Winsford's undergoes image make-over

The historic salt town was once considered – by some – something of a poor relation to the more well-heeled towns of the county. It has now enjoyed an image make-over <br/>WORDS BY CARL NAGAITIS PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS

Winsford’s a winner! While the rich and famous from soap operas and the Premier League have traditionally flocked to Alderley Edge, Hale and Wilmslow, Winsford has had to work hard to be appreciated.

The historic salt town at the very heart of Cheshire has been regarded – by some – as a poor relation to flashier places in the county. It has overcome an undeserved reputation of somehow being second rate following the arrival of Liverpool and Manchester council house ex-pats in the 1950s and 60s.

In reality, those newcomers who were relocated to Cheshire as a result of the post-War slum clearance programmes in the region’s two major connurbations quickly settled into their new homes and raised families who blended into this close-knit community.

And it is a community that welcomed Kent born Carol Pilkington with open arms when she moved to the town to become Postmistress of the popular Swanlow Lane Post Office ten years ago.

‘The people here are warm and friendly and I am delighted to call Winsford my home,’ said Carol, a keen cyclist and walker who loves exploring the by-ways and footpaths that criss-cross the town.

‘I live just across the fields from the magnificent St Chad’s Church and can be in rural surroundings in minutes. When my mum Hazel visits from Kent she always sings the praises of Winsford, its greenery and lack of heavy traffic.’

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Today 21st Century Winsford is increasingly considered a desirable residential town according to Mid-Cheshire estate agent Richard Coulby, a director of Coulby Conduct. He is convinced the town has cast off any negative image. ‘There are some very desirable properties in semi-rural locations around the town,’ he said. ‘Historically prices have been a little lower than in some parts of Cheshire but the quality is certainly there especially in the more established neighbourhoods across the town.’

On-going development of the town centre has had a positive impact. Now a swish, ultra-modern Winsford campus of Mid-Cheshire College stands on the spot once occupied by a grey and depressingly old fashioned gasometer.

Winsford Lifestyle Centre, a modern and well-equipped one-stop entertainment complex comprising everything from a theatre, ultra-modern swimming pool complete with sauna and gym stands in The Drumber, on the edge of a town centre including a busy shopping centre complete with library and eateries.

Some believe Winsford’s considerable growth is due to location, location, location! Being at the centre of things must have influenced the decision to move both the Cheshire Fire Service and the Cheshire Police HQ to Winsford in recent years.

In fact the exact geographical centre point of Cheshire has been calculated as being within the adjoining village of Darnhall, just a brisk walk from Winsford town, which is also just a short drive from Northwich, Middlewich, Nantwich and Chester. Many of the county’s popular attractions such as Vale Royal Abbey, Delamere Forest and Beeston Castle are easily accessible.

But the great thing about Winsford is that if you’re looking for peace and quiet or a little history – they’re all on your doorstep. The history of St Chad’s Church goes back to 1307 and includes a local legend.

According to folklore the St Chad’s was originally built in nearby Over Square but the devil was so angry with its popularity that he decided to fly off with it. When the monks at nearby Vale Royal Abbey saw the church flying by they rang the abbey bells causing it to drop into its present location.

Whether a history buff or not, the green spaces surrounding the church are ideal for leisurely walks leading to the Winsford Flashes -the town’s most notable geographical feature.

The Flashes are three lakes along the course of the River Weaver which have been nicknamed ‘The Cheshire Broads.’ They were created by subsidence into underground voids caused by brine extraction.

Today they are used by the Winsford Flash Sailing Club and attract wildlife watchers especially in winter months when wildfowl including Canada Geese make them their seasonal home.

As Carol Pickering says:‘Winsford’s got it all.’ 

Winsford became a town in 1894 – but its two parishes of Wharton and Over were mentioned in the Domesday Book.

Where is it? Winsford lies at the geographical heart of Cheshire – the exact spot is marked in the adjoining village of Darnhall.

Where to park? Winsford has extensive free parking in and around the shopping centre with a free multi-story car park close to the ASDA supermarket.

Where to eat? The town boasts a variety of eateries with the restaurants in the surrounding villages offering an eclectic range of food types and styles.

What to do? Swim, keep fit or enjoy live performances at the Winsford Lifestyle Centre. Watch your local football or swimming team. Or simply enjoy a walk by the River Weaver which runs through the heart of the town.

The print version of this article appeared in the August 2011 issue of Cheshire Life 

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