham, attracted by the village’s community feel and a housing market boosted by new-build homes.
Yu-San Chan, who still helps out at Avonside Chinese - which has been run by a new team since his parents retired - on the High Street, said growing families were moving to the village because of its rural nature, good schools and transport links.
Big Meadow in Bidford-on-Avon
The 32-year-old, who has lived in Bidford-on-Avon for most of his life, said: “More young families with children are moving to Bidford all the time. There are great schooling options in Bidford and nearby, such as Dunnington Primary and Temple Grafton Primary.
“Stratford-upon-Avon and Evesham are a short drive or bus journey away, they’re easy to get to and offer plenty of retail options.
“People love Bidford and while the village has grown over the years, many shops have stayed the same. There is a thriving small business scene, they work together and have plenty of ambition – it’s a great sign of the community spirit here.
“When I tell people where I’m from, wherever I am, I say I’m from Bidford-on-Avon, near Stratford-upon-Avon, and I’m lucky to say that.
“South Warwickshire has that charm about it and because we’re on the river, we get plenty of visitors and quite a few eccentric characters!”
Home owner Joanne Archer, who has just returned to the county after 20 years, has moved into a four-bedroom property at Bidford Leys.
The mum-of-one said: “I knew the area had a great community spirit having lived in nearby Alcester. There are so many festivals nearby and Stratford-upon-Avon is only 20 minutes on the bus, Evesham is very close for shopping, while Birmingham is an hour in the car if we want to do a really big shop.
“We can have picnics by the River Avon in Bidford when the weather is good, we have nice neighbours and there are lovely families about.”
View from Big Meadow
One of the highlights of the year, as a child, was Bidford Carnival, held in August. Parades and floats would visit every street – a blast of colour and music – collecting money for charity and ending up in the Big Meadow where entertainment, including a fair, art performances, sports activities, and food and drink stalls, lay in wait for excited families, who would follow the procession.
Now the Bidford Bash, organised by Bidford-on-Avon Chamber of Commerce, is up and running annually for families, offering a main stage with bands, a dog show, face painting, tug of war and an Italian market – to keep generating a community spirit that must be the envy of many other villages, and creating memories for a new generation of children.
By Chris Campbell