Cheshire is a wonderful, varied county, stretching from the internationally important Dee estuary, to the windswept moors of the Peak District. In between there is a rich mosaic of agricultural land, woodland and lowland heath interlaced with rivers and canals.

With more than 200 miles of waterways, Cheshire has a greater length of canals than any other English county, so wherever you move in Cheshire you are never far from a waterway.

The gardens of Cheshire are also famed for their stunning displays and innovative design, and the RHS has its huge, and wonderful garden at Tatton Park to reflect this.

Cheshire is a very rural county, and one of the few non-remote places where a sense of community is still in tact.

The peak district nearby ensures that fantastic walking and riding and climbing are all on your doorstep, and thriving farmers’ markets remove any but the most desperate shopper’s reliance on supermarkets.

There is a strong network of arts fans in Cheshire, and a national scheme to encourage arts in rural areas has been embraced strongly by locals. There are 25 villages throughout the county which have volunteers who pick pieces of theatre, contemporary dance, music or film they think residents would like to see, and organise performances in their village hall. This ensures that people have access to the arts without having to go to the city or a large town to do so. This rural arts scheme has lots of room for expansion and there are specific events for under 5’s and their families.

Agriculture is also very much a part of Cheshire culture: it is arguably the best-known dairy farming county in England, and is famed for its cheese. Salt, chemicals and shipbuilding are other principal industries, and Crewe is one of Britain’s most important railway towns, but the heart of Cheshire is still agricultural. Much of the county’s landscape is relatively flat, but to the east, the high moors that are part of the Peak District National Park rise suddenly.

PROPERTY PRICES

Popular locations are Macclesfield, Plumley and Congleton, and in 2003 Crewe and Nantwich saw the largest price rises last year, and prices in the south of the country are also rising incresingly quickly.

Jonathan Major from Strutt and Parker says that despite talk throughout the second half of 2004 of a slowdown, the market in Cheshire has remained healthy: ‘We have had an incredibly good November and people we have buying now are very serious buyers.

‘The way I see it now is that the froth has come off the market, and prices are back to what they were but I don’t see a devaluation happening anywhere,’ he says.

Cheshire has lots of Georgian houses, but not in the classic style. He describes a typical house in the county as being a Georgian red brick farmhouse, with six or so bedrooms and a couple of acres of land. Depending on location, and setting, it will go for between £750,000 and £2m.

Simon Middleton from Savills agrees that location is important, as in high demand areas which are close to Manchester you find prices much steeper: ‘In Wilmslow we get a lot of new money which drives prices up, and people like the fact that it is such a lovely small town that they can walk everywhere, but Manchester is only half an hour away.’

He also cites the decent restaraunts and shops in the area which come when more wealthy people move into an area.

‘Cheshire is always going to be one of those counties which is a bit more expensive than nearby areas,’ continues Mr Middleton, ‘because Manchester is such a huge draw, being the third biggest city in England it is a huge employer and for people who are looking for a bit of tranquil rural countryside you can’t do better than this,’

Alderly Edge is also a popular small town just to the south of Manchester, and Mr Major said that he is also seeing increasing demand for towns further south like Congleton and Sandbach.

Typically people wanting to move to Cheshire come from the urban centres of Manchester and Livepool, but commuters to London are growing in number and these factors, as well as the inevitable footballer factor, keep prices consistently high here.

Major towns

Chester, Runcorn, Nantwich, Altrincham, Macclesfield, Northwich, Middlewich, Sandbach, Crewe, Knutsford, Wilmslow.

Transport links

Train: Euston to Chester, 2hr 25min, ?46.50 for a Saver return; Euston to Macclesfield, 2hr 3min, ?46.50 for a Saver return (cheaper fares are available when tickets are booked in advance through Virgin).

Car: Chester is 184 miles from central London, via the M1, M6 and A51; Macclesfield is 180 miles, via the M1, M6 and A536.

Public schools

Mount Carmel School, Alderley Edge (01625 583028). Girls only, age range 4-18, day.

Culcheth Hall, Altrincham (0161-928 1862). Girls only, age range 3-18, day. www.culcheth-hall.org.uk

St Ambrose College, Altrincham (0161-980 2711). Boys only, age range 11-18, day. Associated preparatory school.

www.st-ambrosecollege.trafford.sch.uk

Cheadle Hulme School (0161-485 4142). Co-educational, age range 7-18, day. www.cheadlehulmeschool.co.uk

The King’s School, Chester (01244 680026). Boys only with co- educational sixth form, age range 3-18, day. www.kingschester.co.uk

The Queen’s School, Chester (01244 312078). Girls only, age range 4-18, day. www.queens.cheshire.sch.uk

The King’s School, Macclesfield (01625 260000). Co-educational (but single-sex education), age range 7-18, day. www.kingsmac.cheshire.sch.uk

The Grange School, Northwich (01606 74007). Co-educational, age range 4-18, day. www.grange.org.uk

Mostyn House School, South Wirral (0151-336 1010). Co-educational, age range 1-18 years, day.

Leisure

Golf courses: Alderley Edge (01625 585583); Astbury, Congleton (01260 272772); Sandiway (01606 882606); Delamere Forest, Northwich (01606 883264).

Hunts: the Cheshire, the Cheshire Forest.

Yacht clubs: the Royal Mersey Yacht Club, Rock Ferry; the Trearddur Bay Sailing Club,Hale Barns; the Royal Dee Yacht Club, Macclesfield.

Fishing: rivers Dee and Weaver, Great Budworth Mere.