For many of its residents, Marple is the centre of the universe and somewhere you don’t need to leave – which is just as well as there’s only one road in and one road out.
That’s a massive part of the charm of the great escape that is Marple.
Marple is a rural town within the metropolitan borough of Stockport, Greater Manchester which historically adjoins the Cheshire boundary and includes the villages of Marple, Mellor, Hawk Green, High Lane, Marple Bridge, Moor End, Strines and the hamlet of Mill Brow, all of which have some excellent views of Manchester.
Local artist Eric Jackson, who is known for his irreverent illustrations of people and places, is famous for calling Marple “the jewel of the Cheshire Alps” on one of his retro posters.
Much like the Worsley and Boothstown districts of Salford, the Marple district of Stockport is a part of Greater Manchester which has prospered thanks to the once booming cotton industry.
1918 was a big year for Greater Manchester and Marple. It was the end of the First World War and the year in which (some) British women were allowed to vote for the very first time.
In Marple, women took action. Women’s lives changed and women changed Marple.
According to Friends of Marple Station, in the years before the war, women in the town organised themselves, formed networks, campaigned for the vote and worked alongside the radical women of Manchester.
Marple inspired the most famous Agatha Christie character, Miss Marple, and her range of ‘who-done-it’ novels. Young Agatha would often travel north by train on her own to stay with her family in Cheshire.
You’ll find nods to Miss Marple and the cover art at Marple train station, along with a blue plaque which was unveiled by her grandson.
According to The Marple Website, the name of Marple is derived from either maere hop hyll an ancient term meaning “the hill at the boundary valley” or maere pill, “the stream at the boundary”.
Which makes sense because Marple is well known for its canals and waterways including the one-and-a-half-mile stretch of the Peak Forest Canal and its ludicrous number of locks.
Even more ludicrous is the sheer number of hair salons in Marple – over 25 hair and beauty venues for a population of just under 25k people.
As well as salons, Marple is also home to many independent boutique shops, cosy cafes, delis, restaurants and proper traditional pubs.
For residents of Marple the great outdoors is a mere stroll away.
With miles of canal tow paths, wooded valleys and moorlands providing a mixture of superb scenery and fascinating features, there are many friendly walking groups to join and tour guides to follow, such as the Marple District Rambling Club which has over 350 members.
The Mellor March is a family and friends charity pub walk taking place every year on the Sunday of the first Bank Holiday weekend in May which has been running since 1994. This community walk starts at The Devonshire Arms on the border of Mellor village and visits eight pubs, with food and entertainment at Little Mill Inn along the way. You can donate [here] and every penny raised is donated directly to a cancer-related charity.
Marple Carnival is an annual event featuring food stalls and a colourful parade which raises funds for the local community including schools and charities.
Littlewoods Butchers is a little bit of an institution in Marple. All of their meat and poultry is guaranteed 100% British, and at Christmas time you’ll see happy queues of people being handed shorts of sherry while waiting to collect their meat for the festivities.
Eating and drinking
There are at least 22 pubs in Marple, and they’re all at the beginning (or the end) of a picturesque walk.
The Crown Hawk Green is a family-run Robinson’s pub with a partitioned dining space. Lynne and her team serve up scrumptious grub sourced from local producers and suppliers including award-winning homemade pies.
Try the cheese, onion and wholegrain mustard pie (£13). It might just change your waistline and your life.
The Midland in Marple Bridge is a Mitchells & Butlers pub boasting its own courtyard overlooking the beautiful River Goyt – perfect to enjoy a spot of alfresco drinking during the summer months. The food is admittedly pretty average pub grub, but the big car park next door makes The Midland a good meeting place or a place to start for pre-drinks before heading round the corner for dinner.
Traders is an independent neighbourhood micropub on Stockport Road serving craft beer, wine and cocktails. Flexing its fabric in the community, the venue regularly invites local foodie traders to collaborate with a pop-up on the patio.
Libby’s Bread and Wine is a relaxed independent eatery which has made quite a name for itself in just five years since opening in Marple Bridge. This atmospheric place is evocative of a bustling Barcelona cafe bar and has its very own bakery serving freshly baked bread, pastries and cakes from 7am and cooked breakfast from 8am, before it opens up as a buzzing bar restaurant from 5:30pm serving small plates and pizza.
Order three or four small plates per person – and remember that sharing is caring. After sampling one of their pizzas or fresh cheese and tomato garlic breads, try the bravas potatoes, hot and sticky pork belly, spiced breast of lamb, and the chilli and garlic prawns washed down with one of their recommended seasonal wines and/or an espresso martini. Did someone say choc and pecan cheesecake?
You could count the number of Cambodian restaurants in the UK on one hand – but you’ll find one in Marple: Angkor Soul on Stockport Road, which opened in 2017. And, according to The Observer’s restaurant critic Jay Rayner, it’s “a little diamond,” serving “vivid, extremely fresh Cambodian home cooking.”
