It’s Manchester, Jim, but not as we know it.
With its wide, tree-lined streets and big Victorian houses, the leafy suburb of Didsbury is one of Manchester’s most coveted neighbourhoods.
Its desirability is reflected in its property prices, which can soar well into seven figures for a large detached house. Fortunately, a tram or bus ticket to Didsbury is much cheaper.
Didsbury is really the sum of two parts, with the Village operating as a sort-of grown-up cousin or well-to-do aunt to its younger, trendier neighbours on Burton Road.
Even though it’s only 20 minutes from town on the tram, Didsbury Village actually does have a real village-like community feel to it. It’s a friendly and uplifting place to live with a mix of charming independent shops and more established names like the Botanist, Solita and Alberts.
The Village also boasts a big M&S and full-blown cinema and entertainment complex, all of which adds to the area’s more mature, family-friendly credentials.
Records show that Didsbury has existed as a small hamlet since the 13th century, and derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon Dyddi’s burg – probably a reference to the land’s owner at the time.
So maybe the Diddymen (and women) actually came from this part of south Manchester rather than Knotty Ash, as the late Liverpudlian funnyman Ken Dodd would have us believe.
Transport and travel
You can easily reach Didsbury Village via the East Didsbury tram line, stopping at the Didsbury Village stop. It drops you right into the heart of the Village, a stone’s throw from Hispi and The Botanist. The 42 bus route runs regularly between Stockport and Manchester Piccadilly. And if you prefer two wheels to four, cycling’s a doddle thanks to a dedicated bike lane from town via Oxford Road and Rusholme.
Bars and restaurants
Whilst at first glance Burton Road might seem like the local mecca for foodies, the Village also has some wonderful eateries and bars to recommend it. And there’s plenty to choose from:
Albert’s – Albert’s restaurant has long been a favourite for Didsburyites and has just celebrated its 10th anniversary with an opulent £500,000 revamp. With sleek green velvet and beige leather booths, brass fittings and a wall of living plants, it looks stunning – and the food’s pretty good too.
Hispi – If you want to enjoy top-notch neighbourhood dining in Didsbury, you simply must book into Gary Usher’s Hispi. Set inside a former bank, it might present itself as a humble bistro but in fact, the restaurant is so much more. Known and loved for its spot-on cooking and friendly service, the custard tart is famous amongst Manchester foodies for its salacious wobble.
Wine and Wallop – This Didsbury bar is best known for offering an interesting selection of wines and a choice selection of nibbles. But don’t forget the wallop. Slang for ale, the bar has 13 hand pumps running at any one time – so no matter what your boozy persuasion, you can rest easy here, safe in the knowledge you’ll be well catered for.
Chilli Banana – For great Thai food you need to hit up Chilli Banana. All dishes on the menu have been reworked from its owner May Wakefield’s old family recipes, and all the kitchen preparation is proudly done by hand to maximise on flavour.
Baity – Relative newcomers Baity have been causing quite a stir with their authentic Palestinian cooking. From roasted sumac chicken to baklawa and a knafa cheesecake that brings together traditional Palestinian and New York techniques in one, the owners spent time touring Jordan and Palestine for inspiration before putting together their summer menu.
Ye Olde Cock Inn – Amusing name aside, Ye Olde Cock Inn is a proper British pub with a menu to match. From Sunday roast to burgers and chips, all the old faithful gastropub dishes can be more than relied on here. And there’s a nice little outside area for al fresco drinking and dining whenever that elusive sun decides to pay a flying visit.
The Royal Oak – Another great pub, known for its fabulous home made pies and cheese and pate platters, sits in the heart of the village and is part of the fabric of Didsbury life. Whilst you’re there, check out the impressive collection of old porcelain spirit vat displays on the large central horseshoe-shaped bar. Saved from a serious fire in the pub back in 1990, today they are more precious than ever.
