Sunday, 10 February 2013

Wrexham

I’d never been to Wrexham before and all I knew about the place was that it had a university and a community radio station called Calon FM. Wrexham is just over the border in North Wales and about an hour away in a car from Manchester.   If you’re travelling from north Manchester take the M60, M62, M6, M56, M53, A55 and A483.  For a long time there have been road works around Chester, but I’m thrilled to say these have now disappeared. Yay!

On the way into Wrexham you can see the sports stadium called the Racecourse Ground, which hosts football, rugby, cricket and horseracing.  The new stand looks pretty impressive from the road. It’s a nice leafy drive into town and there are lots of the grand Victorian houses that have been converted into offices.   Once we got into the town centre getting round the town was problematic and after a couple of circuits of the town we found some parking near the ITV Wales HQ.
 
The centre of Wrexham is pedestrianized, which is great for shoppers, but not so good for cars.  On the edge of the town retail parks have sprung up to house large supermarkets and stores.  In the town centre there’s a good mix of independent and high street shops, with some empty shop fronts.  Many of the independent shops tend to multi-task, often with a little cafĂ© as a side line.

Wrexham is a warren of streets, alleys and arcades.  This town has evolved over time, with buildings of different eras built next to each other, which gives the place character and a sense of history.  You need to explore the side streets as you will find unexpected gems, although I did double take when I saw the sign for ‘Hog Heaven’.   A first time visitor will easily get lost here and I had to resort to using my smartphone to find where I’d parked my car.
On the edge of the town centre we found the lovely St Giles' parish church.  We had a wander around the grounds and thought we’d seen a massive squirrel.  On closer inspection it was a grey cat having a scratch on the tree.  Unfortunately the cat was a bit shy and slinked off down a side alley.  We would have checked out the interior of the church, but it looked as if they were preparing for a wedding.  It was a shame as it’s considered to be the greatest medieval church in Wales.


We decided to grab a bite to eat at Les’s Fish Bar.  We had to get a takeaway as the restaurant was packed with OAPs and families.  I had fish and chips, whilst Neil tried battered burger and chips.  Mine was nice and freshly done.  Neil is now converted to the joys of battered burger, although I still need convincing of this culinary oddity.  Les’s Fish Bar is a chain of award winning chippies across Cheshire and we had been to one in Crewe that was just as good.
There are plenty of charity shops in Wrexham.  Not just your regular Cancer Research and Oxfam, but also local ones like Hope House, Capricorn Animal Rescue and Nightingale House Hospice.  If you are a charity shop fan there are simply loads of shops to explore in this town.  They are friendly places too, even one volunteer offered coffee to one of the regulars who had just popped in. 

Being a border town, I did wonder what the most predominant accent in the town was. Actually I couldn’t work it out as there was a mix of Welsh accents and English accents as we went shop to shop.  I did catch some Liverpool accents too, as Wrexham isn’t too far from the Wirral.  This place definitely draws people from both England and Wales, so I can understand the linguistic mix of the place.
 
There are three covered markets to be found in Wrexham: the Meat Market, the People’s Market and General Market.  The Meat Market and General Market are traditional Victorian Markets with high ceilings and wrought iron roof windows.  Whilst the People’s Market is a modern grey steel building, which has a music and DVD shop as you go in.  The People’s Market has a free stall, where people can bring and swap up to three items on the stall.  Or if you did not bring anything, you could leave a donation.  The stall was unmanned; however I did see a lady try on a jacket for size.  I quite like the concept of this stall and showed the honesty of people using it, as I did see some cash donations left there.

There are plenty of pubs dotted across the town.  Some are quite traditional with white rendered walls and traditional signs.  There are also modern sports bars which serve food and advertise the football games they are showing.  I must admit they did look a little scary and I think you would need a local to direct you to more respectable pubs.  Although I do reckon Wrexham might have quite a lively night life as it’s both a university and a border town.
I didn’t know what to expect with Wrexham and I found it to be a busy and down-to-earth town with pockets of prettiness.  I’d definitely stop off again if I was passing through and no doubt Neil would insist on getting a battered burger from Les’s Fish Bar.