Friday 23 January 2009

Cheshire Life

What do you think of when Cheshire is mentioned? A Cheshire cat, Cheshire cheese or something else? There does not appear to be anything typical or distinctive about Cheshire. Perhaps this is because in the past the county has been re-arranged with towns added and taken away. So when a move to Chester was mooted I did not know what to expect. It was one place that I had never been to. My husband started work in Chester in April 2003, commuting weekly, from Surrey, and staying in a B&B. By June he had found himself a flat and I was able to pay my first visit to Chester. It was early evening when I caught my first glimpse of Chester. The day's shoppers had gone home and the evening's pubbers and clubbers were yet to come out. It seemed very pleasant with its' sandstone cathedral, Roman ruins, ancient walls and mock Tudor buildings - built by the Victorians actually. At the time I was really a visitor and Chester is really a city for visitors. I see things differently now that it is my home.

My initial impressions of the countryside around Chester were of its' flatness by comparison with the undulating North Downs area of Surrey that we lived in. Yes, the west of Cheshire is flat whereas the east is hilly. In between is the stunning Cheshire Plain. A typical Cheshire house is built of the local, red and black Cheshire brick, with a Welsh slate roof. There are a number of old black and white 'Tudor' style houses around the county and sandstone was an equally popular choice of building material.

There is a glossy monthly magazine published here called Cheshire Life - cover photo is to the right. When we first moved here I subscribed to it but soon found that it contained more articles about the high life of Cheshire's socialites photographed in DJs and evening dresses and adverts for expensive houses than it did articles and features about the towns and villages of Cheshire.

You can not live in this area without realising that you are on the edge of WAG land. For those of you that do not live in the UK a WAG is the term used to describe the wives and girlfriends of sportsmen. It was first coined to described the wives and girlfriends of football players. Football is a way of life here. Our immediate neighbours support Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United, which are all not far away. I quietly support my own team - Hull City. Surrey is devoid of top flight professional football teams. The big teams are all up in London.

In general the shops and stores here were smaller than their cousins down south, when we first moved here, but some have been enlarged and new shopping centres opened in the time that we have been living here. I had never seen the discount shops T K Maxx, Matalan or Poundland until we moved to Chester. Such shops simply did not exist in Surrey when we lived there and I rarely shop in them. There are one or two shops from the Surrey area that I miss but I have learnt to live without them.

The accent is a softer form of Scouse. Thanks to the Beatles I can understand it, but I do sometimes have problems with some of the colloquialisms. And there were times, when we were renting, that I felt as if I had moved to a foreign country.

One of the nice things about Cheshire is its love of gardens. The climate, which benefits from Cheshire's western location, is gentle enough to allow most plants to grow outdoors in the summer although they may need protection in the winter. There are several gardens in Cheshire that are open to the public and we have our very own flower show at Tatton Park.


French Fancy... said...

I've seen the Tatton Park show on tv - I think with Mr Titmarsh presenting it, I didn't realise it was in your neck of the woods.

When I think of Cheshire I think of Chester where I once went for the weekend. It was years ago and I remember thinking how grand it all seemed. There was an air of old money in some of the houses with their big drives and the shops seemed so elegant.

Then - as you said - there is the cheese. I've not tasted it for years and of course I want some now.

French Fancy... said...

Ooops, I think I should have said Tichmarsh (or something similar)

Maggie May said...

Cheshire....... the county where I was born. Only on my birth certificate, it was then the county of Lancashire. I think it was in the 60s or 70s that the county was changed to Cheshire.
Many of my relatives still live there. I lost my accent years ago but one or two things have stuck. For instance southerners say scones (like stones) whereas Cheshire people say scons (like ones) baths in Cheshire are pronounced baths as in (laughs) but southerners say barth. Book & look like fluke. Whereas southerners say luck & buck!
There is a nice zoo in Chester. The Roman town is lovely.
Lovely post. Thank you for describing things.

Working Mum said...

I think of the Cheshire Set, ladies who lunch and more millionaires per square mile than Mayfair! But then I do live on the edge of "Gold Trafford"!

I admit I was in those society pages of Cheshire Life once - our school ball is featured each year and there was a photo of me with some of my pupils. I think I was in there by mistake!

Tim Atkinson said...

OOooohh, get her!! (Only joking, WM!). Actually, I think all these 'county' magazines are the same - Lincolnshire Life is certainly one big glossy excuse to have a photo in your gladrags published.
Of course, Cheshire Wife, you realise we're blog-twins - both from Hull (and Tigers fans) with Cheshire connections. I love Cheshire, and was sorry to leave really. Not that I've anything against Tennyson's county - it's certainly not all flat as people always think. But there was something about Cheshire - and Chester - that I really loved. Still do.

Ladybird World Mother said...

Went to Cheshire years and years ago to stay with a school friend... somewhere near Tarporley? Loved it. They had loads of horses, dogs, cats etc. Like a Jilly Cooper novel. Fun!

cheshire wife said...

FF - Alan Titchmarsh is the man that you are thinking of.

MM -thank you for reminding me about the zoo. I tried to keep this post about Cheshire. May try to write a post on Chester some other time.

WM - in some ways Cheshire is not that different to Surrey.

The Dotterel - I didn't know that I had a twin. Does that make me Charlie's Aunt?

LWM - Tarporley is posh. There would be lots of horses, cats and dogs.

A Brit in Tennessee said...

