Once upon a time it was Kendal’s main street, the road which led north to the Scottish Borders, and families lived over the shops, which offered an eclectic mix of services, writes Gillian Cowburn.

Today, there is still an amazing range of shops, but Stramongate has a number of physical barriers which do little to promote its excellent retail potential – being divided by Blackhall Road hardly helps the pedestrian cause. But worse still, stand on the corner of Kent Street, and watch how many people walk down Finkle Street, spot the bollards and make a sharp turn left up Branthwaite Brow.

Whatever happened to our sense of adventure?

Sadly, we seem to have bred a generation which must step out of its car and straight into the shop (study any supermarket car park to see what I mean; just how close to the door do you have to get!).

But for those who do enjoy exploring, however, Stramongate has much to offer – from one of the best wet fish counters in the North West to some head-turning haute couture. It’s got history too – years of experience and knowledge from which the more discerning customer can benefit.

Take the Atkinson family, for example – Andrew Atkinson and sister Tricia Allen have connections with what is now Kendal Sports going back to the 50s when their father John was made manager. The family took ownership in the 1970s.

Alan Lloyd – ‘the pen man’ – and his hairdresser wife Brenda, who has a salon adjoining his small shop, have been in Stramongate for 42 years (up the corridor to the right of Mummy & Me).

Fruit and veg market-holder Pete Hunter – who stands Stramongate on Wednesdays and Saturdays – has had his stall for 27 years.

Opthalmic optician Anne Irving is celebrating her silver jubilee this year, 21 of her 25 years in business have been in Stramongate.

Opposite her is fishmonger Nik Stirzaker who has owned Kendal Fisheries for 14 years.

Among the newcomers are Helen Harrison at Café 34, Katy James at Blue Rock Interiors, James and Pauline Coulthard at The Joshua Tree licensed coffee shop, and Amanda Grassing at Gees (formerly George Edwardian).

Café 34 will be selling Kendal Fisheries’ new range of ready meals, part of Nik’s ‘mission’ to help steer the shop safely through the financial storms predicted for 2009.

Fighting competition from the supermarkets, and trying to move with the times by selling more sustainable fish, Nik knows he is taking a risk by moving into ready meals. But he believes it is what customers want.

Stramongate includes a barber’s, a book shop, the world famous Quaker tapestry and tearoom, an Italian restaurant, a Thai restaurant, a Chinese and an Indian restaurant, takeaways and a chip shop. There are solicitors, dentists, a children’s wear shop, financiers, high end fashions, and many, many more.

And it is all this which adds to Stramongate’s appeal believes Andrew Atkinson, of Kendal Sports. Small is beautiful.

And if something is not in stock, then Andrew, Tricia and the team will track it down.

When I set out to ‘write-up your street’, I thought I knew Stramongate – but, having spent most of Tuesday talking to people, and then going out again with cameras and video equipment to help complete the picture for the newspaper and our website, I realised that I didn’t really know the street at all, or the amazing community it supports.