I wrote the account below before the Covid-19 pandemic hit us but its still a timely read. Travel restrictions lead us to appreciate all things local. We have some fantastic local produce and buying them helps us to secure our own futures. Who knows what 2021 will bring but hopefully this vaccine will help. Stay safe and focus on the positives.
A recent visit to Knutsford in Cheshire, UK brought to mind that there are some lovely places to visit that are less than 3 hours drive from where we live in the North-East. One of the things which struck me more than anything about Knutsford was the number of individual shops, bars and restaurants there are, so many British high-streets, sadly, contain mainly representatives from all the national chains and somehow seem to lack individuality. The other thing which was striking, is just how friendly this town is, and so welcoming to visitors – nothing seemed to be too much trouble for anyone we met – from sipping a delicious glass of reisling in a wine bar to buying goodies from the market, vendors were polite and helpful.
Stay: We chose the Pickmere Country House Bed and Breakfast, around 5 miles drive to Knutsford. This really suited us because being out of town, we were guaranteed a good night’s sleep, and on-site car parking free of charge was another plus. The hotel will provide evening meals on request – breakfast was superb, much play being made of using local and sustainable produce went down really well with us. In fact the sausages were so amazing we went on the hunt for them the following day in town.
Eat: There are many options if you drive back into Knutsford. We didn’t want to drive any more for dinner though (and yes we did want a drink anyway!) and the local inn, the Red Lion is less than 6 minutes walk from the Bed and Breakfast is a great bet – the food there is good quality and value, and the staff, as has been the case everywhere around here, are second to none.
Do: Visit Tatton Park spread over some 50 acres of parkland and landscaped gardens – alongside a farm and mansion to tour, expect to see deer as you meander through the wooded areas. Take advantage of special offer tickets, such as the 3 attractions for the price of 1 vouchers sometimes available through the Visit Cheshire and Beyond site make this even better value. Open daily in the high season but check the website for details. Entry to the parkland alone is free of charge and is popular with families, pets and activity groups.
See: the amazing Knutsford Little Theatre on Queen Street, close to the Knutsford entrance to Tatton Park. Check the website for forthcoming productions, tickets are normally around £10 per adult.
Historic Buildings: There is a high concentration of listed, interesting and often timbered buildings in several Cheshire towns and Knutsford is no exception. Example below of a Grade II Heritage Britain listed property, dating to early 19th Century.
A Spot of Shopping: I am not the world’s best shopper as I often find the experience tedious but I have to say Knutsford is a rather pleasant experience. There are lots of independent traders here, which is a great thing despite increased competition from the on line commerce scene these days – buying something locally made and marketed, for me, has got to be the way forward. Indeed, if the UK eventually does leave the EU, we might need to become more dependent on locally produced goods and I am very much a supporter of buying local whenever possible. The 1st Sunday of the month brings a Maker’s Market in the centre of town. It’s a little chaotic, although shoppers are asked to tour the stalls in a clockwise direction this doesn’t always happen (!) – but that said, so much better a little people congestion than a deserted high street.
Ahh the sausage hunt – sauntering through the Maker’s Market on Princess Street, we found Woods Butchers, and sure enough there was a great selection of locally sourced products, including several varieties of the sought after sausages. This family run business has been going for over 100 years and sells award winning products including pies, sausages and bacon – they cure their own bacon too – and prices seemed very reasonable. Nearby there is also a quirky and petite indoor market, with a splendid greengrocer stall. I couldn’t quite believe how fantastic the shallots looked.
Chilling out: Just loved sipping a nice glass of reisling at Project 53 Bar, on 15 Minshull Street. Although normally a tippler of craft beers, (the bar is a taproom of the Mobberley Brewhouse) reisling somehow seemed to be the order of the day after browsing the market. The bar, as well as craft beers, also sells a significant number of artisan gins. My counterpart quaffed an amazing rhubarb and custard gin, complete with at least 3 of these childhood confections. We didn’t need lunch but if we had, the stretched pizzas looked pretty good.
What was that about real ale? Having a penchant for real ale, we espied the Lord Eldon Inn, 27 Tatton Street on the outskirts of town. A chilly late spring day, it was splendid to warm ourselves by a roaring open fire – and of course try the ales. The Inn has been in business for over 300 years, (watch out for those ghosts) and it is easy to see why it is regularly included in the Good Beer Guide.
What a cosy finale, so many British pubs close every week, but I really think that good ale, great craic, a warm and cosy setting (Britain is after all a tadge on the cool side more often than not!), the odd spot of music, welcoming atmosphere including for dogs is an effective combination that continues to work despite increased competition. Great stuff, as No. 6 would have said (for those of us old enough to remember The Prisoner series) – Be Seeing you!