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MNHQ here - can you share your best tips about Manchester family life?

(16 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 08-Mar-18 15:10:31

Hello lovely Mumsnetters of Manchester - can we ask you a favour? We're hoping to compile the Mumsnet guide to Manchester, containing all the things that parents would want to know if they were considering moving over this way. We were wondering if you might chip in some of your vast and hard-won local knowledge to help us (and your fellow parents) out?

Here's an idea of the kind of info we had in mind:

Childcare availability - for example, does everyone have to get their names down at birth to have a hope of getting any? Do people commute or work in town - and if the former, where to and what level of hellish is it?!

How would you describe the overall ambience of the place, or rate it's relative friendliness to children and the adults who grow them? Are there lots of pregnant women to smile at if you're pregnant too? Which are the 'best' roads and why? Conversely, which are the bargain (well, you know... relatively) parts of town? Is there a lot of choice for renters, or is it really tough to find a family home? Is there lots to do if you're looking after small kids, or are you doomed to a certain amount of aimless buggy-pushing to while away the hours?

Are there markets - and if so, are they fancypants ones or standard and useful? What about coffee shops/ department stores/ supermarkets... clothes?

What local facilities are there - clubs, leisure centres, pools and the like? What the schools are like for bigger kids - are there some which are improving, or others which are perceived to be resting on their laurels a bit? What's going on in terms of community action, and is it easy to get involved? What's planned for the future - are there any roads about to plough through the historic centre, for example, or is the local community centre under threat?

Finally, what do you think the best and worst things overall about living here? What are the issues that are really exercising parents right now? And what about its quirks and hidden corners - things you really do have to be a local to know about.

But: we know that there will be loads of other stuff that we haven't considered - so please don't limit yourself to the ideas above. Any and all info, however, brief, will be very gratefully received - as a mark of which, we'll put all your names into a hat and pick one to get a <drumroll> exclusive Mumsnet mug. Not available in shops!

Thanks so much all


onlyonaTuesday Thu 08-Mar-18 16:02:40

Manchester is fabulous.
The city is brilliant.
Museums, galleries, the quays for canal boat rides and a tv studio tour.
The northern quarter is full of independent coffee shops and bars, Little restaurants like the TNQ.
Castlefield for canal walks and a good roast dinner.
Great shopping and transport links.
Heaton Park is a great free day out with the little ones. It has a farm and lots of space to run around.
Didsbury, Hale are lovely places to live also, prestwich, whitefield, Bury and , Ramsbottom areas, and all in easy commute.
Education wise, there is something to suit most people and good nurseries in most areas.
There are regular parades in the city for a family day out.
Bury has the world famous market with food stalls.

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 08-Mar-18 16:23:17

onlyonaTuesday, thank you! Any more for any more?

whiteroseredrose Sat 10-Mar-18 07:27:01

Agree with PP. I love living in Greater Manchester as there's always plenty to do. Like any big city though, there are nice parts and places to avoid. I'm not going to say where to avoid as I'd offend people.

I've lived in various parts of Manchester (and London! ) and where I live now in Hale / Altrincham is lovely (a bit like Richmond/Twickenham). On the edge of the conurbation so you can get into Manchester by tram in under half an hour but we're within 15 minutes drive of 3 National Trust properties Dunham, Tatton and Styal Mill. All cater well for babies and children. Altrincham has a thriving Market area full of coffee shops and restaurants and some small independent shops. The Market Hall itself has big tables in the middle and different food stalls around the edge. Always lots of families in there. As a result the town as a whole is regenerating nicely. Hale village is a bit more chi chi with pricier restaurants but some lovely independent designer type shops.

There are plenty of SAHMs so they are well catered for. Lots of playgroups in church halls, tumble tots, baby massage and children's areas in parks like Stamford, Halecroft and John Leigh parks. There's a soft play area with roller skating and other stuff in nearby Timperley called Ants in yer Pants. Not been for years but the food was good and healthy. There's an ice rink and a Vue cinema with rumours of an independent cinema coming which would be very exciting.

Hale and Altrincham are in Trafford which is renowned for its schools. There are Grammar schools both single sex and coeducational, state and Catholic. The 11+ is opt-in and if you want to go that route most get DC tutored for Y5 and you need to put names down with a tutor as early as Y3! Local Comps or Sec Mods on MN are also very sought after, Wellington school in particular. Ashton on Mersey school is renowned for SEN facilities and I think the local Catholic school Blessed Thomas Holford is a beacon school for teaching.

There are prep schools for primary if you want but lots of brilliant state primaries - Stamford Park, Well Green, Cloverlea, Navigation and Bowdon Church all do really well and have a good % going to local Grammars. There was a to-do at Bollin school recently but I think that's sorted now.

