Why Hale and Hale Barns are places to see and be seen

Hale Barns

Hale Barns - Credit: Archant

Meet people making things happen here, writes Emma Mayoh

Sweet Octopus; Leon Alexander, Michiko Hughes and Tako Horton

Sweet Octopus; Leon Alexander, Michiko Hughes and Tako Horton - Credit: Archant

The suburbs of Hale and Hale Barns attract property developers, artists, celebrities and sporting stars, and are among the wealthiest areas of the UK. Both Hale and Hale Barns have garnered reputations as places with mansions for modern day magnates, chic bars and restaurants as well as shops to cater to flashier tastes.

There is no denying Hale and Hale Barns offer a super quality of life. But delve beyond those glossy stereotypes and you’ll find two interesting and lively communities that have retained their hearts and village feel.

Venture off the main shopping street to Moss Lane, on Hale’s border, you’ll find a taste of the sweet life. Tako Horton, owner of Sweet Octopus, has been serving delicious bakes in her Tokyo style patisserie and tea rooms since February last year.

She has brought together a perfect team to drive her business forward with lead patissier Michiko Hughes, who like Tako moved to the UK from Japan, and operations director Leon Alexander, who spent most of his career working for major international food and beverage companies.

Some of the selection at Sweet Octopus

Some of the selection at Sweet Octopus - Credit: Archant

Sweet Octopus was originally set up as a commercial bakery but Tako opened the small tea room at the front of the premises six months after opening. It was not long before the talents of the Sweet Octopus team were noticed. The trio, as well as a skilled bakery team, produce 6,000 cakes a week for restaurant giant Yo Sushi! as well as producing wedding cakes, food for corporate functions and the cakes for the shop.

‘The ones we do for Yo Sushi! are their three most expensive cakes,’ said Tako. ‘I couldn’t quite believe it when we got the contract. It changed the business overnight.

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‘But Michiko bakes superb cakes. She is so talented and I’m very lucky to have her.’

Tako, Leon and Michiko now have their sights set on new premises in Manchester city centre and hope to have several branches of Sweet Octopus before too long. They also want more people to take note of their business in Hale and Hale Barns.

Friends of Stamford Park; Adrian Beesley (Vice Chair), Lissa Horton and Simon Booth (Chair of the Fr

Friends of Stamford Park; Adrian Beesley (Vice Chair), Lissa Horton and Simon Booth (Chair of the Friends of Stamford Park) - Credit: Archant

‘People might live just down the road, or they drive past here every day and they still don’t know we’re here,’ said Tako, 45. ‘We want to change that.

‘We’re not going to rush into anything. But when the right premises comes along, we’ll go for it. It’s very exciting for us.’

Just a short distance away is another gem. Stamford Park has been providing recreation and respite from the hustle and bustle since the Victoria era. It was originally donated to the people in 1879 by the 7th Earl of Stamford before being officially opened in 1880. The design, by John Shaw, was drawn up to encourage the community to take regular exercise.

Stamford Park, which is Grade II listed, was one of the first public parks to be created and is considered to be at the forefront of the movement. Sporting facilities and walks were created to allow the working class to take exercise. It was used as a model for other parks, including one in Germany.

Stuart Kirk of S&D Kirk

Stuart Kirk of S&D Kirk - Credit: Archant

Today, the blueprint remains similar - where the pond is now situated was once a swimming pool. And it still remains a hub and a meeting place for all facets of the community. It’s a resource that is looked after by The Friends of Stamford Park, a local voluntary group who task themselves with looking after the present and future interests of the public space. Over the years the group, which raises money through different events, sponsorship and by selling duck food at the nearby Little Deli Company, have completed projects to improve the space. This summer refurbished tennis courts are reopening. The group, which has 100 members, is chaired by Simon Booth.

He said: ‘It’s a park that is so well used; it’s a real resource for the community. There are lots of families around here and you’ll find parents who used to come here as a child.

‘I’ve spent many a happy time in Stamford Park with my four children. But it’s also a place that all ages use. The friends group stopped for a while which is why I wanted to get involved in starting it again. You can’t moan about something if you’re not willing to get stuck in and help.

‘It’s important we keep this space and make the best uses out of it we can. It’s very popular which is really good. We want to keep this park going, not just for our children but for generations to come.’

A few miles away in Hale Barns one butcher has been ringing the changes for more than three decades. Stuart Kirk first established S & D Kirk Butchers with brother David in 1985. The brothers, whose parents and grandparents were farmers, grew up on farms working with animals, particularly cattle. The pair – David now runs the family’s second butcher shop in Styal - have great experience and understanding of livestock and animal husbandry. Their skills have earned them a northwest regional creative display award and Q guild medals, which are endorsed by Egon Ronay. Stuart takes as great a pride in the relationship he has with customers as he does in the quality of the meat he sells. He has seen Hale Barns adapt and change. But one thing that has remained constant is his commitment to the village and the people in it.

‘The changes in Hale Barns have been massive,’ said Stuart, 57. ‘Some for the better and others not. It’s a place that’s played a big part in my life and I want to do my best for it.

‘The customers who come here have also become friends. We share each other’s lives. There are mums who come in here who came when they were children. I’ve seen them grow up. Those relationships as well as our customer service are really important to me and it’s something I’m proud to do in Hale Barns.’