Bramhall - the hotspot for tennis in Cheshire
PUBLISHED: 11:46 15 May 2012 | UPDATED: 16:11 15 September 2017
So many things are done well in Bramhall and tennis is just one of them WORDS BY RAY KING PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
Anyone for tennis? In Bramhall? I should say so! For the vibrant ‘village’ boasts three thriving tennis clubs – Bramhall Lane, Bramhall Park and Queensgate - which between them have well over 1,000 playing members.
The oldest and biggest, Bramhall Lane Lawn Tennis Club, with ten year-round floodlit all-weather synthetic grass courts and a grand, Lottery-funded clubhouse that supports a lively and varied social programme, has travelled far since a group of friends marked out a court on a lawn of a house in Bramhall Lane South in 1907. By the end of its first year the club had 38 members.
Said Membership Secretary Brenda Newport, who joined 54 years ago: ‘Today there are almost 700 with more than 600 playing regularly. We have 367 senior players over 18 and more than 200 juniors, which is very encouraging. We’re changing the categories to accommodate players under six and under eight. Our oldest players are in their 80s.’
Full-time professional head coach James Turner, former British number five in singles and three in doubles, veteran of Wimbledon and Queens and 1990 Davis Cup squad member, said: ‘Tennis is the ideal sport in an area like Bramhall because it is really family orientated. I think it’s unique in the way it offers something for everyone.’
A Lawn Tennis Association coach for 12 years, James added: ‘I come from a very high level performance background and it’s wonderful to come back to a club where whole families are involved not only in the playing and competitive side, but in all the social events like summer barbecues.’
The popularity of tennis in Bramhall suggests a community that’s both keen on exercise and very ‘clubbable’ which may partly explain why, three years ago, researchers at Sheffield University declared it to be the friendliest place in the country.
Tennis apart, there are also two highly-rated golf clubs within Bramhall’s boundaries, a sword club, hockey club and Bramhall Cricket Club, founded in 1886 and occupying a picturesque ground in Church Lane on the way to Woodford, is one of the most successful clubs in Cheshire. They went to Lords in 2001 and came back winners of the National Club Championship.
Stockport Rugby Union Football Club – its name was changed from Davenport in 1992 – plays its home matches at the Memorial Ground in Headlands Road, Bramhall. This June the club will recreate the Glengarth Sevens, the popular seven-a-side tournament which ran for 21 years until 1987 – raising more than £60,000 along the way for the North East Cheshire Society for Mentally Handicapped Children’s day care centre, Glengarth, in Marple.
Tennis, rugby, hockey, cricket and golf....all come with their own social activities, club rooms and bars...which is maybe why Bramhall is home to so few traditional pubs – in fact just three for more than 25,000 locals; the same as the number of tennis clubs. What Bramhall does have in profusion, however, are smart bars and restaurants and one of the most remarkable off-licences for miles around.
The emergence of Bramhall as a destination for a night out was sparked by the opening in 2000 of Beluga in the middle of the village. Manager for 11 years, Adam Noone said: ‘When we opened, the concept of a cafe-bar / restaurant wasn’t new – but it was new to Bramhall. We are open all day and try to offer something for everyone, from breakfast, a menu that appeals to Bramhall ladies who lunch to a lively atmosphere by night. We’re open until 1am Friday and Saturday.
‘Bramhall is a very close-knit community and Beluga is part of that. Our annual excursion to Chester races is very popular and we regularly post a gallery of pictures of the customers having fun on our website.’
Where Beluga led, others followed: Napa, The Bubble Room, Piccolino, and Ego, all popular by day, when the village teems with discerning shoppers, and as dining destinations by night. Bramhall boasts a rich collection of independent retailers from Andrew Cant and Sue Steel’s award-winning Simply Books to charming toy shop Toys and Tales and bespoke furnishers Elm Interiors as well as high class fishmonger, greengrocery, butcher’s and delicatessen within the traffic-free Village Square.
Fashionistas for miles around also make tracks to Bramhall, where what started as a small boutique with only several labels back in 1979 is now in its 32nd year showcasing the world’s most desirable ladies’ fashions.
The name Angela Beer has remained a statement of fashion expertise and luxury throughout the north west of England, stocking designs by the likes of Collezioni Armani, Barbour, Cavalli, D&G, Diane von Furstenberg, Missoni and many others in an exciting destination 8,000 sq ft store.
Another long-standing Bramhall ‘institution’ is Richard Genders’ Bottle Stop, just outside the village centre in Acre Lane.
Looking for all the world like an inn somewhere in the Black Forest, this is an off-licence like no other, a real enthusiast’s emporium, stocking well over 200 beers from round the world – many of them rare – and more than 2,000 personally selected wines.
Richard, who opened in 1984, has seen the demise of many national off-licence chains in the face of fierce competition from supermarkets that often use drinks as ‘loss leaders’. He said: ‘We’ve flourished as a business because people who come in here always find something different. Supermarkets certainly exercise the power of bulk buying but they can’t snap up small parcels of really interesting wines. We can get anything to order.’
Taps on the counter dispense draught Bitburger beer – ‘fresh from Germany’ – and traditional English bitter, which Richard says, is making a real comeback with the establishment of dozens of microbreweries. ‘They have a tremendous following among young people,’ he said.
Bramhall is most famous for Bramall Hall – note the spelling – one of Cheshire’s grandest half-timbered manor houses dating from the 14th Century with later additions from the 16th and 19th Centuries. The origins of the manor stretch back beyond the Norman conquest of 1066.
The minor river running through the 70-acre park close to the hall gets a gentrified name in Bramhall the Lady Brook. Upstream it’s called the Norbury Brook; downstream it becomes the Micker Brook.
Bramhall railway station, on the line from Manchester to Macclesfield, has seen passenger numbers virtually double in the last decade. In 2002-3 there were 117,993 passengers; in 2009-10 there were 226,048. The hourly service into the city takes less than half an hour.
The 5km Bramhall Parkrun starts at 9am every Saturday and is free to all entrants who register on the dedicated website by 6pm on the previous evening - www.parkrun.org.uk/bramhall
Stockport’s north-south trail, the Fred Perry Way – named after Britain’s last Wimbledon men’s champion in the 1930s – skirts Bramhall to the south and west. Can one of the tennis clubs produce his successor?