House prices are high for Manchester - a 4 bed (loft conversion) semi in my street went for £620k recently. Little 2 bed terraces in Hale village itself (B Roads!) go for £350 or more. They get a little cheaper as you move closer to Altrincham. The Tree Roads have Victorian terraces and are very popular and are within walking distance of Hale and Altrincham.

Timperley is a bit cheaper and you get more for your money but still has access to the same facilities. A smaller 3 bed semi would be £350k ish. Has its own village centre too.

That's probably enough for one post so I'll share my thoughts on Manchester itself when I get back from work!

whiteroseredrose Sat 10-Mar-18 07:49:19

As Tuesday said, Didsbury / Chorlton are great places for families too. More urban so more like Battersea / Clapham. Also very expensive with similar prices to Hale and Altrincham.

It is in Manchester so has comprehensive schools. Parrs Wood secondary was very popular but I'm a bit out of touch. Parrs Wood has a leisure complex with cinema and bowling and there's a Wacky Warehouse in the pub next door. Chorlton has Head over Heels soft play, an Organic Supermarket called Unicorn and an amazing bakery called Abakhan (sp!).

MurielsBottom Sat 10-Mar-18 08:06:28

We are East Manchester and live either here. It is twenty minutes into the centre on th e train and ten minutes in the other direction for the peak district. Manchester has loads going for it as other posters have said and we have found it genuinely welcoming. Lots on for kids of all ages, the easiest way to find out what is on us by following the local Facebook groups.

whiteroseredrose Sat 10-Mar-18 14:21:48

Manchester City Centre has lots to do that's free come rain or shine.

Museums such as the Museum of Science and Industry, the Museum of Football, People's History Museum, Manchester Museum and the Imperial War Museum are the bigger names but there are also smaller ones like the Salford Museum that has a Victorian street and dressing up clothes, the Police Museum with old police cells, the Museum of Transport and the Platt Fields Museum of Costume. Manchester City Art Gallery and the Whitworth Art Gallery have packs for children and regular activities. There are free shuttle buses that can make it easier to get around the city centre.

The Royal Exchange Theatre puts on its own productions as does the new Home theatre. The Lowry in Salford and the Palace and Opera House get touring productions like Matilda and Shrek but they're pretty expensive. There is also the Bridgewater Hall which is a classical music venue but does occasional children's concerts. The Riverside theatre in Sale has regular children's shows. There are also theatres in Bolton and Oldham, the Octagon and the Colliseum.

Round the Trafford Centre there's loads to do but all to be paid for. Chillfactor e ski slope, Football Golf and a High Wire Adventure place.

Chester is about an hour away by train and has a pretty black and white centre with roman walls and museum, riverboat trips and double decker shops. On the same line you can get the train to Delamere Forest and go on a trail to find the Gruffalo!

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 12-Mar-18 12:07:09

You are all fantastic! Thanks so much - this is brilliant. Please do carry on adding as and when things occur - every nugget appreciated, however small...

UrbaneSprawl Mon 12-Mar-18 12:45:22

I think whiteroseredrose means Barbakan deli in Chorlton, which bakes a bewildering array of breads on the premises overnight.

As others have said, the (largely free) museums and galleries are great. A rainy Sunday is always improved by a visit to the vivarium at the Manchester Museum with its multicoloured tree frogs. The education and kids activities at the museums are great - the Whitworth gallery is particularly good at this. People’s History Museum in Spinningfields is also well set up for kids.

There’s lots of imaginative and thought-provoking theatre for kids - as well as HOME and Waterside as previously mentioned, The Edge Theatre in Chorlton, Contact at the University and Z-Arts in Hulme have some excellent shows.

Good train and tram links make it easy to get around. With a car, some stunning countryside is within easy reach. Alderley Edge, Dovestone Reservoir and the Monsal Trail are some of the best.

Cafes, restaurants and bars seem well set up for, or at least pretty tolerant of, families and young children. There’s an eclectic range of independent places that make small people very welcome - we like Croma’s pizza restaurants, which are good for afterschool tea, a family birthday or a teenage first date!

Just don’t go telling everyone. It’s grim up north, honest...

