Cheshire: A County for Life?
- Credit: Archant
From the Romans to the Rooneys…
With a sub-heading like this, I feel I could stop the article right here! However, I never use a few words when just a few more will do…….so I urge you to read on and discover more about the incredible county of Cheshire.
This is not a missive from an estate agent perspective, nor a tourist’s guide – but simply “the truth about Cheshire” and all it has to offer. You might live here already – and consider that I have missed something vital, or (better still) discover something new or be reminded of some part of this magical county that you haven’t visited for ages and you’ll remedy that in the next month.
It is a county that is both ancient, and modern: from the medieval Walls circling Chester to the Jodrell Bank Science Centre, from the shopping along the unique historic Rows in Chester to modern-day retail at Cheshire Oaks, from the beautiful period homes and gardens at Arley, Tatton Park and Dunham Massey to a canal network dating from the Industrial Revolution and now providing a thriving leisure industry.
The history of this fair county is fascinating and still visible to this day. From the town of Northwich (literally built on salt) to the 15th Century Nether Alderley Mill housing one of only 4 complete corn mills to be found in the UK and the Silk Museum in Macclesfield; there are the distinctive white plaster and black timber-frame buildings dotted throughout the county, and the canals and waterways - more than any other county in England as the county enjoyed a restoration of fortunes after the long period of impoverishment bought about by the English Civil War. And if anything proves that Cheshire history has longevity, Cheshire Cheese is one of the oldest recorded named cheeses in British history!
It’s a place where the history and modern day life sit very happily side by side. As I am tapping away on my PC, I can hear the children ‘doing the Roman chant’ (if you live or work in the centre of Chester, you know exactly what I mean!) – the young happily learning about ancient settlers amongst ongoing modern business. The school party is on its way to the largest stone-built Roman Amphitheatre in Britain for a mini battle re-enactment. If you are a history buff, there are the 2 mile long Walls which were restored in the 18th Century, the 900 year old Cathedral from which you can see 8 counties (though I can’t claim to have done so – yet!) and the Rows, which are a mix of Tudor and Victorian arcades housing everything from shops belonging to established chains and quirky one-off boutiques. The oldest building in Chester, Tudor House in Lower Bridge Street, is home to the sandwich shop closest to our office and is included in the commentary of the walking and open-top bus tours. Though our own building is beautiful, with its own interesting snippet of history (originally built in about 1717 as a town house, it was converted into a hotel in 1818 with the 2 acres of parkland behind the house were converted into Chester’s first public pleasure gardens). However, I don’t think we’re mentioned on the tours!
In Cheshire we are bordered by Merseyside and Greater Manchester to the north, Derbyshire to the east, Staffordshire and Shropshire to the south and Wales to the west. The county includes estuaries (the Dee and the Mersey), the Cheshire Plains (expansive lowlands sitting on the east and west sides of the sandstone Mid Cheshire Ridge) with hedgerow bordered fields and dairy herds, and is also partly within the Peak District National Park. The geographical history gives rise to one of the county’s distinctive property traits – a unique red coloured stone.
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It’s a mainly rural county with country living yet also with the cultural benefits of being near larger cities such as Liverpool and Manchester. You can live in anything from old estate cottages to newly designed mansions, from townhouses both ancient and modern, to farmhouses on the Cheshire Plains, converted barns on old farmsteads or a listed historic country house.
Cheshire has gained a slight reputation as a “footballers” county – a place to live whether you need privacy, or …not! It is because of the now infamous “Golden Triangle”, including Alderley Edge which features regularly on the Richest Towns in Britain listings: but you may not know that its history involves copper mining from the Bronze Age up until 1920s, that there was a Roman coin hoard discovered in the 1990s, and several ancient gold bars have also being found here. Knutsford is another point on the Triangle, where you’ll find Tatton Park of RHS Flower Show fame – and may witness the custom of “sanding the streets” on May Day. Wilmslow is thought of as having the “Cheshire Set” lifestyle: even back in Victorian times, affluent businessmen bought houses here; it now has boutique shops and restaurants and extremely successful high-end car sales, with allegedly the highest number of Aston Martin’s sold in the UK.
