It may not be in Greater Manchester, but Wilmslow is only 11 miles from town – the same distance as Bury – and many of the people who live there work in Manchester or have Manchester connections. So here’s our rundown.
If your idea of Wilmslow is champagne-chugging footballers holed up in bars with botoxed wannabees trying to get their leg over, stop right there.
The town does have its fair share of footy players and reality stars buying into the nouveau riche lifestyle – flash car, flash house and flashier teeth – but scratch beneath the glossy veneer and there’s far more depth and character to this well-heeled Cheshire town.
Did you know it’s the hometown of The 1975, the electro band who NME are calling ‘the biggest band in the world right now’ – an incredible triumph for a bunch of lads who mucked around the corners and corridors of Wilmslow High.
Coding genius Alan Turing OBE also lived here. Swing by 43 Adlington Road and you can spot the blue plaque attached to its façade.
There’s a lot to love about Wilmslow. Here’s what…
Transport and travel
A lot of ex-Londoners swap the city lights for this leafy town thanks to its direct and super quick rail link to the Big Smoke. You can be shuttling down into Euston’s underground in just two hours. Many people are still doing the commute several days a week.
It’s also easy to head into Manchester. Jump onto a Virgin train at Wilmslow station and it’ll whizz you into Manchester Piccadilly in just 15 minutes. Road-wise, you’re just 10 minutes’ drive from the M56 and the A34 soars past, granting access from across Cheshire and into Manchester. Heading overseas? Manchester Airport – in the middle of a £1billion overhaul – is just 15 minutes’ drive away, too.
Bars and restaurants
A couple of decades ago, Wilmslow was a rollicking night out for its younger residents. Fast forward to 2019 and the scene is far more sedate. Having said that, there are still plenty of restaurants to choose from. Here’s a round-up of some of the best…
Easy Fish Co: New to the scene is Easy Fish Co, the second offshoot of the Heaton Moor seafood restaurant that knows its produce thanks to its impeccably sourced wholesale fish operation. The team care deeply about the ingredients and it shows, with classic dishes done properly – think moules marineres, sea bass with mustard crust, and towering seafood platters.
The Old Garages: This tucked-away-shop cum all-day-dining-spot has been making waves on Wilmslow’s foodie scene thanks to a fresh menu of small plates being cooked up during its new late nights. There’s a quirk to the place that’s different from its counterparts, from its rustic-design details – cacti, repurposed furniture and soaring wooden beams – to its store of ceramics, candles and Scandi-style home accessories.
Wood Fire Smoke: A good ‘un for the kids, Wood Fire Smoke is a laid-back spot with a hazy hot oven in one corner churning out sizzling stone-baked pizzas, and tables of families and raucous groups knocking back BYOB and grazing on olives. The crusts are big on these bad boys so order the aioli, dig right in, and have a stash of napkins on hand.
Cibo: If you want to do some celeb spotting – Real Housewives, footballers, that bloke from Love Island (we won’t judge) – nab a table at Cibo. It’s a swish kind of place with guests in their gladrags perched at the bar, waiters whizzing between tables, and couples giggling over candlelight.
Eastern Revive: For Indian food that’s as good as anything in Rusholme – hell, India – give this place a go. Curries are clean without that grim slick of oil you often get. Portions are spot-on and billowing naans are must-orders to mop up all that gorgeous sauce. Go for the fish narial, a Goan-style curry with big hunks of white fish. Twin with a beer and imagine you’re eating beachside under a glowering sun. Salivating yet?
Suburban Green: If anywhere captures the revelry of Wilmslow’s now-defunct French Brasserie, it’s Suburban Green, a fun-centric restaurant and bar, where mellow brunches morph into buzzy after work drinks and small plate services. The volume turns up a notch and the atmosphere’s thick with laughter as the balloon G&Ts kick in. The staff really know the menu and the outdoor terrace is packed with giddy locals.
Chilli Banana: For finger-licking, fiery Thai food, this space has got it going on with a menu that hits all the high notes. There’s nothing the chefs don’t know about Thai food and the team rustles up some cracking dishes, from spicy but delicate curries, to stir fries with big-hitting flavours.
Shepherds: For live music and craft gins, this unassuming drinking den is a fun place to pitch up for a few afternoonies with pizzas and chef residencies on the menu.
Stir by Night: A speakeasy has landed in Wilmslow and, like any clandestine operation, the exact location is hush-hush. Book a slot online, nip to the supermarket (it’s BYOB), follow the directions, and duck inside for personalised bottomless cocktails.
Symposium: After hours, the crowds stumble into Symposium, a dimly lit joint up a narrow staircase with burly bouncers on the door. You’ll find the odd 50-year old trying to crack on with the younger glam crowd, but the bar staff whip up a superb cocktail and dancing to live music here is always a good crack.
Parks and recreation
The green swathe of The Carrs is one of Wilmslow’s top spots to take a break from the bustle. A rare moment of warmth sees kids splashing in the shallows of the Bollin and people with picnic blankets stretching out on towels. There’s a superb playground open all year round and a dinky café with great coffee and cakes.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can walk through thick woodlands and boughs hanging over the river all the way from Twinnies Bridge at one end of The Carrs to Quarry Bank Mill, a former cotton mill that’s under the wing of the National Trust. New to The Carrs this autumn is a foraging trip with Totally Wild.
On the third Saturday of every month, Wilmslow Artisan Market features a scattering of stores sell pies, chunks of cake, mirrors crafted from driftwood and wall prints. Follow the smoky whiffs of street food and perch on one of the tables, where the earthy scents of coffee drift by as a busker tinkers away on a guitar. A very civilised affair.
The reopening of art deco cinema The Rex last year gave Wilmslow a renewed swagger. And its glossy appeal has far from faded, thanks to a programme of new releases and live London theatre productions packing out its spruced-up stalls every day of the week.
Wilmslow has a whole bunch of pricey stores. There are jewellers with dazzling rings in the window; there are plush interior shops; and there’s even an Aston Martin showroom right in the centre. Grand dame Hoopers is still going strong with its designer clobber as well as all the usual suspects – Boots, Monsoon, Waitrose and Laura Ashley.
Property comes at a premium in this part of Cheshire. Buy here and you’re paying for location. And you better get in there fast. Bidding wars are commonplace and the property market is fierce: homes are snapped up as quickly as they’re posted online.
There are towering period pads with island kitchens and decked-out loft conversions. There are new builds – all sleek kitchens, bi-folds and walk in-wardrobes. And there are weather-worn cottages, country piles and seventies semis reimagined into contemporary homes.
But, like we said, it doesn’t come cheap. The average price paid for a house in Wilmslow is more than £430,000. Terraces go for an average of £270, 213; semis for £404,744; and detached homes from £657,805.
Oh, and by the way, something has to be done with the ugly derelict space on Parsonage Green which in previous incarnations has been a Hogshead, a La Tasca and a naff sports bar. It doesn’t just need a refurb but a complete reimagining – perhaps into a Mackie Mayor-style market. Anyone?
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.
Photos: Stephen Cottrill