Macclesfield declared the happiest place in the North West

PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 February 2019

Jude            Tedx Macc in Macclesfield town centre with the       hall behind him

Jude Tedx Macc in Macclesfield town centre with the hall behind him


Did you know that Macclesfield is said to be the happiest place in the whole of the North West? We went along to find out why

Macclesfield has been declared the happiest place in the North West! One thing that made it stand out in the survey carried out by Rightmove, was the pride that Maxonians have in their town, with lots of them producing work that is inspired by its lovely location and community spirit.

It was the beautiful countryside surrounding the town that motivated one of its youngest residents to write some stunning poetry. Ide Crawford, 12, was dubbed The Emily Bronte of Macclesfield when her poem about the moors helped to win her one of the most prestigious poetry competitions in the country: The Betjeman Poetry Prize, earning her the title of Poet Laureate for St Pancreas Station.

‘It was exciting to travel to London with my family and marvellous when they announced that I was the winner-I jumped out of my seat- and even more marvellous to be compared to Emily Bronte who is my favourite writer,’ says home schooled Ide, who will now write three poems about the station and perform them in front of the statue of Sir John Betjeman himself.

Writing is Ide’s passion but she also has a gift for art, so it might not be too long before her work is on display in, No Place Like Home. Owned by Heather Bamber, the shop is a vehicle for talented locals to display their work and not just a few either-there are over 70 of them.

Sarah and Rob Simpson at their  Random Apple Co in MacclesfieldSarah and Rob Simpson at their Random Apple Co in Macclesfield

‘Well, Macclesfield is home to an awful lot of talented people: some live here because they’re creative and others are creative because they live here,’ laughs Heather, who has provided them with a platform for eight years and who frequently posts pieces to exiled Maxonians all over the world.

‘There’s a little bit of Macclesfield everywhere-whether it’s something small like a key ring or tea towel or an investment piece such as an original painting,’ says Heather who began life as a nurse but, when she hit 40, decided to follow her dream of promoting local artists.

Heather isn’t the only person to follow her dream. It’s not too often that chemical engineers become craft tutors but that’s exactly what Ruth Moyes of Karumo has done.

‘Being a project manager in that field honed my organising skills, although cakes and tea don’t feature quite as much in the world of chemical engineering! Sewing and crafting have always been my passion- my grandmother taught me- so when I retired I took the plunge. People bring their own projects to a workshop or I can teach them specific skills such as knitting, crochet or needle felting- it’s fun, friendly and flexible,’ explains Ruth who is also chair of a local branch of the Embroidery Guild and who often wears an elegant silk scarf- a nod to Macclesfield’s silk industry heritage.

Heather Bamber at No Place Like Home in Mill Street in Macclesfield Heather Bamber at No Place Like Home in Mill Street in Macclesfield

Vinyl records may not have such a long heritage but they are becoming hugely fashionable as Neil McDonald of Vinyl Planet-who counts local celebrities such as members of New Order among his clients explains. That said, you might recognise Neil: he was the guitarist for nineties band, Puressence who had four top 40 hits.

‘These days I prefer to sell, not make, records! I have over 10,000, from jazz and blues to pop and rock, and I even have a record cleaning machine, although if a record is scratched there is little that can be done, one option might be to turn it into a plant pot! It is heart-breaking to see a first pressing of a Led Zeppelin record only to discover that dreaded scratch,’ says Neil who admits to owning the odd CD but they are strictly for playing in the car, he tells me.

Sarah and Rob Simpson do a different sort of pressing at their gorgeous converted stable in Swanscoe. The Random Apple Company is gaining lots of attention and recently featured on the BBC’s Countryfile.

‘It began when I started my one-woman company making jams and jellies from foraged hedgerow fruit but then we began to think about the fact that there was once an orchard on my parents’ land. We persuaded them to let us plant a little orchard, we bought a small traditional apple press and waited for lots of juicy apples. In our naivety, we thought that would happen more or less immediately,’ laughs Sarah, who soon realised that in the world of apple growing, patience is a virtue.

Crafts tutor , Ruth Moyes (centre) at The Chocolate Box Cafe, Prestbury village with her students, Sheila Livingstone, Hayley Soliman, Susan Medcalf and Irene Smith *** Local Caption *** Macclesfield Town FeatureCrafts tutor , Ruth Moyes (centre) at The Chocolate Box Cafe, Prestbury village with her students, Sheila Livingstone, Hayley Soliman, Susan Medcalf and Irene Smith *** Local Caption *** Macclesfield Town Feature

That was in 2013 but today, the Random Apple Company is making a splash: they’ve even bought bigger presses.

‘We grow apples that like Macclesfield soil such as Rosette and Red Devil. We even have Scandinavian varieties that think they’re on holiday up here! People also bring us their apples and we juice them, so every bottle is unique -that’s where the Random comes from,’ explains Rob who delivers the bottles to local delicatessens.

Demand is growing but the company remains a family one: even daughter Lily, aged four, helps to gather apples.

‘We love it so much we even got married here, after all apples were once a symbol of romance. We have open days where groups and individuals can come along and watch the apple pressing and hear us talk about the company because that is something we love to do,’ says Sarah.

Twelve-year-old poet Ide Crawford with her mum, BrigidTwelve-year-old poet Ide Crawford with her mum, Brigid

Talking is also on the agenda for TedX-a global organisation that spreads ideas in local communities- so it’s no surprise that Macclesfield has been granted a coveted licence to hold its own TedX event. Organised by Jude D’Souza and Lynne Jones, it will take place on May 4th at Townley Street Chapel.

‘Last year’s event included talks such as the intriguingly entitled ‘How the World is Coming Together to Build a Time Machine’. Actually, those talks are online, still attracting many views, ‘explains Jude who, with Lynne, will be rounding up equally interesting locally connected speakers for this year’s event.

Run by volunteers, there is still the chance to get involved and play a part in ensuring that Macclesfield remains a happy, connected and creative place.

The future’s bright

Macclesfield is full of history and heritage but that hasn’t stopped local people from having exciting plans.

In December 2018, plans to enhance the area around Castle Street were announced by Cheshire East. The £1.4-million-pound scheme will give priority to pedestrians and will include: high quality paving with bespoke text art on the kerbline; tree planting; new street furniture and widened footways- making the concept of al fresco dining very inviting.

The team behind the famous Altrincham market have been granted planning permission to transform the Chestergate Picturedrome into a similar venue for artisan food stalls and refreshments. It should be an exciting blend of heritage and regeneration.

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