We knew things were changing in Stretford when my husband pointed out a couple walking out of a local estate agents. They couldn’t have been more stereotypically hipster had they tried – and genuinely looked a little lost.

But as neighbouring Chorlton, Sale, and Urmston get more and more expensive, Stretford is looking more and more attractive to anyone looking to rent or buy a property.

Stretford has always been a bit of a poor relation in Trafford. Urmston, Altrincham and Sale have had huge investment in their town centres, but Stretford has had to fend for itself a bit.

It’s mostly known as the big junction with the disused cinema on Chester Road or perhaps as the one-time home of Morrissey. But Stretford is far more than that.

The name Stretford sadly doesn’t come from the nickname its residents give it – St Retford. Instead it’s an amalgamation of street and ford (a street on the ford of the River Mersey).

Historically, it was built on agriculture – something you can still see in some of the street names. There’s even a little block of flats named Pinfold Court, so called because on that same corner there used to be a pinfold (pen) for runaway sheep. They’d be put there until their owner could collect them. A sort of prison for sheep.

It’s home – in part, at least – to Trafford Park, the biggest industrial park in Europe, which makes it attractive to workers there too. The Imperial War Museum (North) and Coronation Street Tour are in Stretford, although most people think they are in Salford.  And, of course, cereal makers Kellogg’s is in Stretford too. You can tell when it’s a cornflake day as the scent of baked corn wafts across Chester Road.

Great Northern Warehouse Manchester

And you can’t talk about Stretford without mentioning Manchester United, given that the ground is actually in Stretford, not Old Trafford. Kind of confusing but true.

Together, the Theatre of Dreams and The Emirates Old Trafford down the road host some of the biggest sporting and music events in the city. It means the council tax is a little lower than most.

Add in the Metrolink extension all the way to the Trafford Centre, and it’s looking more and more attractive as a place to live.

Transport

Stretford is a hop skip and jump from the motorway and Chester Road, meaning it’s awfully convenient for drivers. A taxi to the airport will cost you around £15.

It’s ideal for buses too, with regular services to Partington, Altrincham, Sale and Urmston, as well as into town, Hulme, Didsbury and even Hyde.

Of course, match days – whether it’s football or cricket – will always have an impact, and with the current pace of development, both in housing and commercially, things are only going to get busier. So you might just want to ditch the roads and head over to Humphrey Park and let the train take the strain or to Edge Lane to hop a tram to wherever you’re going.

Community & Shopping

Stretford Mall, still known to locals until recently as the precinct or Stretford Arndale, has definitely seen better days. It’s not perfect – a lot of shops have closed, including big names like Tesco and TJ Hughes. But it’s also had a lot more investment. Aldi has taken the place of Tesco as the place to get your big shop. Costa opened around the same time, followed by JD Sports. And this year, there’s been more regeneration.

Stretford Foodhall opened recently to much excitement offering ever changing street food and craft beer alongside your food shop. And now there’s a monthly market on the last Saturday of the month, with everything from environmentally friendly dish soap to arts and crafts, live music, and a pint of cider.

It’s as much a monthly shop for goodies as a chance for locals to get together. Because when it comes to community, Stretford is bloody fantastic. It’s one of those places where you’ll see the same faces regularly – at the bus stop, in the queue in Aldi, in the pub.

And of course we can’t talk about community without mentioning Sip Club and Heather Garlick, whose energy and focus brought Stretford a bar that’s like your nan’s living room.

Heather’s been a catalyst for change, helping people realise they can do more together, whether it’s protecting Stretford Public Hall or hosting events, or even the annual Christmas Advent Calendar, when residents volunteer to decorate a window for every day of Advent.

People also come together online. There’s a Facebook group or two – actually several if you include Stretford Wombles, Friends of Stretford Public Hall, and Friends of Stretford Meadows.

Despite the M32 group often being filled with grumbles about dog poo and people asking questions they could probably ask Google, it’s also a vehicle to bring locals closer together. After all, it’s where the idea for Sip Club was first mooted.

Bars & Restaurants

Once upon a time, your options were limited –  a pint at the Robin Hood, The Melville, The Gorse Hill, or O’Brien’s. Then came Sip Club, part pub, part community hub. And now we’ve got Stretford Foodhall, Uplift Cafe, and Head, a craft beer bar which also hosts live music and a monthly craft fair. Think 1960s bar-cum-living room. It’s gloriously retro.

Soon we’ll have Soul Juice and Longford Tap, both of which look exciting. More craft beer, more places to visit for a pint or two.

Food wise, Emilia’s Della Roma on Davyhulme Road is loved by young and old alike. It’s one of those Italian places you’d go to celebrate your birthday with the family, where they’d look after your nana as well as your niece.

Samir’s on Chester Road offers stunning Syrian food. It’s the home of Syrian refugees Samir and his family, who have been welcomed to Stretford with open arms. We might not have much, but what we have, we share.

We have lovely little places like The Pines and Bea’s Cafe for a fry up, and for those with a sweet tooth, Keep it Sweet have everything you could wish for. Soon, we’ll have Stretford Canteen back to Chester Road. I, for one, can’t wait.

Parks & Recreation

Stretfordians are lucky when it comes to green spaces. Despite its proximity to the motorway and main road routes, it’s surrounded by gorgeous green spaces.

Gorse Hill Park, Victoria Park, Moss Park and Longford Park are all a short walk away, meaning you’ve got playgrounds galore, somewhere to walk the dog, and Park Run. It also has Stretford Meadows, Turn Moss and, almost by extension, Chorlton Water Park.

Talking of water, the Bridgewater Canal (main image) runs through Stretford and is popular with walkers and cyclists.

Returning to the community theme, Friends of Victoria Park host gardening for health groups and events throughout the year, including an Easter egg hunt and annual barbecue. It’s also home to a petanque club which took part in La British Open this year.

Gorgeous Gorse Hill decorate the community spaces in Stretford. Whether it’s mosaic covered bollards, giant planters, or painted street furniture, they make the most mundane of items look bright, colourful and hide the grey that so often is the base colour of a town.

Schools

There are a number of well performing schools in Stretford, including a number of Roman Catholic infant and junior schools.

Stretford Grammar was awarded specialist Science College status in September 2005, and Stretford also has the specialist Arts College, Lostock College.

Stretford High School Community Languages College, much like Stretford Grammar, has a large number of pupils with a first language other than English (higher than the national average), testament to our welcoming of refugees. GCSE results also placed the school in the top 1% of schools in the country for adding value to its students.

We’re also home to one half of Trafford College, where the first courses in collaboration with the University Academy 92 have taken place in collaboration with Lancaster University.

Affordability

Prices are still cheaper than neighbouring Chorlton, but they’re definitely on the up. A two bedroom apartment will be around £145,000, and a terraced house between £165,000 and £210,000, depending on what part of Stretford you’re in.

A semi-detached will come in anywhere between £290,000 (centre of Stretford) to £365,000-ish if you head closer to the border with Urmston. Compare this to a detached house in Chorlton costing you around £600,000, and it’s easy to see why Stretford is booming.

It’s not perfect, but we kinda love it.

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.

Photography: Stephen Cottrill

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