Fletcher Moss Pub – This quaint little pub makes features of its original fireplaces, tiling and traditional snugs. It’s named after the gentleman who donated the famous Fletcher Moss gardens to the city. The landlady likes to collect porcelain teapots. You don’t have to look far to spot her 100-strong collection dotted around the place.
Olive and Vine – This much loved Mediterranean restaurant and tapas bar has been a fixture in Didsbury Village since 2011. Owner Dimitri, who also has a taverna on Deansgate, worked here as a barman in the 1970s when it was the Steak and Kebab House.
The Botanist – Part of the Living Ventures gang and an old Didsbury faithful, The Botanist is well known for its quirky food and drink offering. Think cocktails served in plant pots and teapots, barn-style acoustic guitar music and huge hanging kebab skewers served with reams of chips and dip.
Solita – Now that its Prestwich restaurant has closed, this is one of only two places in Manchester where you can enjoy Solita’s dirty burgers and BBQ grill. It makes eating a burger bigger than your head feel classy. Well almost. With its exposed brick and ceiling beams, the interior has real character too.
From perfect patisserie to gratuitously stinky cheese, there are some lovely little locally-owned shops around the Village to pick up take-home treats.
Fusion Deli – The counter at family-owned south Manchester’s Fusion Deli offers a fantastic choice of local and regional produce of deli-counter alongside mention shelves and fridges packed with flavours from far and wide. They also serve a wide range of sandwiches, paninis and soups for those that fancy stopping for a bite to eat.
Cheese Hamlet – This snug little cheese shop offers a wide selection of cheeses, plus jams, meats and other gourmet deli foods. From continental and English cheese to ports, wines and even proper cheese knives, you’ll find everything you need here for a sophisticated cheese feast.
Didsbury Bookshop – A real step back in time, this fantastic second-hand bookshop is quite literally crammed full of treasures. Perfect for leisurely browsing if you have a few hours spare. Housed in a former record store, the front of the bookshop is now The Art of Tea – but in the back, you can still find reams of coveted vintage Penguin classics alongside other literary steals. A book lover’s paradise.
Little Pigs Butchers – For ethically farmed and premium meat, look no further than the Little Pigs Butchers. This family-owned independent takes great pride in offering up only the finest artisan produce, sourcing products locally wherever possible. They will always be able to tell you exactly frpm where your steak or sausage hails.
Caramello – This artisanal cafe is known for its sweet treats and serves up breakfast, patisseries, waffles and gelato throughout the day. In the front is a glass prep station where you can see the pastry chefs at work, just to get your appetite going.
Bisous Bisous – French patisserie Bisous Bisous can be relied upon whenever you need a sugary pick me up. Serving up the finest eclairs, tarts, gateaux and air-light macarons, alongside freshly baked bread and viennoiserie, whatever you’re craving they probably have it.
A Sweet Thought – For those sweet tooths out there this cute little sweet shop should be perfect. It sells a wide mix of pick and mix, traditional, retro and American sweets, plus cakes for special occasions and sweet cones and party bags for birthdays, christenings, weddings and baby showers.
Parks and recreation
Didsbury Village is not short of green spaces. From Stenner Woods and Millgate Fields to Fletcher Moss Park, Parsonage Gardens and Didsbury Park, locals really are spoilt for choice. And for those after something a bit wilder, there’s also the River Mersey, along which it takes less than an hour to stroll to Chorlton.
Fletcher Moss Park – The whole area of Fletcher Moss is one of natural beauty, from its many gardens to Stenner Woods and Millgate Fields. Here you’ll also find The Croft, where the RSPB was founded back in 1889.
Locals flock to the beautiful Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens, which was donated to the city in 1919 by the local philanthropist of the same name who lived in the attached Parsonage. Part botanical gardens, part wildlife habitat, it boasts new tennis courts, rugby and football pitches, and a family-run café as well as stunning natural beauty.
Parsonage Gardens – Part of Fletcher Moss Park, Parsonage Gardens can be accessed via Stenner Lane but its most popular entrance is via the Eagle Gate off Didsbury Green, just outside The Didsbury pub and near to St James’ Church.
