Altrincham waives the rules
PUBLISHED: 14:57 19 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:10 20 February 2013
How one of our towns is bucking the trend with plans to beat the recession, challenge tradition and embrace a bright future WORDS BY PATRICK O'NEILL PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
Never on a Sunday: that used to be the rule in the old days, when the Sabbath was for resting, reading and religion. Now there seems to be a fourth r: retail therapy. Thats the alternative for Gail Titchener in Altrincham. She is not replacing the traditional Sabbath, but complementing it by opening the market on a Sunday.
Gail is the inspiration behind the new Vintage and Craft Market which collects together stallholders selling everything from rag dolls to powder compacts and has seen numbers blossom from 17 to 40 stalls on the third Sunday of each month. And its over-subscribed, said Gail who arrived in Altrincham from Teddington and decided to liven the towns Sundays with a little retail therapy. It was a good way of attracting new buyers to the market, and to do something for the community, she said.
Never on a Sunday? You must be joking. Especially on a Sunday, says Gail.
Equally radical was Jonny Hewitt when he arrived at Red House Farm, a family concern, which in his words had been decimated by the side-effects of foot and mouth disease. His solution was to move away from the traditional Cheshire farming pursuits of cattle, cheese and cream and grow maize.
Amazing you might say. But the Maize Maze (plus farm shop, play area and tea room) on the farm at Dunham Massey has become a major visitor attraction. With a catchment area of around five million visitors within an hours drive, it has joined the likes of Chester Zoo, The Roodee and Tatton Park as a major recreation attraction in our patch. Farm diversification: Jonnys the man to show the way, even if it means changing tradition.
This month Jonny breaks another old clich by taking the horror out of Halloween with events that delight his young visitors rather than terrify them.
Down a country lane at Dunham Massey Hall, Sarah Talbot, visitor services manager, has a new twist on the old stately homes theme. Among many attractions, I was fascinated by their garden that is both edible and beautiful, but especially by Dunhams carols for Hallowtide. Not your Christmas holly, ivy and merry gentlemen, but songs traditionally sung on the eve of the feast of All Hallows (All Saints Day), October 31. All Hallows Eve as it used to be called or Halloween as you know it now.
Bringing new life to old traditions: thats how theyve done it at Dunham.
And next year Dunham Massey Hall is preparing for the big party, the Queens Diamond Jubilee, which commemorates 60 glorious years of the Queens reign. Celebrations will be held across the UK especially during the first week of June 2012. Many people will have a day off work or school to enjoy a special bank holiday on June 5. Other planned events for the Queens Diamond Jubilee include street parties, community events and even a jubilee medal.
Altrinchams busy schedule will be bursting next year with two big additions to the calendar. Trafford is a host borough for football for the Olympics and events will be taking place across the borough, including Altrincham, to spread the Olympic spirit and encourage visitors to get active. The Queens Diamond Jubilee will also be marked with a whole series of events.
Returning to the town centre John Cocks and I were delighted to visit the towns newest retail attraction the Traders Outlet. It combines the best qualities of a traditional market, department store and boutique: including arts, crafts, fashion, florists, household and leisure goods in a bright and pleasant setting.
It is invidious to pick out one item, but John and I were fascinated by a jewel-encrusted skull, which sells for 14: around 39 million less than the one you would get from Damien Hirst.
Foodies also get a Trafford treat annually with the boroughs gastronomic extravaganza, celebrating all thats good about food, drink and produce in the area. It attracts thousands of visitors.
A Taste of Trafford showcases producers and restaurants from around the region on the last Sunday of September with popularity increasing year on year. In addition Altrincham Forward, made up of key local business people as well as eminent business and property people from across the North West, has been established and is working hard to enhance Altrinchams position as a first class destination for business, shopping and leisure.
Talking of innovation, Factory Transmedia has launched its creatively-led production company in the former facilities of renowned post-production house, Hullabaloo Studios. Based in Altrincham Business Park, Factory TM now employs over 30 staff working on CBBCs Strange Hill High - a half-hour comedy series produced with an all-new technology, combining puppets, stop-motion and other innovative techniques.
For Janet Smith at Goose Green Flowers the big news is that Altrinchams new hospital is to open a cockstride from her front door by 2014. Blooming marvellous, she said. People will want bunches of freesias and lilies. These are apparently among the favourite flowers of hospital visitors.
Not that Altrincham isnt a healthy place. The Cheshire Ladies Cricket team were training at the Grammar Leisure Centre in Marlborough Road, Bowdon, when John Cocks paid them a visit. Thats just a mallet-stroke from Bowdon Croquet Club whose roots go back to 1873 and has been on its current site since 1911. Bowdon hosts several Croquet Association tournaments each year. The season runs from March to October and spectators are welcome. http://www.bowdoncroquet.co.uk
And that is without mentioning the Altrincham Ice Rink. But dont take my word for it. If you are looking for something different to do this month, get your skates on and visit Altrincham.