According to the Sunday Times, Northwich is another place named one of the best to live; Nantwich which has the most historic buildings outside of Chester and hosts the annual International Cheese Show at the Jacobean Dorfold Hall; there are market towns such as Frodsham, Malpas, Tarporley and Tattenhall – with the famous Ice Cream Farm just to the north of this village, attracting about ½ million visitors a year. Macclesfield is becoming known for the digital industries found here, as well as businesses including pharmaceuticals, paper, plastics - and Macclesfield Chess Club is one of the oldest in the country!
There is plenty to keep all ages occupied: from the world-famous Chester Zoo with beautiful gardens to the Royal Liverpool Golf Course (home most recently of The Open, and many times of The Walker Cup), motor racing at Oulton Park, polo at Cheshire Polo Club, and top quality racing at Chester Race Course which (after my history lesson above, you will not be surprised to know is the oldest racecourse in Britain with history showing the first race running in 1539; racing began here in order to replace a violent traditional local football fixture... this substitution was organised by Mayor Henry Gee – hence the phrase ‘gee-gees’)! There are castles such as Beeston and Peckforton, and National Trust properties abound. There is fantastic walking in some beautiful country parks such as The Cheshire Peak District, The Sandstone Trail, Tegg’s Nose Country Park and Marbury Country Park, or you can train for the Chester Marathon - renowned for being one of the friendliest races in the UK and chosen as one of the UK’s top two marathons by its runners.
In all seriousness, one of the top 10 reasons for moving house is to do with schools: it is always going to be difficult to move your child to a new home, a new neighbourhood and a new school all in one go. But Cheshire is lucky as it has a good number of independent, state and Church of England schools: just a snapshot of these includes Abbeygate College (mixed), Christleton High School, King’s School (mixed) and Queen’s School (girls) - all of which have junior schools; Beech Hall and The King’s School in Macclesfield; Cransley School, and The Grange School Hartford, near Northwich; Tarporley High School and Sixth Form College; Alderley Edge School for Girls and Bishop Heber High School near Malpas. From there, your children can go on to Reaseheath College for higher and further education near Nantwich; they may stay in Cheshire, and experience live at University in Chester (currently scoring 4+ out of 5 on student rating sites) – which now has multi-sites throughout Chester and in Warrington, as well as the innovative Thornton Science Park at Ellesmere Port. They could venture to either Liverpool or Manchester (far enough away, but not too far for them not to bring their washing home on the pretext of having family Sunday lunch).
And who knows what aspirations your offspring may have as they encounter the possibilities afforded by education? Famous people who have lived in Cheshire show a diverse range of talents: Daniel Craig, Gary Barlow, broadcaster Joan Bakewell, multi-Olympian Ben Ainslie, gymnast superstar Beth Tweddle, and someone called Harry Styles (Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School has almost 21m followers on Twitter as it was here that Harry made his first foray into the music world as front man of a band called White Eskimo…) All that, and footballers too: David and Victoria lived in Alderley Edge before sunshine beckoned, whilst Wayne and Colleen still brave the English climate along with Joe Hart, Fabrice Muamba, Peter Crouch and Dwight Yorke and +- maybe just so that he can keep a wise eye on them - Sir Alex Ferguson lives up the road.
Consistently in the Top Ten Reasons to Move House is “change of lifestyle”. I said at the start that Cheshire was a county where history and modernity sit happily side by side. So if you think you want a rural lifestyle, but can’t quite bear to give up everything that urban living can offer, maybe you should consider coming to live in Cheshire: it could be your county for life!
Open House Day Saturday 13th June 2015
Strutt & Parker, 37 Lower Bridge Street, Chester CH1 1RS 01244 354855