Marie Louise Gardens – Established in 1903, this 4.75-acre park is an oasis of tranquillity with its winding, paved paths and flowering trees. It was given to the citizens of Manchester in 1903 by Josephine Silkenstadt, in memory of her daughter, Marie Louise, who died young. On the south-east of Palatine Road between Didsbury Village and Northenden, it’s often described as a hidden gem. Head down on Saturday mornings to find TRIBE.MCR running fun group training workouts here and make some new friends.
Didsbury Park – One of the first municipal planned parks in the city, it was re-designed in the 1920s to include recreational features for local residents including the two bowling greens which survive today. There is also said to be an air-raid shelter underneath the football pitch but some wonder if this is purely urban legend.
Parks aside, there’s plenty to get stuck into in Didsbury Village if you ever find yourself at a loose end. From all-singing-and-dancing cookery experiences to laser tag, ten pin bowling or top-class comedy, you’re spoilt for choice.
Yes, we know Parrs Wood Cinema is technically East Didsbury, but it’s only a ten minute walk from Didsbury Village so we’re giving it a mention. This multiplex is home to 11 cinema screens showing the latest blockbusters in 2D and 3D, plus ten pin bowling, laser tag and a huge casino. There’s also a selection of chain eateries, and a Wagamama is rumoured to be opening there soon. Next door you’ll also find the Nuffield Gym, home to a huge swimming pool and spa facilities.
Food Sorcery Barista and Cookery School – Adjacent to the Waterside Hotel, this local cookery school does it all from world food and BBQ to fish and meat prep, cheese and bread-making classes. Whether you fancy brushing up on your skills or taking one of your little ones down over the holidays to learn the basics of cooking, it’s guaranteed fun for the whole family with no need to worry about the washing up.
Didsbury Cricket Club – As well as being the home of cricket in Didsbury, on the first Sunday of the month it also hosts the Didsbury Comedy Club which has been running for over a decade and has hosted some huge names including Sarah Millican, Romesh Ranganathan and John Bishop. Be warned, it’s hugely popular and often sells out in advance.
Locals are particularly hot on is the upkeep of their parks and green areas. In the mid-noughties, a number of friendships were formed to protect community spaces from developers and maintain their upkeep and these are still going strong today.
There’s a gorgeous-looking community library that offers books and DVDs, and free wi-fi for locals. Erected in 1915, this ornate archive hosts a mix of community events spanning everything from French learning sessions to literature group Mondays and regular Al-Anon meetings.
And just off Fletcher Moss Park is the Didsbury Parsonage or Old Parsonage, which has operated as a thriving community hub for a century now and regularly hosts art exhibits, classes and community events.
And mention Fletcher Moss and you must mention Fletcher Moss Rangers, the most successful junior football club in Manchester, which has produced top players like Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Wes Brown, and Danny Welbeck.
“The people of the Didsbury community have taken to Fletcher Moss Rangers in such a way that we are now an integral part of the community,” says club secretary Dave Horrocks.
“From the Tesco store to the Didsbury Lounge we have established a great relationship. Rustik and Mary & Peter’s have hosted many committee meetings, they have been so accommodating and friendly it’s always a pleasure to call in for quick coffee. No wonder people come from miles around to eat and drink in the area. It’s one of the most popular places and no wonder.”
So now you see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Didsbury Village. But it comes at a price.
Its desirability is reflected in its property prices which average around £140,000 for a one bed flat, £300,000 for a semi-detached and seven figures for a large detached house. But that hasn’t stopped it attracting twice the national average proportion of first-time buyers to the area.
It might be one of Manchester’s most expensive suburbs, but that’s not all that draws the crowds. Because at its heart, there’s a real community feel to the place. And that’s what makes it special.
This is the Place is the name of a poem by Tony Walsh commissioned by Forever Manchester, the one and 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.