How Bramhall in Cheshire is moving forward (with audio)

PUBLISHED: 17:57 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 11:46 28 February 2013

Toni Franchitti at Indulgence

Toni Franchitti at Indulgence

Not so long ago Bramhall was declared to be the friendliest place in the country. We visited to see if this is still the case. Narration by Sandbach and District Talking Newspaper

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To say Toni Franchitti is a passionate man would be an understatement. The 48-year-old Scottish Italian is about as dedicated as they come. He has always thrown himself wholeheartedly into everything: from his family life, rising to the top of the tree in the financial services sector and as a child he was a champion Latin American dancer, a passion he has recently re-ignited as a hobby following a 20-year break.

While he is coy about the achievements his fancy footwork earned, he is brimming with enthusiasm for Bramhall. He set up Indulgence ice cream parlour, on the edge of Bramhall Village Square because he loved the area and when his daughter Jessica asked for an ice-cream, they had to drive to Rusholme to find one.

But this is not just any ice cream parlour. Many of the Franchittis Italian artisan ice creams, which come in many flavours and almost every colour of the rainbow, are made using traditional Italian recipes passed down from his great great-grandfather. They dont only sell ice cream - his mothers lasagne is a bestseller on the menu. For Toni, passing on these precious recipes was important.

He said: Some of them are 100 years old. They have been passed down through the family and it is fantastic to be able to share them with other people. I love the Italian way of all getting together for a meal which lasts for hours. People do that here and I love it.

Indulgence has almost become a community centre - about 50 locals flock to the caf and ice cream parlour for regular Strictly Come Dancing nights. The venue is transformed into a glitzy venue and everyone dresses in their finery.

Since joining the Bramhall Business and Community Committee, which Toni is currently chairman of, he and his fellow committee members have been determined to improve the village.

They organise events designed to drum up support and business. One of these is the Bramhall Summer Festival which will be held this June 19th and 20th. Preparations, which include a parade of floats, began back in January. They hope a local celebrity will once again cut the ribbon to open the weekend festival.

Bramhall deserves the best and its events like this that help draw people into the village, explained Toni. I chose to come here because I thought it was the next Knutsford or Hale and we still want it to be that. Weve had a bit of a struggle with out of town shopping centres taking business away but were fighting back now.

It should be that as soon as people see the sign off the A34, they turn off because they have heard great things about us. I want them to immediately think, we must go there.

Some 18 months ago, following research done at Sheffield University, Bramhall was named as the friendliest place in the country. Spend just a few minutes with Reverend Leslie Newton, minister at Bramhall Methodist Church, and you see why.

Watching him share a joke with elderly locals at Centrepoint, a centre attached to the church, is proof enough that community spirit thrives here.

He has been a minister in Bramhall since 2006. He moved there from Barnsley, Yorkshire with wife and fellow Reverend Gill, who is a minister in nearby Cheadle Hulme. This month, preparations are underway for Easter. On Good Friday, churches walk from different areas of Bramhall and meet at the Methodist church for an open air service.

The former accountant said: There is a really good community here; there is a real heart to it. Lots of places have lost that, but certainly not here. Id like to think the church plays a part in that. It is in the centre of the village so people use it and we do get involved with all the local events, like the festival. We hope it is a place that people want to come to.

Bramhall is such a fantastic place that has a real connection with the people in it. The church is a big part of this community and Easter is a particularly special time for us.

While many thoughts are on the future this does not mean that an eye is not being kept on its past. A perfect example of this is the team who work tirelessly to keep an historic gem ticking over. Bramall Hall has been the home of everyone from two Saxon freemen to Hamon de Masci, the first baron of Dunham Massey, who was given the land by William the Conqueror. Every year, thousands of visitors admire the landmarks black and white timber framed structure and the beautiful features within its walls.

Today, the history of the house is alive and kicking. Many local schoolchildren get the opportunity to dress up in costumes of days gone by to live like Tudors or Victorians. Visitors can also enjoy walks in the beautiful parkland that surrounds the hall.

Caroline Egan, visitor services manager at the hall which is run by Stockport Council, said: Its an absolute joy to work in a place like this. Ive learned a lot about the heritage and the history of the hall and its fascinating. We also have a dedicated friends group who fundraise. There are around 170 members of the group and they help out with special events they put on. We have all sorts of things from craft fairs and food fairs that can bring 600 to 1,500 people through the doors.

Volunteers help us out and it is the dedication of people like this, as well as the staff, that keep us going. Bramhall is a lovely place and Bramall Hall is a special place for the community to have.

Bramhall is best

Bramhall officially has the best bookshop in the country. Simply Books, in Moss Lane, won Independent Bookseller of the Year 2009 from the Bookseller Retail Awards. The shop, which also has a cafe, was set up by Andrew Cant and former teacher Sue Steel seven years ago.

Judy Fig set up florists, Bloom, just over a year ago. Originally from Manchester, she had been living in Islington for 20 years but was keen to return to the north. She said: Its much friendlier here and Bramhall is a fantastic place to be. I love it.

Bramhall and the surrounding area is also a popular place for celebrities to set up home. Former The Word presenter Terry Christian lives locally as do a handful of soap stars and Most Haunted presenter Yvette Livesey was raised there. Carry On actor Peter Butterworth was also born in Bramhall.

Prom season is upon us. Staff at Montage are ready to help teenagers pick a dress to mark the end of their school career.

Bramhall Park is popular with walkers who enjoy the view year round. It is also the location of the Bramhall parkrun, a free to enter weekly 5k fun run around the beautiful park. For more information see

Bramhall is also home to a surprising number of clubs and societies. One of these is the Brookdale Theatre group, based at the Brookdale Club, who put on several productions throughout the year. There is also a Brookdale Youth Theatre.

Where is it? Bramhall is located in Stockport, near to Cheadle Hulme, Poynton and Hazel Grove. Type in SK7 1AL in you Satnav to get you there.

What to do? Shop until you drop, enjoy a bite to eat in one of the many fantastic cafes and restaurants and then walk it all off with a leisurely stroll around the Park

Where to park? There is plenty of inexpensive parking in Bramhall, meaning its a great place to go and do your shopping. Try Meadway East or Meadway West, two of the larger car parks, located as you enter the village from the motorway end.

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