Hartshill is also an absolute dive... the rent is very cheap for a reason, I lived there in my first year off campus and it's a rather depressing place to live. What's your budget? There are much nicer places to and it depends on your definition of cheap, everywhere in Stoke is cheap for what you get.
Maybe a month before, but probably no two as you may get bored. Stoke is not a particularly exciting City. That should give you time to find a part-time job of some description.
As for other mature students, there are a fair few that I've seen and on the most part they integrate rather well. I'd recommend you take part in roles such as subject representative at the Staff-Student Liaison Committee as it tends to be the more mature/study focused students who do this and you may find more like minded people.
There is also a postgraduate bar in Horwood and while I know you're not doing a postgraduate degree, I'm sure you'd be more than welcome.