Sunday, 23 March 2014

Ellesmere Port and Cheshire Oaks

The story of why we ended up in Ellesmere Port was a suggestion from Neil to go to Ed’s Diner at Cheshire Oaks.

Whenever we are in London we always end up at Ed’s Diner for a burger and a hotdog.  The food from this American styled diner is always good and it was great to find out recently that they are now opening branches across the UK.  Neil was keen to sample the pulled pork hot dog again so we trotted along to Cheshire Oaks via the M60, M62, M6 (damn the road works on the Thelwall Viaduct), M56 and M53. 
Parking in Cheshire Oaks on a Saturday is a nightmare.  I really didn’t know what to expect to see at Cheshire Oaks and there were car parks in front of the shops.  However, ignore this and head for the multi storey car park. It saves a world of pain of cruising around the open air car park looking for a precious space. 

Cheshire Oaks is really a large, nicely built precinct with some top name designer outlet shops.  It attracts a wide range of people from middle class and working class families, all on the same mission - looking out for cut price quality goods.  It was really packed with people and it was driving me nuts.  So we cut to the chase and headed to Ed’s Diner.
We had to queue at Ed’s Diner to get a table.  Unlike the Ed’s Diners we’d been to in London it was full of families who wanted something classier than a McDonalds.  One of the reasons why Neil likes this place is the 50s and 60s music. However the kids were noisy and we could barely hear what was playing.  The food was good (pulled pork burger & pulled pork hotdog).  The staff were efficient and friendly.  The service was quick and the place was clean.  You really can’t fault Ed’s Diner and it is well worth a visit for an American Diner experience.

Cheshire Oaks was simply doing my head in with all the people.  I do think I’m a bit antisocial at times.  The next time we come back here to sample Ed’s Diner we will go during the week when it’s much quieter.
Ten minutes down the road is Ellesmere Port.  I’d only every heard of this place as one of my childhood neighbours had family there. 

Driving into Ellesmere Port there appeared to be lots of council housing and working class terraces.  If it wasn’t for it being a bright day, I think this place would seem quite grim.

We parked in a pay and display car park near the station, where it was 50p for two hours.  Although we later found there was an ASDA up the road, which probably did free parking.
Ellesmere Port has definitely seen better days.  On the main high street many shops had been closed down.  All there seemed to be were takeaways, discount shops, off licences, pawnbrokers and a Polish shop.  However the Fab Lab did seem interesting, selling locally made goods.  It appeared to be some local regeneration project to help people develop skills and gain employment, which is great to see.    
The architecture in Ellesmere Port seemed to be a mix of Victorian red brick and 1950s / 1960s concrete creations.  It’s quite likely this place was bombed during the Blitz in the Second World War and may explain why there are so many post war civic buildings.

Whilst it was a bright day, the wind was making it hard for us to walk down the high street.  We got to the precinct and decided to take shelter there.

The charity shops are situated around the precinct.  We found a Salvation Army, Local Federation for the Blind shop, British Heart Foundation and Claire House Childrens Hospice.  I really can’t say we found much in them.  The books were pretty dull, although I did find the biography section did cover a number of reasonably local celebs including Gary Barlow, Paul O’Grady and Steven Gerrard.  Neil didn’t find any records to buy
The precinct wasn’t that exciting either with the usual high street names, electronic cigarette shop, Costa and the bizarrely named National Milk Bars cafĂ©.  I popped into The Works and picked up a cheap autobiography by Carrie Fisher (ace writer by the way).

The shoppers seemed down to earth older people, some of which appeared to have had hard lives.  The young and middle aged people clearly head off to nearby Cheshire Oaks or Chester for their shopping experiences.
There was an indoor market and this was definitely where the heart of the community lies.  At the centre of the market was a seating area which was served by three or four food stalls.  If it could be fried, it was served here.  I noticed there were lots of old people having their Saturday afternoon treat. 

Around the eating area were all the stalls.  Some appeared to be bric-a-brac and handicraft stalls, but there were your usual suspects including a mobile phone stalls selling chavy mobile phone covers whilst doing cheap repairs and unlocking.  The two pet shops were doing well.  It was great to find both a haberdashery and wool stall as I’m fond of making stuff.  Oddly there was a stall selling freshly baked scones – it must be a local thing.  You really could do your weekly shop here and from the looks of things the older people do. 
Neil managed to find a record stall in the market and I was prepared to wander around the market on my own whilst he browsed.  However after flicking through one box there was a shake of the head and the word ‘overpriced’ was uttered. 

We could have gone to see if there was a waterfront, but we weren’t inspired to explore any further.  Enough was enough so we decided to home. 
I really can’t say I was impressed with Ellesmere Port and when I spoke to my Dad about the trip he did ask ‘Why?’  He’d worked there years ago and wasn’t that impressed either.  On the other hand Cheshire Oaks is probably a good enough reason to travel up the M53, although after experiencing the intensity of a Saturday afternoon maybe best visit on a weekday.