UrbaneSprawl Mon 12-Mar-18 19:27:50

...and a ride on the model trains around Abbotsfield Park in Urmston is probably the best fun that can be had for 30p anywhere!

acquiesce Thu 15-Mar-18 20:24:24

I live in Prestwich, it’s the most family friendly place I have ever lived (I used to live Manchester city centre pre-children and have lived in Yorkshire and all over the North West)
I’m a 15 minute walk from Heaton Park which has a Park (obv) a farm and loads of family events and fairground rides on throughout the year, plus a fair in the summer called ‘come to the beach’
We have playgroups every week day in various church halls (there is always a choice of 2-4 to go to every morning and sometimes afternoons too) and a playgroup for dads in Radcliffe on a Sunday.
Bury market is the best in the North!
Manchester City centre always has family events on - on Sunday I am going to ‘The Tiger That Came To Tea’ yoga st the Royal Exchange, the annual Good Friday duck race, Chinese New Year celebrations, ‘rock over climbing’ soft play by Victoria station to name a few.
Radcliffe has three really good soft plays and there are lots of random ones dotted around Salford / Middleton.
Creams Cafe in Cheetham Hill is great for kids and families; it’s a dessert cafe (best desserts in the city IMO) with a soft play and it’s open until 11pm - many times have I took my toddler there when he’s die a late night! Cheetham Hill has a great selection of international shops where you can get foreign food at rock bottom prices. The Asian patisserie opposite Creams is lovely and the cakes are something ridiculous like 20p each.
Loads more but this is just the top of my head! And if you ever get a night off the we have some too hard and venues for gigs, restaurants etc. I love our city smile

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 15-Mar-18 22:38:33

This is fab - thanks so much all. Please do keep it coming if more occurs to you - it's impossible to get this amazing depth of info innit normally, unless you know someone who's local? I often wonder about my alternative lives in (srsly) Manchester, Bristol, Cambridge and Brighton - all of which I've considered at one point or another but didn't have the chutzpah to take the plunge on, without knowing more than I did. Who KNOWS what might have been... <screen goes wibbly and misty>

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 15-Mar-18 22:38:37

Message deleted by MNHQ. Double post!

whiteroseredrose Mon 19-Mar-18 21:54:26

Ha ha. Yes I did mean Barbakan deli. Abakhan is a fabric shop. I'm getting senile!

Crispbutty Mon 19-Mar-18 21:57:02

I grew up in Radcliffe and Bury has the best market in the UK.

Pascall Mon 19-Mar-18 22:53:52

I live in Sale.

Childcare is widely available here. Plenty of Nurseries, Playgroups, Childminders. Wraparound clubs for Primary are particularly good. There are plenty of holiday schemes and clubs too but it all stops at end of Year 6 there is almost nothing for year 7's and above.

Sale is friendly and busy, possibly a bit vanilla, but a good place to live. Lots of parks and green space, restaurants, cafes, run of the mill shops, good schools (but beware the Grammar school circus), good access to motorways, great public transport links, leisure centre, sports clubs, kids activities, active churches, etc.

Schools are oversubscribed for most years, so families moving in to the area may struggle to get places for all their children at the same school initially. People come to Trafford for the Grammar Schools and it can all get a bit crazy coming up to 11+ time. IME Most kids have tutors regardless of how likely they are to pass, or whether Grammar is a good fit for them. Don't disregard the local High Schools, they're all good, but all very different. Figure out what your child needs from a school then find one to fit.

No market in Sale, but the nearby one in Altrincham is famous. However, it is a bit fancypants, and not my cup of tea. The Charity shops of Trafford are fab though. Lots of great bargains to be had wherever you go.
Sale shops are uninspiring really, but there are some nice cafes, an amazing fish shop, some surprising furniture shops, 2 pottery painting studios, and a handful of clothes shops. It's not often you can't get what you need, and Manchester City Centre and The Trafford Centre are only 20 mins away.

The local Leisure centre is a bit grim in that it is old and in much need of renovation. That said, there is a well regarded swimming club there plus an extensive set of clubs, classes and facilities at very reasonable prices. There are also a couple of Gyms, DW Fitness and LA Fitness (or similar). Nothing too fancy, you have to go to Hale or Trafford Park for that.

There is a strong sense of community within Sale, particularly Sale Moor at the moment, with groups such a We Are Sale Moor and Friends of Walkden Gardens holding community arts events.

What else?

The Canal, water park and Transpennine trail offer good walking and biking routes. It's possible to commute by bike to many neighbouring towns.

Trafford Music Service offers fantastic music tuition to school aged children. There are lots of private music teachers around too.

lots of Brownies, guides, beavers, cubs, Scouts, Gang Show, young leaders groups etc

The only thing I don't like here (other than the lack of a beach) is the traffic. Pick your school run and work commute very carefully and go by foot if you can. And bear in mind that Sale is sliced in half by Washway / Chester Road, with Ashton on Mersey on one side and Sale Moor on the other. It is sometimes a very physical barrier that can be a pita to negotiate. Also politically different as Sale East is a Labour seat and Sale west Conservative.

Oh yeah, and house prices are stupidly high with good family rentals difficult to find and keep.

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