We meet the community champions in Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Prestbury
PUBLISHED: 15:02 21 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:20 20 February 2013
Forget the footballers, the TV luvvies, the bankers and stockbrokers. The real acid test in Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Prestbury is, not how much cash you flash, but how much you contribute to the community WORDS BY PATRICK O'NEILL
Two new galleries are opening. Theres a farm shop thats run by a Coronation Street stalwart. Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has been spotted in a local cafe. As Bob Dylan warbled so merrily, almost: In Wilmslow, Alderley Edge and Prestbury: the times they are a-changing and for the better.
The new galleries are Collect Art and Bebb and Sekers both in Alderley Edge and the reason for their arrival is that todays wealthy villagers are better off investing in art rather than in the stock exchange. In other words: dont put your money in the bank, invest in Banksy.
Roger Bebb opened the Bebb and Sekers Fine Art Gallery in partnership with Lucy Seker. Roger, already established as an art expert in Ludlow, encourages you to try modern painters such as Warhol, Hockney or Pepper. Or, if you can afford it, I suppose ,you could do worse than Damien Hirst.
Charlie Lawson is the man behind both Coronation Streets Jim McDonald and Prestburys Farm Shop. Nowadays, with 900 acres of venison and pheasant shooting in Galloway and a fervent supporter of local produce, he is more a Cheshire countryman than a Coronation Street tearaway. The shop does sell meat pies, is across the cobbles from St Peters Church and sells fish provided by Northern Shoal (a pun on Northern Soul, get it?) But dont let that confuse you. It owes much more to Cheshire chic than Weatherfield soap.
Roberto Mancini, like Sir Alex Ferguson now a resident in Alderley Edge, has added international soccer stars from Manchester City to the men in red who had turned the area into Gold Trafford. So with the likes of Rio Ferdinand, William Roache, Wayne Rooney and Peter Crouch, Cheshire, rather than Chelsea, is the capital of Premier League lifestyle, TV luvvies and tabloid headlines.
Mix in a sprinkling of award-winning restaurants, half a dozen top schools, and a plethora of posh shops and youre talking here, not just of Cheshire, but of English life at its most glamorous.
But dont be dazzled by all that glitz, or visits by Coleen Rooney to the Prestbury Farm Shop. One resident put it perfectly, by explaining that the area is so star-studded that, unlike their cars, the local celebrities are virtually invisible and are treated with tactful tolerance. They are free to wander the area, protected by an unwritten code of confidentiality that applies equally to villagers, shopkeepers, florists, designers and restaurateurs.
Yet the area remains rural and romantic, because here you can see the stars said one resident. And she didnt mean those who down pints in the Rovers Return or score goals on the pitch. But the real ones: those that twinkle brightfully and beautifully in the Cheshire sky at night.
Add to that a dose of common sense and a dash of traditional community values and you get a taste of real Cheshire: hard working, down-to-earth folk who believe that WAGs are Wilmslow and Altrincham Girls (and boys) who give something back to their community. They are typified by St Peters church choir, and a performance of Babes in the Wood by the Prestbury Youth Association in January.
To find out more, photographer John Cocks and I stopped off for a coffee with parish councillors Frank Keegan and Mary Maczkowiak in London Road, Alderley Edge: and talked about Christmas with event organiser Christine Munroe. We discovered why the spirit of goodwill is spread deep and crisp and even through the villages this year.
They are planning a Christmas Fair on December 11 with fancy dress, hot chestnuts and an ice sculpture. They will even roll out the barrel organ to make you more welcome. And if you need any help, Jane Gilbert of Rainbow Balloons in Alderley Edge can supply a six foot champagne bottle and champagne confetti to go with all the bubbly that has already earned the village fame for its annual Champagne Oscars, (backed of course by Cheshire Life) at the Alderley Edge Hotel on Thursday December 1st.
Next year is the 100th Alderley Music Festival and Christine has outlined ambitious plans for a May Festival. In June much merry-making for the Queens Diamond Jubilee is planned. For more information contact www.alderelyedge.com
Down the road in Wilmslow, and not to be outdone, the effervescent Denise Valente outlined various events. See the box opposite for details.
We want to revitalise the town, said Steve Morris, chair of the Wilmslow Business Group.
Revitalise? With all that going on, a derby match between City and United is probably less vital.
Did you know?
In 1983 Lindow Moss peat diggers unearthed a female head; the next year they dug up a leg. After an investigation a complete head and body turned out to be an Iron Age man. Scientific research suggests he was 25 years old, rich and had been killed as a result of an iron age ritual. He became known as as Lindow Man or Pete Marsh.
According to the style experts at Hoopers in Wilmslow, wellies are hot - not just green ones but red, white and blue ones too.
Wilmslow was quite a rural backwater until the coming of the railways in the 19th century. Wilmslow consisted of the area immediatley surrounding St Bartholomews Church which was built between 1517 and 1537 on the site of a 13th century church.
The 2011 Wilmslow Scarecrow Festival, which attracted a colourful crop of over 100 scarecrows to the town, has raised 2,550 for charity
Wilmslow Town Council has agreed to purchase new Christmas lights for the town centre at a cost of nearly 40,000
Alan Turing, the driving force behind the machine for cracking the German Enigma cypher, is arguably Wilmslows most notable resident.
Alderleys famous legend refers to a Wizard who, along with hundreds of sleeping warriors with white horses, occupy underground caverns and will rise from their slumbers when England needs them.
The parish church of St Peters, Prestbury, was built by the Normans in 1220 on the site of an eighth century Saxon church. Opposite the church is the Priests House, a picturesque black and white timbered building believed to date from 1448. During the plague years of 1603 and 1646 the vicar preached from the balcony to the people below.
Local jokers claim Wayne Rooney moved to Prestbury because he thought the local pub was called The Admiral Rooney!