The Prairie Schooner: New Bar on Flixton Rd, Urmston

Delicious mulled cider from the Prairie Schooner, Urmston.

Delicious mulled cider from the Prairie Schooner, Urmston.

Newly opened on Flixton Road, Urmston, the Prairie Schooner is an independent micropub (what a very fine word that is!) and bottle shop.  And what is a “prairie schooner”?  It’s the name given to a covered wagon used by 19th century migrants settlers across America.  Yes, the kind you’d see on Little House on the Prairie.  The name is purely metaphorical, and relates to the pioneering spirit behind the venture; it’s not a theme bar.

Situated opposite Darby’s Coffee and Arts Lounge, the bar is warmly lit and cosy, yet far bigger than it looks from outside.  It has a three-sided bar and plenty of seating, with has a relaxed, comfortable ambience.  This is a space that can equally accommodate genial gatherings of friends, intimate rendez-vous for two or solo cogitations at one of the window seats, where you can watch the comings and goings of Flixton Road.

I’m more or less teetotal but the mulled cider smelled so festive I couldn’t resist giving it a try.  It was deliciously spiced and wonderfully warming on a winter’s day.  My husband and I reflected that we could easily spend hours in there and we shall certainly return.

Watch the comings and goings on Flixton Road from the window of the Prairie Schooner Taphouse.

Watch the comings and goings on Flixton Road from the window of the Prairie Schooner Taphouse.

I shy away from listing pubs and bars on here because it’s often unclear whether they are independent or not (many are linked to breweries in a kind of franchise-like agreement), but the Prairie Schooner Taphouse is clearly an indie operation.  The Prairie Schooner Taphouse specialises in real ale from local microbreweries poured by the pint straight from the cask. They also stock a selection of traditional cider and perry, fine wine, prosecco, single malt whisky, small-batch gin and old-fashioned soft drinks all made by independent producers.

The Prairie Schooner Taphouse is at 33 Flixton Road, Urmston.  Children are allowed on the premises till 6pm and dogs are allowed at quiet times.  Visit Prairie Schooner Taphouse’s website for details of their opening hours.

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Wizard Shoe Repairs and Key Cutting: Happy Feet and Magic Elves

Independent businesses offer many services you cannot find elsewhere.  Wizard Shoe Repairs and Key Cutters on Flixton Road is a delightful little cavern offering – unsurprisingly – shoe repairs and key cutting.  My husband had his shoes resoled there this week and not only was the job completed skillfully and efficiently, it was as cheap as chips and certainly far cheaper than the big shoe repairing chains.

Friendly, professional service at Wizard Shoe Repairs and Key Cutting on Flixton Road.

Friendly, professional service at Wizard Shoe Repairs and Key Cutting on Flixton Road.

Shoe repairing is one of those quaint, almost-forgotten services our throwaway society disregards, but if you care about the environment you need to think twice before flinging away your down-at-heel stilettos. Well-informed people know that if the United Nations is to be believed – and it is – we are headed for environmental hell in a flimsily-made plastic handcart unless we begin to seriously conserve resources.  The manufacture of shoe leather is horribly polluting and it’s very hard to find ethically-made shoes (i.e. sweat-shop and/ or child-labour free).

What’s more, if you’re feeling whimsical you can imagine shoe-repairing elves springing out from under the counter and performing their magic.  If that doesn’t put a spring in your step as you skip down the road in your revamped footwear, nothing will.