Inside Cheshire's Golden Triangle: Wilmslow, Prestbury and Alderley Edge

Patrick O'Neill visits Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Prestbury to discover that the secret of life in Cheshire's 'Golden Triangle' is something that money can't buy

It’s Cheshire’s longest traffic jam, stretching all the way from the station to the De Trafford Arms. It chokes the restaurants with exhaust fumes, drowns out cafe conversation with engine noise, and turns what should be the county’s most fashionable village into a parking lot with shops.

Next month after 60 years of angry motorists, frustrated truckers and gridlocked pedestrians, the nightmare is over for the residents, because according to Mike Williamson, chairman of the parish council that is when the Alderley Edge bypass opens and they can finally reclaim London Road as their own village byway.

The move is typical of Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Prestbury - an area justifiably proud of their ability not just to make money but to make a success of living in Cheshire’s ‘Golden Triangle’. And their secret is something money can’t buy - a community spirit that defies the clich�s of the tabloid hacks.

Despite the sniping of the national press who dub the area ‘gold Trafford’ and endlessly search out premiership footballers and property developers intent on knocking down gorgeous Edwardian homes to be replaced by modern monstrosities, I discovered something entirely different on a fact-finding tour of the area.

After an intensive search of the bars, pubs, eateries and fashion boutiques the only WAGs that I could find were ‘Wilmslow and Alderley Gourmets’.

And, yes, they have champagne tastes, but in clothes, education, architecture and music as well as food and wine.

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Hence their enthusiasm for the Alderley Edge Music Festival which celebrates 100 years next year with a ‘pre-festival performance’ from violinist Jennifer Pike, who was the youngest-ever winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition at the age of just 12 in 2002. Chairman Keith Lowe is also planning competitions for an Alderley Edge Fanfare; a logo and a special badge.

Still on the festive front Wilmslow is planning a Christmas Market, ice rink and lights switch-on from November 25th to 28th.

According to Ian Lloyd of the Wilmslow Business Group the aim is to raise the profile of the area and raise money for charity. Ian, of the UK School of Floristry on Water Lane, is doing his bit by becoming a judge at the Chelsea flower show and coming up with his top tip for your Christmas tree. ‘Cut an inch off the bottom and stand it in water for a day, it will last a lot longer.’

And talking of festivals in October, Alan Garner celebrated the 50th anniversary of his book The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, which was inspired by the legends of Alderley and Arthur, and has never been out of print since.

On a stroll down Grove Street with photographer John Cocks I discovered the truth about local footballers. Annabel Lonsdale is 13 and a central midfielder with Manchester City under-14s. She is also a pupil Alderley Girls School where they collect GCSEs, A-levels and university places faster than City can sign millionaire strikers.

Which brought us to Prestbury, where according to one national newspaper ‘WAGs and stars have been blamed for turning Britain’s poshest village into a ghost town.’ Well, if resident Jill Hine is a ghost, she certainly showed no signs of disappearing. WAGs? She said: ‘We never see them.’ The allegation is that by shopping elsewhere and neglecting the local shops and services, the WAGs have killed the town.

But there are signs of revival – some shops have closed but others are opening and the real locals she said are interested in keeping Prestbury’s community spirit alive.   And certainly as far as the visitors to The Legh Arms and Nice restaurant   are concerned, Prestbury’s diners must by among the best fed ‘ghosts’ in Cheshire. 

Fact file

Alderley Mill is one of the oldest buildings in this part of Cheshire and is a fully restored, working corn mill.In 1983 Lindow Moss peat diggers unearthed a female human head; the next year they dug up a human leg. After an investigation a complete head and body turned out to be an Iron Age man. Scientific research suggests tells us he was 25-years-old, rich and had been killed as a result an iron age ritual. He became known as 'Lindow Man' or 'Pete Marsh'.Wilmslow was very much a rural backwater until the coming of the railways in the 19th century. Wilmslow consisted of the area immediately surrounding St Bartholomew's Church which was built between 1517 and 1537 on the site of a 13th century church.Alan Turing, the driving force behind The Bombe machine for cracking the German Enigma cypher, is arguably Wilmslow's most notable resident.Alderley's famous legend refers to a Wizard who, along with hundreds of sleeping warriors with white horses, occupy underground caverns and will rise from their slumbers when England needs them.St Peter's Prestbury was built by the Normans in 1220 on the site of an eighth century Saxon church. Opposite the church is the Priest's House a picturesque black and white timbered building believed to date from 1448. During the plague years of 1603 and 1646 the vicar preached from the balcony to the people gathered below. Today it is a branch of the National Westminster Bank.Hare Hill Gardens consists of 284 acres which are in the care of the National Trust.

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