Guy Opperman, the MP for Hexham in Northumberland and the Minister for Pensions, on falling for the charms of the North East and why Treasury civil servants shouldn’t shed any tears when they move from London to Darlington.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget was truly transformative. The North East will be home to the flagship Freeport in the country at Teesport, Town Deals will help level-up our communities, and – of course – the Treasury’s new flagship Northern Campus will be based in Darlington. I know that some Treasury Civil Servants may be nervous about the move North. They shouldn’t be. Having made a similar move myself, I promise you will not regret it.
Like many people across our region, I was not born in the North East – but it is the place that I now call home. In the almost 15 years I have lived here, I have seen us go from strength to strength. And by moving to Darlington or the beautiful surrounding area you will be helping to shape that future.
When I stood for election in 2010, my constituency was the only one held by the Conservatives in the region. Following Boris Johnson’s election win last year, we now have 10. Having campaigned in all of these communities dozens of times over the years, it is fantastic that we now have a team of strong local MP’s, and the Teesside Mayor, Ben Houchen, lobbying for real change, and then delivering it.
Firstly, you will need a place to live, and in the north east you really will notice the difference. On price, the average house price in our region is under £200,000 – compared to an eye-watering £670,000 in London. And you will have amazing landscapes close to Darlington like Hadrians Wall, the North Pennines, High Force Waterfall, and the raw beauty of the Durham coastline.
Secondly, you will need a drink and to head out when the pubs reopen. Newcastle may be famous for its wild nightlife, but beyond the cities, there are hundreds of incredible pubs and micro-breweries. And here’s the surprise. Everyone will chat to you in the pub. We don’t stand on ceremony.
If you want culture head to the elegant delights of Durham, or the quayside of the River Tyne where the Baltic Art Gallery, the Sage Centre for music and performing arts, and a host of alternative smaller venues, provide an art and music scene second to none.
With so much to offer, once you move to our region, I doubt you’ll want to leave. But if you’ve got to, London is less than three hours away on the train, Edinburgh is an hour and a half away, and you can fly around the world from Newcastle or Teesside Airports.
I promise you that by moving to the North East, you’ll be happier. But you don’t have to take my world for it – just ask anybody else who lives here.
If you want to know more, as a first step, I cannot recommend Dan Jackson’s book, ‘The Northumbrians’, highly enough. It explores the rich history and our people across the wider north east. It is a must read during this final month of lockdown.
People across our region often say, ‘don’t shout about our region, otherwise everybody will move here’. They are right, but I can’t resist doing so. The North East is a fantastic place to live, and anybody who moves here will love it. I, and many others will be there on day one to welcome you. Trust me, the chancellor has done you a favour.
What to do in and around Darlington
Our Life&Style team take a look at some of the attractions on offer around the historic city of Darlington.
Head of Steam Railway Museum
Darlington was, of course, home to the world’s first steam-powered passenger railway so you’ll need to inure yourself to its locomotive history at the Head of Steam Railway Museum, located on the 1825 route of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. Here you can check out some prized railway exhibits including the Locomotion No. 1 built by George Stephenson himself.
David Mach’s Train sculpture
You may notice a theme emerging here but Darlington really is rather proud of its railway heritage. David Mach’s Train sculpture is a huge celebration of the important role the city has played in the evolution of public transport. It has been variously described as “a fitting tribute to Darlington’s railway heritage” and “basically a brick train on an industrial estate behind Morrisons.” Best to make up your own mind.
Darlington and the surrounding area is full of impressive castles and stately homes but perhaps the best example is Raby Castle, which is ideal for a family walk around the vast gardens and deer park. The home itself is filled with works of art and historical objects that will take several visits to fully appreciate.
If you’re moving from London you’ll probably miss the lights and glamour of Theatreand but Darlington has a little stage magic of its own with the Darlington Hippodrome. The exquisite theatre has played host to stars including Anna Pavlova, Tommy Cooper, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Rex Harrison, Dame Vera Lynn and Mickey Rooney.
Otter and Fish pub
While the international gastronomy of London may feel like a long way from Darlington, you can still find some great places to enjoy a boozy lunch. Our pick of the bunch is the Otter and Fish, where you can grab an excellent Sunday roast or an accomplished evening dinner in the cosy confines of a traditional British pub.