In part eight of the series, Carolyn Yates visits the 'Chorlton of North Manchester’ (just don't say that to locals)
Prestwich is one of North Manchester’s most desirable suburbs, located just ten minutes from the city centre (if you know to avoid Cheetham Hill and drive through Broughton Park instead). It’s easy to see why it’s been nicknamed ‘the Chorlton of North Manchester’; both areas have thriving centres, with shopping precincts and specialist retailers operating side-by-side, attractive streets and a close-knit community feel.
Prestwich boasts almost 50 listed landmarks and some of Manchester’s best green spaces, including Prestwich Forest Park (comprising Philips Park, Drinkwater Park, Waterdale and Prestwich Clough) and the stately Heaton Park. At over 600 acres, the latter is often referred to as Europe’s largest municipal park but - even if it doesn’t hold the official title - it’s certainly the largest park in the North West, accounting for a quarter of Manchester’s green space and offering panoramic views of both the city and the Pennines from its highest point.
One of Prestwich’s biggest claims to fame is Parklife, the biggest metropolitan music festival in the UK, which is held at Heaton Park every June: but there’s still plenty to do in Prestwich all year round that (thankfully) doesn’t require hot pants and wellies.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Dinner, drinks and (possible) dancing
Instead of crawling into the couch cushions and ordering a takeaway, as it’s tempting to do at this time of year, upgrade your dinner with a visit to SoLIta or Cuckoo. The former is mainly known for its burger creations but the American diner-inspired menu also offers excellent grill options, and the latter’s speciality is stone-baked sourdough pizzas with ‘red’ or ‘white’ topping combinations. Croma and Panama Hatty’s are also popular choices in the area.
For drinks, head to The Crooked Man for a changing selection of cask/keg beer (plus wine and spirits) or Cape to Cuba for one of their signature mojitos. As for entertainment, T.M.T.C. (Take Me To Church) holds monthly ‘funk, disco groovement and dance classics’ club nights at various venues in the area and the popular Shangri La! ‘alternative cabaret’ can usually be found at the Carlton Club on the third or fourth Friday of the month; the show might comprise short theatre, spoken word and stand-up, plus what the organisers describe as a ‘rubbish raffle’ and ‘dirty disco’ at the end.
SATURDAY: The best of Bury New Road
The heart of Prestwich is the recently revamped high street, along and around Bury New Road. Start with coffee and brunch at All The Shapes - whose diverse menu includes kedgeree, huevos rancheros and nasi goring - then nip out the back to Clifton Road to see the mural of Mark E. Smith on the side of Chips@No.8. The founder of The Fall (a prolific post-punk band, if you’re unfamiliar) was a musical hero to many so it’s only fitting that, since he passed away in January, he’s been immortalised in the town where he formed the band in 1976.
Take a reusable bag because you might just fill it with delicious products from Village Greens (a community co-op offering locally sourced organic food and ethically produced items) and Grape to Grain (a wine merchant and bar, where you can open and drink your new purchase for a small corkage fee), plus tasteful homewares from Rose and Lee (opulent furniture/furnishings) and Nonsense (quirky pots and plants).
Pick up a juice or smoothie from Pres and stroll to the listed St Mary’s Parish Church, which may be familiar to Coronation Street viewers as the location for many of the soap’s weddings and funerals. There are some notable graves within its grounds, including that of inventor William Sturgeon (1783–1850); although he created the first electromagnet, paving the way for most of today’s electronic devices, he’s simply referred to as ‘The Electrician’ on his grave slab. There’s also a memorial to the thousands of patients of the Prestwich County Asylum (once Europe’s largest psychiatric hospital) who were buried here between 1851–1968, the majority in unmarked communal graves.
Raise a glass of real ale to the departed (or the living) at the Church Inn, then go for a light dinner of Italian aperitivo at Basil and Lily or something more substantial at Rufus Bar & Kitchen; sit upstairs to admire the suspended seventies-style living room and enjoy comfort food such as ‘rude boy’ chicken skewers (made with local Buzzrocks seasoning) with a soundtrack of retro soul and funk.
SUNDAY: Head to Heaton Park
There’s only one proper way to spend a Sunday in Prestwich and that’s by exploring Heaton Park. Within its stunning grounds are nine listed landmarks; Heaton Hall (an eighteenth century country house) and its sundial, the Temple (a small rotunda which stands near Manchester’s highest point), the Stables (which now house farm animals and peacocks), the Grand Lodge (the imposing gateway to the park), Smithy Lodge (a gatehouse converted into luxury accommodation), Dower House (where you can see, and buy honey from, the bees that are now kept here), Rose Cottage (former accommodation of the head gardener) and the Colonnade (the portico of the original Manchester Town Hall building on King Street, which was demolished in 1902).
There are many other interesting things to see, including the heritage tramway (which includes the oldest section of original tram track in the UK), a commemorative stone that marks where Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in front of over 100,000 people in 1982, and an 800-year-old grapevine in the Garden Centre. Little ones will love The Place to Potter, a creative hub with crafts, games and gardening activities, and slightly bigger ones can take on the aerial adventure course at Treetop Trek.
Those in search of a peaceful stroll should simply enjoy wandering through the park, taking in the views and spotting wildlife in the woods and fields. Plan to return in the warmer months to enjoy other seasonal attractions, including tours of Heaton Hall and rides on the trams, land train and boating lake.
Although there are cafés and picnic areas within the grounds, a Sunday roast at The Woodthorpe near the Grand Lodge entrance to the park offers some local history with your dinner. This Victorian pub was once the family home of Sir Edward Holt, heir to Manchester’s famous Joseph Holt Brewery and Lord Mayor of Manchester from 1907–1909; make sure to see the window display in the entrance hall. You could while away the evening here or see if there’s something on at Prestwich Community Cinema, a volunteer-run programme of ‘eclectic, inclusive, affordable cinema’.
Getting there: There are four stops on the Manchester–Bury Metrolink line that serve the area: Prestwich, Heaton Park, Besses o’ th’ Barn (to the north) and Bowker Vale (to the south). There’s an express bus service, The Witch Way, that connects Prestwich to Manchester city centre, and there’s plenty of free council car parking.