"That's home".....
This is my first thought, when I read your blog this evening. I even subscribed to the "Cheshire Life" magazine at one point, just to have the pictures that were, oh so familiar.
Born and raised in Warrington, the County changed from Lancashire to Cheshire (maybe in the early 70s ),all
my relatives still live there.
It brings back memories of Cheshire Cat's, Cheshire Cheese, wonderful old gardens, and stately homes.
Thanks for giving me a glimpse of "home", it made my heart smile ;)

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

CW - my first thought was cheese. Then cat, of course! Great post. We visited Chester for a long weekend a few years ago and did enjoy it. It was bitterly cold though (in April) and the day we left it started to snow. A x

Tim Atkinson said...

Oh I do hope so CW - especially if your husband is called Bob!

Gilly said...

You really must visit East Cheshire! Our loval houses are stone, grey local stone from thwe quarries near Bollington. Roofs are slate. Can look very gloomy on a grey rainy day, but then "Its grim oop north"! (a joke from old TV, I think!)

Our hills are beautiful. Heather clad in late summer, gorse blaszing out in spring. Lots of lovely walks. Macclesfield Forest has plenty of walks, and you can climb up Shuttinglow, which is nicknamed "The Matterhorn of Cheshire". I think it is supposed to look like that mountain.

People here are not like scousers, or southerners. The accnet is a cross between Manchester and Birmingham, sort of flat. Blunt, straihgtforward.

But of course, Alderley Edgle and Prestbury rather let us down! Full of WAGS, footballers, high flyers with more money than sense. Huge houses, many built by knocking down perfectly good older houses and building their flights of fancy monstrosities there instead. (Do you detect a note of anger there??)

Do come to East Cheshire sometime!
PS. we do have history here, bu tends to be earlier than the Romans!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've been to Cheshire many many times. Amy's father lives in Northwich as do all his family and it's a big family! They're scattered from Winsford, Rudheath, Leftwich.

My husband has distant relations who live in Prestbury, a beautiful area of Cheshire where many WAGs do live.

Chester was one of my dad's favourite shopping places and he didn't like shopping!

CJ xx

Anonymous said...

Chester is a beautiful city to visit and Tatton Park is wonderful, particularly the farm.

I must admit I do think of the WAGs when I think of Cheshire and of travelling through on the way to Wales; oh and Chester Zoo.

Maggie May: I say 'scones' as in 'stones' and I'm a Lancashire Lass.

CG said...

I love Chester and living in Cheshire. One of the advantages is we are really well located for travelling to the Lakes, Wales and the Peak District!

Linda said...

I suppose I think of Cheshire as being somewhere where spoilt footballers live but don't really take part in the community.

Akelamalu said...

I think you described Cheshire perfectly! :) I love the occasional shopping trip to Chester - lovely city. :)

cheshire wife said...

Thank you all for your comments.

The Dotterel - sorry husband is not called Bob.

imbeingheldhostage said...

Wag land?! Does that mean Coleen McLoughlin hangs about your place? ;-)

I want to see Cheshire. I'll let you know when I'm heading that way.

cheshire wife said...

imbeingheldhostage - I think that Coleen and Wayne live in Prestbury which is east Cheshire.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Enjoying your blog. Cheshire is undoubtedly up market. Cheshire Life amuses me. My daughter and son in law run a high class wedding photo business and have just moved to Lytham and they love it. Have a motorhome and have never been to Chester. Must go this year. Love you to visit my blog, see how the other half live!

Helen P said...

Dear Cheshire Wife - sorry I'm a bit late but couldn't resist a post. I was born in Cheshire, went to uni in Surrey and lived down there for 13 years. Two babies later we moved back up here with husband's job.And I'm glad to be back (most of the time). Isn't home where you lay your hat/bag/wooden leg and where your family is happiest or has work? Now that's another tale; getting a job as a writer is almost impossible up here, although I have had a few features in Cheshire Life...writing them, not appearing in them of course!

Duke said...

Cheshire Wife

I felt compelled to respond to some of the comments on your blog.

"The accent is a softer form of scouse." Huh? Most genuine Cheshire natives would take great exception to that remark, the accent you are picking up is from the overspill population of Liverpool, moving into the Wirral and beyond to Ellesmere Port and Chester. This is NOT a Cheshire accent.

"discount shops T K Maxx, Matalan or Poundland until we moved to Chester. Such shops simply did not exist in Surrey when we lived there and I rarely shop in them"
Why - too cheap?

Maggie May said "Cheshire....... the county where I was born. Only on my birth certificate, it was then the county of Lancashire. I think it was in the 60s or 70s that the county was changed to Cheshire".

Cheshire is 2000 years old !!
In AD 60, the Roman fort of Deva (Chester) was established, most probably to protect access to lead and silver that was found in Flintshire over the border in neighbouring Wales. Deva was the largest Roman fortified settlement in Britain.
Modern Cheshire was first recorded in 980, but it is thought that the county was created by Edward the Elder around 920.[6] In the Domesday Book, Chester was recorded as having the name Cestrescir.

So here we have a county that is 2000 years old and was NOT changed from Lancashire to Cheshire in the 1960's or 1970's. doh!

Cheshire is also a county palatine - A county palatine is an area ruled by a count palatine (or earl palatine, who may hold the higher title of duke) with special authority and autonomy from the rest of the kingdom. In feudal times, counts palatine exercised royal authority, and ruled their counties largely independently of the king, though they owed allegiance to him.

There are three counties of England that are today counties palatine: County Durham, Cheshire and Lancashire. In addition to these, Cornwall is generally considered as a county palatine because of its position in England as a duchy, which according to custom has more power and independence than a county.

Ignorance is bliss