Is Stockton Heath one of Cheshire’s most under-rated places to live?

Owner, Danielle Westwood, and manager, Ruby Halsall at Gin Lane in Stockton Heath

Owner, Danielle Westwood, and manager, Ruby Halsall at Gin Lane in Stockton Heath - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

The locals Stockton Heath have a great community spirit and so much is going on.

Owner, Danielle Westwood, and manager, Ruby Halsall at Gin Lane in Stockton Heath

Owner, Danielle Westwood, and manager, Ruby Halsall at Gin Lane in Stockton Heath - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

Anyone granted the Freedom of the Parish of Stockton Heath has the right to march their troops through the town with drums beating and colours flying! It’s been a long time since that particular right was exercised but locals still have plenty to celebrate.

The Bell Ringers of St Thomas’s will get things off to a good start, welcoming in 2019: no-one would ever guess that the troupe is only two years old.

‘Well, we hope not! We only began ringing in 2016, for the unavoidable reason that we had a Bell Tower but no bells, probably because the Victorian parish couldn’t afford any,’ explains Bell Tower Captain, Sarah Downes whose first job was to persuade potential bell ringers that it was perfectly possible to climb up the steep, spiral staircase without having to call for oxygen.

Thanks to Sarah and her colleagues, the Bell Tower now has bells, including two new memorial bells.

Dog trainer, Jane Carmichael, with Zeus, Lance and Vince in Stockton Heath

Dog trainer, Jane Carmichael, with Zeus, Lance and Vince in Stockton Heath - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

‘Watching them being cast was a moving experience and it fired us up. I can declare that bell ringing keeps you fit: we all positively leap up that staircase now,’ smiles Sarah who is delighted with the support the local community have given.

That doesn’t surprise Danielle Westwood who chose to base her recently opened micro bar Gin Lane, specialising in small batch gins-several of them local- in the village.

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‘Stockton Heath has vibrancy and is one of the friendliest places around, so an obvious choice,’ explains Danielle, who named her bar after the famous Hogarth drawing.

‘We display a large reproduction: it depicts some pretty hair-raising antics but I’m confident none of that will be happen here,’ smiles Danielle who envisages her bar as a place to relax while nibbling on snacks such as cheese and gin mushrooms.

The Bridgewater Canal by Beech Road, near Stockton Heath town centre

The Bridgewater Canal by Beech Road, near Stockton Heath town centre - Credit: Pics; John Cocks

Gin Lane’s gorgeous interior has been fitted out with mostly reclaimed materials, something which Maeri Howard of, The Make and Do Studio applauds.

She predicts that 2019 will see more and more of us wanting to learn how to make and upcycle our own things.

‘I grew up in a part of America where it wasn’t easy to source new clothes - my mother sewed and I learned from her.

‘Today, we’re all far more aware of the environment and it’s a great way to lessen that carbon footprint and it’s fun too,’ says Maeri, who came to England for work commitments and chose to be in Stockton Heath because of its happy atmosphere and great transport links.

Her workshops include soft furnishings and crocheting to vintage dresses and gorgeous bags: one chap even wanted to make a cover for his Vespa bike.

‘We sit around a massive table, with tea and cake and chat and make: no prior skill needed - we can even teach you how to thread a needle without drawing blood,’ smiles Maeri.

Ian Talbot is a Master Cobbler and, together with his son, Andrew of Cheshire Shoe Repairs they make it their mission to ensure that shoes, boots and handbags last as long as possible: they’ve repaired clown shoes for thespians, as well as the occasional mini skirt. But Ian is no ordinary cobbler: he has a national reputation for repairing specialist sporting shoes, including hiking and cricket footwear: shoes are posted to him from all over the UK. In fact, Ian has converted trainers into cricket shoes for national cricket teams, including India, Sri Lanka and, of course, England.

‘A company that sponsored the England team made trainers but not cricket shoes, so they came to me and I added leather soles and spikes to the trainers. Players such as Dominic Cork let me know how pleased they were and I still do conversions for members of the public,’ says Ian.

Jess Heywood, owner of Billy Goat Barbers, is no stranger to celebrities. Actors and footballers such as Premiership goalkeeper, Joe Hart - regularly visit the intriguingly named salon.

‘It’s named in honour of a particularly friendly one -at least I think it was friendly- that followed my wife and I around when we were on holiday in Marbella,’ smiles Jess.

He doesn’t believe in the quick pudding basin haircut, preferring to give clients a proper consultation, taking head shape and lifestyle into account, before brandishing his very expensive scissors.

‘Well, Stockton Heath is a pretty fashionable spot and the chaps take pride in their appearance but it’s also very friendly, so we get to know our clients,’ says Jess who predicts that for 2019, the fashion for beards, particularly square beards, will continue to be on-trend.

Jane Normington of K9 Correction grooms all her staff herself, which is probably just as well as they are very large dogs!

‘They’re all rescue dogs but are impeccably well-behaved. I trained them myself and now, when clients come from as far away as Scotland and Wales to see me, they help with the training process by ensuring that dogs don’t run away or become over-excited.

‘It’s a unique method devised by me for all breeds and it doesn’t use a reward or clicker system but relies on respect, kindness and leads to a lifetime of good behaviour,’ says Jane who is a familiar sight in the village, when she and her staff go on their daily walk.

2018 saw Stockton Heath Flower Club celebrate its emerald anniversary, making it one of the oldest flower clubs in the country, with a fabulous archive dating back to its inception.

‘I think it’s because we’re a happy bunch. Well, who wouldn’t be dealing with flowers?There are sixty of us, from youngsters to those of a certain age and, although we haven’t any chaps, they would be most welcome,’ says president Kath Sharples, who quite often invites male floral demonstrators along.

‘That’s always fun and fun is a big part of our ethos, although we raise money for charities such as the local hospice and, of course we win lots of prizes too.

‘Luckily, rules no longer apply in flower arranging, so our imaginations run riot,’ explains Kath, who is delighted that Pat Murphy, has been selected to be part of the team representing Cheshire at the RHS Chelsea.

That’s just one more reason for the villagers to mobilise their troops and celebrate!

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