Crewe and Nantwich - Cheshire's party towns?
PUBLISHED: 01:16 18 April 2011 | UPDATED: 21:33 20 February 2013
Crewe and Nantwich will host a feast of fetes, fairs and festivals this year, as Patrick O'Neill reports Photography by John Cocks
Need to know
During the Norman Conquest all but one building in Nantwich was destroyed and Henry III destroyed the town again to prevent the Welsh using the salt springs
Pepper Street in Nantwich was once known as Ratrunrowe, because it was infested by rats
An interesting feature in St Mary's Church is The Green Man, a Pagan fertility figure. The Pagan god may have been included in a Christian settlement because the church was built on the site of an ancient wood and this was a way of appeasing the green man's disciples
Crewe Crater on Mars is named after the town.
American travel writer Bill Bryson was less than impressed by Crewe. He described the town as 'the armpit of Cheshire'.
The Grade II listed Edwardian Lyceum Theatre in the centre of Crewe was built in 1911 and shows drama, music, comedy and pantomime.
'Mill Street to Love Lane', a new 40 minute DVD featuring the history of Nantwich and the Nantwich Players, is on sale at the tourist office and museum.
The twin towns of Nantwich and Crewe are gearing up for a feast of festivals that will bring all the fun of the fairs to the heart of South Cheshire. And these will be no run of the mill events - alongside traditional country fairs, flower shows and food and drink festivals, the towns will host celebrations of clocks, bikes, dairy maids and meerkats.
The Dairy Queens are among the stars of the Nantwich Show on July 27th, where according to show secretary Adrian Lawrence: They spotlight the importance of the dairy industry not just to Nantwich but to the country as a whole.
And another vital element of life in this corner of the county involves the railways and if youre chuffed to be a train buff, take a trip down the nostalgia line to the Crewe Heritage Centre to see locomotives and vintage buses. Opened by the Queen to celebrate 150 years of railway history, the heritage centre is also the location of hit-man Pete Watermans locomotive and carriage restoration hotspot.
But the area doesnt dwell entirely in the past. The Crewe to Nantwich Greenway scheme, to connect the excellent riverside walks in Nantwich with the historic Queens Park in Crewe which is undergoing a massive restoration, will make these areas more accessible and All Change for Crewe is an ambitious plan to support Crewes economic development over the next 20 years. Here the aim is to turn the town into a successful and attractive place for people to live, work, put down roots and develop their talents.
And, oh yes, those meerkats. Youll find them at Stapeley Water Gardens where the Palms Tropical Oasis boasts 100 species of wildlife which also include tamarin monkeys, piranhas and sharks. Here on April 2nd and 3rd they also host an open weekend which includes angling - and on April 22nd you can catch up with Bugs of Fun.
In fact Nantwich and Crewe are top destinations for all Cheshires trail blazers.
The town clock trail with items of interest spotlighted by 15 clocks in the towns pavements, to which must be added those at the Nantwich Museum which celebrates a time when Nantwich was the clock-making capital of Cheshire. Other items that make the museum tick are their souvenirs of the salt industry, Cheshire cheese making and Nantwichs own race meetings. See their recent acquisition a portrait of Perdita, winner of the 1811 meeting for example.
The Nantwich Guide and Historic Trail is sponsored by the Nantwich Civic Society, whose chairman Jeff Stubbs said: Nantwich is an excellent town to walk around and we find that the guide is useful to both visitors and locals. I have met visitors with the guide in their hands pointing out places of interest.
Theres also the Taste of Nantwich tour, which takes in 13 bars, restaurants and cafes including the illustrious Bookshop and Coffee House where Steve Lawson from Zimbabwe looks after food for the mind (books) and Denise Lawson from South Africa feeds the needs of the body (coffee and culinary comfort) and shows selected visitors their amazing 16th century oak-beamed ceiling.
And on the Nantwich Prayer Walk at St Marys visitors can consider matters of the soul as well as those of the mind and body.
More food for the mind can be found at the Players Theatre where the Nantwich Players present a Theban Trilogy by Sophocles from March 30 to April 2nd. This demonstrates amazing ambition for a youth theatre production.
And there are rare riches of a different kind on offer in Nantwich. I was particularly impressed by the Hurleston Brooch on display at the museum, which was discovered in 2009 during a metal detecting rally. Its a magnificent example of 13th century medieval gold jewellery. Of more modern vintage is the Burmese ruby and diamond cluster ring which sold at Peter Wilson fine art auctioneers for 60,000.
And the woman with the best bling in Nantwich - the current Mayor Joyce Stockton is a descendant of Jack Sutton who gained fame as the last Nantwich night-watchman, those doughty citizens who policed our towns and collared our crooks, before policemen or peelers were invented. He now has a street named after him.
And, says Joyce, Nantwich now is blossoming with civic hospitality. Its important to make the tourists welcome. Our Britain in Bloom organisers, for example, are all volunteers and they do a marvellous job for the town, so that it is seen in a positive light, she said.
Now thats what I call proper civic pride.
The road to Crewe and Nantwich
Where is it? The towns stand in South Cheshire and are joined by A534. Crewe's railway station is to the east of the town centre while Nantwich station is very central. When using a sat nav, type CW5 5SB to find the centre of Nantwich and CW1 3DD to get to the centre of Crewe.
Where to park? There are plenty of pay and display car parks within easy walking distance of both town centres.
What to do? There is no shortage of events, fairs and festivals in Crewe and Nantwich throughout the year but whenever you visit you'll find a super mix of shops and Where to eat? Both towns boast a range of cafes, restaurants and delis. Turn to page ??? for details of the latest Cheshire Life lunch, which was held at Crewe Hall.
Where to find out more? The Tourist Information Centre in Church Walk, Nantwich. 01270 610983.