THE air is cooler and yet London Road is still a riot of colour, with blooms bursting from every flowerbox.

Either side of Stockton Heath’s main thoroughfare, ladies sip Prosecco in upmarket pavement cafés as a convertible Porsche glides by.

Narrowboats cross paths along nearby Bridgewater Canal and over at Alexandra Park, the satisfying clack of bowls can still be heard in the late-afternoon sunshine.

No-one, it seems, is quite ready to let go of the summer.

Visitors come to Stockton Heath for many reasons. It’s the village with all the convenience and attractions of a town, but with country and canalside walks on its doorstep.

As a local, you’re just as likely to own a Barbour jacket and Hunter wellies as a designer trench coat and bejewelled boots.

You can dine in several restaurants and lively cocktail bars on a Friday night; then enjoy quiet reflection in St Thomas’ Church, followed by a Sunday stroll around Ackers Pit.

With everything on your doorstep, there’s no real need to travel anywhere else, and at a time when the British High Street is struggling, Stockton Heath is bucking the trend.

Cheshire Living took a walk around to investigate the thriving independent scene.

The village is well-known for its fashion boutiques – including Riva Menswear, which carries designer labels such as Hugo Boss, Paul & Shark and Bugatti; Laundry B., which prides itself on flying to far-flung destinations on buying trips; and Lemon Tree – home to gorgeous hand-picked collections from Ted Baker, French Connection, Great Plains, Religion, InWear, White Stuff and many more.

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Over the road at Paris Boutique, which has a sister branch in Knutsford, we find shop assistant Linda Lacey.

Her Facebook videos of the new autumn/winter clothes lines have attracted 1,000 new followers in just a week.

“We try to cater for every size and age, from teenagers through to their grandparents,” says Linda.

“If you’re taking your dog for a walk, come and see us. As an independent, we’re free to make these concessions, which is a nicer experience for everyone.”

At Pure Boutique, part-time assistant Mandy Boscoe says the diversity of lines – many from Italy – are the secret to the store’s success.

“There’s nothing worse than someone wearing the same thing as you,” she exclaims.

“We always offer colour whatever the season and all our clothes hang differently so they suit you whatever your size.”

In Ilham’s Barbers a customer is mid-way through a skin fade – one of 2019’s hottest and edgiest trends.

“We’re getting lots of requests for styles like this that are inspired by shows such as Peaky Blinders,” says barber David McCarthy-Barrett.

“Celebrities and reality TV stars have made beards popular again. They require maintenance, so some locals call in every week. People who’ve moved away to London still come back home here for their haircut, and we get people travelling from all over – including Wales.

"Yes, there are other barbers in the village, but our quirky personalities set us apart.”

A few doors down, receptionists Vicky Wernham and Lyn Clarke greet us at Martin Berry Opticians.

Top-end designer frames by Tom Ford, Mulberry and Tiffany & Co line the shelves and there is an impressive showroom upstairs.

“People come to us for our friendly approach, excellent customer service and the variety of frames we offer,” says Vicky.

The team consists of owner Andy Thorburn, dispensing optician Nicola Ormson and several other opticians, including long-serving Lindsay Stewart.

“We love our jobs, don’t we Vicky?” smiles Lyn.

“As an independent business, we offer the personal touch. People see the same faces and become more like friends. It’s less about sales and more about doing our utmost to make sure people are happy with their purchase.”

Pets Pantry won Retailer of the Year at the 2018 Warrington Business Awards.

The year before they took home silver in the UK Pet Retailer of the Year Awards.

As we arrive, we find owner Karen Dutton-Hodgkins enthusiastically demonstrating her zero-waste filling station to a customer.

A selection of pet and wildlife foods are available to decant into reusable or eco-friendly containers for customers to take straight home.

The innovation is the latest in a long line of environmentally-friendly policies she has introduced, which include solar panels on the roof of her warehouse and extensive recycling.

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As she prepares to enter her 40th year in business, how else does Pets Pantry differentiate itself from national retailers?

“All our staff have either got a canine nutrition qualification or have animal medicines advisor status,” Karen smiles proudly.

“We don’t sell additive-based foods. Instead, we focus on championing a good diet which helps prevent health problems in the longer term.”

Taking care of your garments is Cavalier Dry Cleaners, which is the independent local alternative to Johnson Cleaners.

Meat-eaters can give their patronage to A. Ward & Son – a traditional-style butchers with striped aprons and local produce.

Alexandra Flowers in The Forge is something of an institution, with beautiful cut blooms.

Neighbouring All That Jazz, owned by Julia and Peter Wharfe, is a magical treasure trove filled with everything from gigantic gold mirrors and giftware to household cleaning products and lightbulbs.

Over on London Road, its sister shop is gearing up for Christmas.

Manager Trish Twine says: “We stock thousands of decorations, lights, garlands, trees, you name it. Our focus is on variety and customer service.”

Speaking of Christmas, Christopher Evans Jewellers & Goldsmiths carry a range of bespoke and vintage jewellery, whilst Etc. is a one-stop shop for giftware.

The store stocks beautiful designer babywear by Absorba, Turtledove London, The Bonnie Mob and Bob & Blossom.

Music aficionados should look no further than Chris Brooks Audio.

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Specialising in Linn Products and other very carefully selected brands, Chris has been offering a wealth of knowledge and experience since 1978.

Stockton Heath really is a Cheshire village that invites you to shop local.

This article was originally written for our Cheshire Living magazine. You can see the latest edition of the magazine by clicking here.