Sunday 12 February 2012

Hoole in Chester

We had intended to go to Chester.  We had been a few times, but one of the biggest problems going to Chester by car is the parking - IT IS HORRENDOUS!  There are two car parks I go to, but both were packed and the traffic made it impossible to find another car park.  There's a park and ride scheme on the edge of town, but by this point I had lost the will to live to even bother trying that.  If you are intending to go to Chester, I really do recommend you take the train instead.  Although remember to take the express train rather than the one that stops at every stop.  If I remember correctly it adds about half an hour onto the journey.

As I was more than a little hacked off trying to find a place to park, I thought we should go to the Hoole Road area instead and check out the little shopping area there.  From my research I knew there was a charity shop in the vicinity.

So we headed back down the A56 to Hoole.  We did attempt to park in the free car park there, but again it was choc-a-block.  Thankfully there were some empty 30 minute parking bays on Hoole Road, giving us just enough time to do a quick wander.

Hoole has a nice little shopping area.  It reminded me of Chorlton in terms of the types of shops there - cafes, delis, artisan bread shops, hair dressers and hot shave barbers, off beat restaurants, local butchers and fishmongers, launderette, a veg shop called 'Mr Fruity', gift shops, local designer clothes shops and fancy pub food.  The layout of Hoole itself reminded me of the Brighton Lanes, but in a dinky and less touristy format.

We quickly popped in and out of a few shops as it was blowing a gale in the street.  My other half wasn't impressed with the charity shop as it didn't do vinyl, but I thought it was okay for cute bric-a-brac.

The Sticky Walnut seemed to be a trendy restaurant that did some fancy sounding food.  Whilst we were looking at the menu, the woman behind us said it was quite a nice restaurant to eat in. 

We popped into a little gift shop that did cards and fun kids stuff.  What was odd about the place was that it had a serious amount of cards - I mean the shelves were jam packed.  I know I normally complain around Christmas time about how hard it is to get decent cards for birthdays as the shelves are dedicated to Christmas stock, but you seriously would not have that problem here.

Like any shopping area in the UK at the moment, the recession was biting in Hoole.  There were a few empty shop fronts, but it did seem like a busy area.  The local cafes were busy with locals ordering their lattes and paninis and the gastro pub was clearing up after its lunch time rush.  Obviously the local car park being absolutely packed shows this little suburb is either popular or has a problem with on street parking.

Later my Dad mentioned Hoole is popular with tourists as there are loads of hotels in the area - you really can't miss the hotels and B&B's driving down Hoole Road.  This goes some way to explain the fancy looking restaurants and gastro pubs in the area.  Apparently Hoole is also popular with students too - for me that explained why there was still a launderette.  I find it odd in this day and age to find launderettes, but I guess where there is a population of students there is still the need for them.  I spent enough time in them as a student reading books whilst my clothes were laundered.

As we had limited parking time we headed back to the car.  I definitely would come here again if we had a better parking space or if I was staying at one of the Hoole Road hotels.  Hoole was a pleasant surprise given the fact this was a last minute visit as we were stuffed trying to park in Chester centre.  One day I will get to do a Chester review, but this time we made do with this little arty suburb of Hoole.

Sunday 5 February 2012


Ooh! Frodsham is a lovely place to visit.

Before going to there all I knew about the place was that Gary Barlow was originally from here and my Dad recommended it.  My Dad's recommendations have been known to be misses rather than hits, especially after the Morecambe debacle, but this time he came up trumps.

Off the M56 at Junction 11 we turned left and headed to the 'Historic Market Town' of Frodsham.  Driving into town the houses looked rather nice and well turned out.  On entering the town we had a choice of parking either on the main stretch of road where there was plenty of on street parking, by the station or at Morrison's (left at the junction).  We decided to park at the station, although we shouldn't have as it was just for rail passengers - well it was a Saturday, there were plenty of spaces and it was free.

Anyway we walked into the town and we were pleasantly surprised.  All the pubs had plenty of character - the Cholmondeley Arms, the Bears Paw (yes - it is correct as there was no apostrophe on the sign) and the Queen's Head sprung out.  We thought if we ever came back we would definitely have a pub lunch here.  I reckon Frodsham must haves quite a lively night life as we noticed one of the pubs had regular live music and a Karaoke night with 'Barry Oke.'  There was even a Holiday Inn on the edge of town, so this must be quite a popular place.

On the charity shop front we were spoilt for choice - five charity shops: Barnardos, Oxfam (reasonably priced for once), Cancer Research, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and Halton Haven Hospice.  I did buy a couple of things - The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and a little Holly Hobbie plate (turquoise and cats and I'm sold).  There was some nice quality stuff too and the shops were well organised, which made it an interesting browse. We also spotted a gorgeous caramel and white sheepdog with amber eyes tied to the lamp post outside of one shop - I could have taken it home it was so cute.  Thankfully for its owner I took a picture instead.

There were lots of interesting shops in this town - a nice looking fruit and veg shop; delis; restaurants; gift shops; a pet shop called 'Paws and Claws'; clothes shops including 'Elegant Lady' and 'Classy Rags; a few outdoor activity shops; and surprisingly a tattoo parlour too.  There were plenty of coffee shops to choose from including a chocolate shop-cum-cafe, coffee and cake shop and a tea shop.  Under the bridge on the left hand side there was a little precinct area, which had a factory outlet shop and some standard small town shops.  Obviously with the recession there were a few empty shop fronts, but on the whole this town appears to be surviving.  There were plenty of well-turned-out ladies shopping in the town,which is always a good sign.

I did notice Frodsham had won a number of awards for best local town and such like.  Clearly this place likes to make an effort.  I did notice in the estate agents windows the prices in this town were still pretty high and with its location between Chester and Liverpool it's definitely a place where the well-heeled live.

There were plenty of heritage notice boards dotted about for passing tourists to learn about the town's history.  Some houses were really quite old and a set of thatched terrace cottages caught my eye.

This is quite a lovely place to visit and it reminded me of a prettier version of Didsbury.  I definitely recommend Frodsham as a place to visit, as it is nice with plenty of shops to potter round.  With our visit complete, we retrieved our car from the station and headed off to Chester on the A56.