What the locals really think of Bowdon
PUBLISHED: 00:00 21 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:42 26 August 2017
It's leafy and lovely and a little bit like Hampstead writes janet reeder
With its mixture of elegant townhouses, cottages and mansions set on pleasant leafy lanes, Bowdon feels rather like the Hampstead of the north.
Just a mile or so away from the shops and restaurants of busy Hale and Altrincham, Bowdon is an area that doesn’t shout about its affluence...and as one of the most desirable residential districts in the Cheshire area it really doesn’t need to.
The streets are actually a lovely place to take a stroll. So peaceful. But do you see anyone walking? Well, I didn’t on my visit, but then it was a weekday. The odd jogger maybe, but not many strollers. This adds to a sense of restraint and privacy about the place which doesn’t happen in many similar villages.
That’s not to say there’s nothing happening here. In fact it is growing as a destination for out of towners who are discovering more and more reasons to visit.
One of those reasons is Society Boutique on Vicarage Lane, which was already a big hit with the locals before it featured in the most recent series of the Real Housewives of Cheshire.
Blame that on the fashion savvy of owner Michelle McDowall, who is already the head of a Manchester wholesale agency of fashion brands for retailers such as Selfridges and ASOS.
Michelle takes me on a tour of the shop and shows me all the new season’s lovely clothes including Moss Copenhagen, one of the brands she’s brought into the UK which hangs on the rails alongside others like Second Female.
‘I’ve been here since December. I had a phenomenal first two weeks, I don’t think I slept! The Housewives came and we posted and it was all very exciting for us,’ she says.
In fact the shop has been so successful, that Michelle already has plans to transform the upstairs into a coffee shop and interiors emporium with a fashionable Scandinavian twist. ‘It’s a bit of a concept store. I have a vision!’ she says.
‘There used to be a coffee shop called Coffee and Kitchen next door and it was there when I first thought about opening a boutique. I did some samples sales and thought maybe there’s a bit of a market for this.
‘When I was deciding where to have the shop I sat in my car outside the local Co-op to make sure I was doing the right thing. I knew that in terms of the houses around here it was an affluent area but to sit there, honestly...the Co-op is the busiest you’ve ever seen in your life and gets some very high profile people coming in, virtually incognito.
‘Plus, there’s free parking, businesses have opened across the road including a new interiors shop and as long as we get this coffee shop, we’ll have everything.’
Add to the area a pilates studio, hair salon and new restaurant, as well as a doggy day spa and this is no ordinary village.
Knutsford-based vet Paul Adams is the man behind The Pet Retreat grooming salon, which has also been featured on the Real Housewives of Cheshire and Channel Five. As well as offering pampering packages with names like Bowdon Bath and Dunham Massey Makeover, the salon has pet welfare at its heart.
Paul tells me: ‘It’s a cross between a hair salon and a spa but with a flavour of the veterinary side of it too. It was initially set up to support the veterinary side of things because a large component of the traditional cases we see in the surgery are related to skin disease.
‘In the past dog grooming has been something of a cottage industry, something done out of sheds and garages but with the rise in popularity of dogs who don’t shed, such as cockapoos, there has been an increasing demand for grooming.’
Bowdon followed Knutsford as the second Pet Retreat when it opened in April and there’ll be a third opening this month in Holmes Chapel.
‘I never thought it would take off in such a way,’ adds Paul.
‘But then it’s not just up to me, it’s all been down to my talented staff.’
Over towards the Stamford Road side of Bowdon there’s a village green vibe where a handful of shops and businesses cluster around a pretty parish church and local pub.
It’s here that fashionistas beat a path to get styles by Lisa Sterling at Lisa Sterling Vintage, which is run by Lisa and her daughter Poppy Lloyd-Davies.
They’re moving around the corner to new premises at 1 Westwood, on St Margaret’s Road, in September when they’ll open three days a week and offer personal styling.
Says Poppy: ‘We’ll be open three days a week just for drop-ins and hopefully get more appointments and have more events.
We have clients who give us their clothes some of which still have their labels. They’re people who are cash rich but time poor...aristos, CEOs of big companies people like that. If they want help then we’ll give it to them. We’ve had lace Dior dresses and we recently sold a gorgeous Biba dress. We had a client who bought a Chanel handbag for herself as she’s turning 50 next year. It’s really nice.’
The rise in popularity of hockey since the UK Olympic team took gold at Rio has had a real impact on Bowdon Hockey club.
Already a breeding ground for elite team GB players such as Sam Quek, Brendan Creed, Amy Tennant and Alistair Bryden, the club, which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, has seen a big increase in numbers.
Carl Tennant, spokesman and Amy’s proud dad, says the club has been very proactive in terms of networking and putting coaches in schools.
‘As well as having players who play at a decent level we are encouraging people to enjoy the game as part of the community,’ says Carl.
‘There’s the family side and social side of Bowdon Hockey Club, where we engage the parents and where people come and get involved in events. The balance for the club is the development of the juniors and delivering an environment for training the elite players. It’s quite a challenge, particularly as the lights have to be turned off at eight, when in most clubs it’s 10. The club throws up those challenges but we have overcome them to produce some great players.’
Bowdon Hockey Club, Southdowns Road, Bowdon, Altrincham WA15 3DT www.bowdonclub.com
Where to eat
The food is fine dining, the vibe is relaxed. Mariusz Dobies, former executive chef at Michael Caines in Manchester, has teamed up with Veronika Janusova for their first restaurant together (named after the Mediterranean borage herb) on the site of the old Coffee Kitchen and Cafe.
7 Vale View, Vale, Vicarage Ln, Bowdon WA14 3BD 0161 929 4775 www.boragebowdon.co.uk
Where to stay
A great location within walking distance of both Hale and Altrincham.
The Mercure Bowdon Hotel, Langham Rd, Bowdon, WA14 2HT 0161 928 7121