What the locals really think of Stockton Heath
PUBLISHED: 08:51 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 16:22 17 January 2017
Flags are flying in Stockton Heath, as Paul Mackenzie reports
No-one knows a place like a local so we asked two shopkeepers selected at random to share their favourite things.
Kathryn Morcom is manager of the uber-stylish Laundry Collection which sells branded labels and accessories – the sister shop Laundry Boutique next door stocks high street fashion with a younger feel. Kathryn has lived in Stockton Heath all her life and said: ‘I’m very patriotic about Stockton Heath, it’s a lovely place to live and work.’ Kathryn’s favourite things about Stockton Heath are the shops, the restaurants and the selection of lively bars.
Heather Ryder has lived in Stockton Heath for ten years and next month will mark the 14th anniversary of the opening of her Living Colour Floral Design shop. She spent much of the last month decorating people’s homes for Christmas and said that the recession had an impact on the business, with fewer shoppers out on the streets but she has seen green shoots of recovery.
Heather’s three favourite things about Stockton Heath are the sense of community and the shopkeepers; the convenience of having just about everything you could want on the doorstep and the scenery and the walks.
‘It’s probably not what people associate with the Warrington area but it’s beautiful here,’ said Heather.
Escape the rat race
Stockton Heath is just two miles from Warrington town centre at the junction of two major A roads, but you’d never know it. Although those roads – the A49 and A56 – do get rather busy, quiet countryside walk are just a minute or two from the crossroads.
The village is bordered to the north and south by the Manchester Ship Canal and the Bridgewater Canal and with fields and golf clubs on the edge of the village, there’s plenty of green spaces and attractive countryside to explore.
And if you really want to escape the hustle and bustle you could take to the water for a gentle pootle through the countryside. Margaret Hamilton has catered for boaters’ needs at the Thorn Chandlery beside Stockton Heath’s London Bridge for more than 20 years.
She also hires out a boat for day trips on the Bridgewater Canal and said: ‘It travels at four miles an hour, that’s fast enough to get to Dunham Massey, have lunch in one of the pubs and get back to Stockton Heath.
‘It’s such a laid-back and chilled out way to spend a day that people come off the boat and can’t believe how relaxed they are.’
Flying the Flag
Stockton Heath is a great place for a night out, and that’s official. The village was the first in the UK to be awarded a purple flag which recognises the standards of hospitality in pubs, bars and restaurants.
The scheme was launched across the country in 2009 and most holders of the award are large towns and cities but Stockton Heath has been proudly flying the flags for the last three years. The assessors were impressed that despite its size, the village has more than 30 food and drink venues which serve food from all over the world.
But Stockton Heath isn’t just an evening destination – the range of shops and cafes also far exceeds what you might expect from a place this size. Sandwiched between the eating establishments you’ll find a healthy selection of small independent shops selling just about everything you could possibly need.
Up the road in Warrington they have the national chains and big name stores, but here it’s more about the boutique store, all of them full of the friendly welcome and helpful staff you’d expect in a village where popping to shops is a genuinely pleasant experience.
Much of the centre of Stockton Heath was designated a conservation area in 1988 in an effort to preserve its character. It worked. The modern red brick architecture blends sympathetically with the older buildings and there is a tangible sense of pride among residents and business owners which is reflected in the scores of purple flags fluttering outside shops and businesses on the day our photographer visited.
Need to know
Where it is: Stockton Heath stands a couple of miles south of Warrington at the crossroads of the A49 and A56 and is just a few miles from both the M6 and M56. Typing WA4 6SG into your sat nav should take you to the village centre.
Where to park: There is some free on-street parking around the village and the pay and display car park close to the village centre costs £2 for more than three hours.
Where to eat and drink: Almost every other building in Stockton Heath is a café, bar, pub or restaurant. It would be hard not to find somewhere ideal, whatever the occasion.
What to do: Explore the independent shops, book a table in one of the restaurants, then stroll by the canal in the winter sunshine (hopefully).
Did you know: George Formby Snr was born and died in Stockton Heath and his former home on London Road is now the Amado boutique hotel.