You’ll find Thai, Vietnamese and French influences in the food itself, with plenty of vegan dishes as well as the kind of “spiced broths you could get lost in”. Popular dishes include slow-cooked fragrant curries, street food noodle dishes and Cambodia’s national dish of fish curry cooked in a banana leaf with coconut milk, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Food critic Jay put it perfectly: “It lives up to its name. It has soul”.
Dutsons Marple Bridge is a family-owned deli cafe shop which serves up probably the best full English breakfast this side of the Pennines. The shelves are lined with lots of different artisan products from local, national and international suppliers, including a fantastic selection of wine. You can also create your own special hamper full of unusual produce which makes a great gift.
Hare & Hounds Mill Brow is cosy dog-friendly Robinson’s pub off the beaten track at the highest point of Mill Brow. This hidden gem is the perfect watering hole to stumble into after a countryside walk. Try a pint of Robinson’s Unicorn bitter or Cascade Golden IPA in front of the open fire while you explore the food menu. Every Wednesday and Thursday evening and Friday lunchtime, the pub offers a brilliant value set menu including an appetiser. Don’t miss sticky toffee pudding or Cheshire Farm ice cream in any weather.
La Dolce Vita has been Marple’s staple Italian restaurant for about 30 years and is the outstanding restaurant in an overstocked area. Serving very decent Italian food and open seven days a week, this place has hosted countless birthdays, anniversaries and family celebrations over the years.
The Fisherman’s Table is the first fish and seafood restaurant to open in Marple. Each day, along with their sister company Marple Fish round the corner on the precinct, owner fishmonger Jamie Barrett sources the most sustainable fish and seafood from Fleetwood.
Try the Whitby crab risotto, you won’t be disappointed. Take your own bottle of wine on Mondays – why not support another local and buy it from Dutsons wine shop.
Parks and leisure
Marple has a variety of leisure facilities including many marvellous parks, a library, a theatre, an old cinema, a swimming pool and fitness centre.
Brabyns Park is a former private 90 acre estate formerly owned by a woman named Fanny Marion Hudson who died at age 90 – which is now the largest park in Marple. You can walk past the Goyt River and maybe see a kingfisher, or through the fields where you can see swallows flying around.
Etherow Country Park was one of Britain’s first country parks. The space has a lovely park, dam, woods and boating lake. In the summer you can watch boating, fishing and see the model boats race on the water.
Marple Library is situated in Memorial Park and was constructed in 1974. It may not be the best looking building in the world but the library is accessible to all and makes a difference in the community by inviting locals to volunteer and join one of many reading groups. You can find a dedicated range of book titles which help boost your mood and resources promoting self-help and wellbeing.
Marple Memorial Park was built on land donated by the Carver Barlow families in memory of the men of Marple who fell in World War One. The park was formally opened in the summer of 1922 with a dedication ceremony and pageant attended by thousands.
The Middlewood Way is an 11-mile reclaimed former railway line between Macclesfield and Marple offering a variety of eco-friendly recreational opportunities, including walking, cycling, horse riding, birdwatching and picnicking, with fine views over Cheshire.
The Carver Theatre, founded in 1906 as the Marple Drama Society, is small but perfectly formed, including a licensed bar. Performances are well chosen and performed by enthusiastic and talented amateur actors, some of whom could give up their day jobs.
Marple has its very own miniature railway. Dragon Miniature Railway is a small volunteer-based organisation running a 7.25″ gauge miniature railway in the grounds of Marple Garden Centre. Roy Cropper’s dream, the railway includes steep gradients, sharp curves, a tunnel and a bridge. Their fleet of hard-working locomotives will haul your train past these and other features around the line.
Marple is one of very few small towns to still have its own independent cinema. Early in 1932 a plan was approved for the conversion of the Union Rooms on Stockport Road, and three adjoining houses into a cinema. Regent Cinema was last renovated in the late sixties and the slightly faulty screens are all part of the charm.
Marple is about 10 miles from Manchester city centre and is served by two railway stations, Marple Station and Rose Hill Station. The location and provision of excellent road and rail networks is another reason why people are choosing to live in Marple. With Manchester just a stone’s throw away and London about a two hour train journey, the appeal is great for many.
Marple isn’t just a convenient home for commuters, it’s a family-friendly town and has many good fee-paying and state schools to choose from, many of which are highly rated by Ofsted, including Ludworth Primary and Marple Hall a mixed gender high school whose students are expected to show the Marple Hall Spirit – determination, honesty, readiness, respect, and spark.
A great place to call home and perfectly positioned between the city and country, Marple is an attractive option for those who fancy the small-town life. The ideal place for nature lovers, it’s home to eight villages and parks, but you’re also right on the dot for the commuter life.
You can bag a three-bedroom semi-detached house for between £300-350k in Marple, which is comparable with house prices in Chorlton and Didsbury but cheaper than most areas of neighbouring Cheshire.
This is the Place is the name of a poem by Tony Walsh commissioned by Forever Manchester, the only charity that raises money to fund and support community activity across Greater Manchester. And they can’t do it without your help. Donate what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a hugely rewarding experience. There’s a unique sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are making a real difference to the lives of others, especially to those close to home.