Bunting flutters proudly in Ellesmere’s main shopping thoroughfares and Claire Dunn discovers why this Shropshire town is keen to keep the flags flying.
Celebration bunting flutters overhead in the shopping streets of Ellesmere.
It was put up to herald the town’s recent festival – but its presence could also be taken as a sign that all is well.
For according to those who work here, Ellesmere is a market town which has much to celebrate.
It is crammed full of small, independently-run shops, it has a refurbished market hall and plans are afoot for a gleaming new marina, a 120-bed hotel and sports development and new homes.
On top of that it boasts the stunning Mere and picturesque waterways full of bobbing narrowboats close to the town centre and all the tourists they bring with them.
Traders here say that Ellesmere is only going one way – and that is up.
The town, they say, has emerged relatively unscathed from the economic downturn.
Indeed, when one shop closes, it is never empty for long. Another business soon moves in and opens, said Lincoln McMullan, chairman of the town’s Chamber of Commerce.
Mr McMullan, who is also chairman of All Together Ellesmere which runs the town’s market, said: “The town has been working well for many years. It is expanding slowly. The planned new development we are hoping to have, a new hotel, will see even more people coming into town.”
Ellesmere is a town unafraid of growth. The recent addition of a Tesco superstore on the edge of the town centre seems to complement shopping in the town rather than detract, and traders say its presence also draws in shoppers.
And as well as the marina scheme at the Wharf, which if approved will come to fruition in 2015, there are also plans being mooted for the town to buy its market hall from Shropshire Council for a peppercorn fee and use it for the community, said Mr McMullan.
“We want to put in a mezzanine floor and move in the library and the police station and have it open six days a week,” said Mr McMullan.
The building is already well used by community groups in the evenings and once a week it throws open its doors for one of the town’s busiest days – market day.
“I think the hub of Ellesmere really is the market hall,” said Mr McMullan, who has run his shop The Signtists for the last 11 years. “People come here every Tuesday for the market. The town is really busy.”
“We also have a big influx of people from the Mere and the canal and when they get into town they have all the facilities that they want. You name it, you can buy it in Ellesmere.”
Matthew Walley, 33, runs the town’s Black Lion Hotel in Scotland Street with his brother Isaac and has done so for the last six years.
“We are local to the area and it is something that we wanted to do to give something back to the community,” said Mr Walley.
He said the town had got a strong local feeling and was very friendly.
“We are very lucky here with the walks, the countryside, the meres and the canal,” said Mr Walley.
He said it had not been easy during the recession but that there was now light at the end of the tunnel.
Janet Pemberton, owns Talulah in Scotland Street, which specialises in fashion, handbags and accessories.
“I have been here for four years. I live locally and I wanted to be able to work and make my business locally,” she said.
She said Ellesmere didn’t have large multiples coming into the town centre which is why it didn’t have boarded up shops.
“It is all independent shops. And the special thing we have is the bond we have with our customers. We are not faceless like the large companies.”
Lynne Davies runs White Lion Antiques in Market Street and is also an Ellesmere town councillor.
“Ellesmere is still a small market town with small independent shops,” she said.
And she said that Ellesmere hadn’t suffered as much as other towns.
“It is a busy little place. As soon as one shop closes, it is taken,” she said.
And she welcomed the marina development which she said would really help the town, bringing in extra trade.
Lakelands School governor Vitto Sanchi, has run a jewellers in Scotland Street for 28 years. He said the town had changed little over the last few years, save for more houses and the Tesco supermarket.
“People like to come to Ellesmere for the personal service we offer. It is very friendly here,” he said.
“Things have grown and improved here and it is expanding.”
His words were echoed by Mr McMullan who said: “Ellesmere is going upwards. We are always on the up.”