POWER IN Cheshire Life: November 2018
The ladies of Tarporley are proud of their delightful village, complete with stylish shops and fashionable places in which to eat but, being a creative, energetic and community-minded bunch, they’re keen to do so much more than simply shop and lunch, although there will always be a place for that too!
‘Absolutely. Tarporley is perfect for those things,’ says Abigail Webb, Founder and President of Tarporley WI, which will be celebrating its fourth birthday this month with prosecco and a magician. ‘Much of the High street is a conservation area – not many places can claim that – but it isn’t pickled in aspic, it’s a really vibrant place and we’re glad to contribute to it.
‘I started our branch because I wanted to learn how to bake and crochet: it worked! We do lots of other things too: Pimms and Pudding Nights; gin tasting; style talks and belly dancing because we have more than fifty members from 20 to 80 so there’s something for everybody and everybody is welcome,’ smiles Abigail, who is also mother to honorary member, six-week old Charlotte Rose and who had to ask a tutor to teach the group how to sing ‘Jerusalem’; something they only indulge in on the group’s birthday.
The Decibellas, the award winning ladies choir, founded in 2009, would be most upset if they had to limit their singing to once a year, and so would their Cheshire wide army of fans. This elegant group – clad in bespoke French Navy dresses – have recently completed a concert tour in Budapest and incorporate all ages and occupations.
‘It’s a compliment to us that people assume that one has to pass a rigorous audition to be accepted into the choir but that is not the case. You just have to love singing, anything from show tunes to choral works,’ explains past chair, Hazel Rowlands.
The Decibellas have also performed at the International Eisteddfod; the BBC Music Nation Event; The Chester Festival of Performing Arts; many Christmas light switch-on ceremonies and scores of private events. They have even made a CD, which sold like hot cakes.
‘It’s great fun, especially when Marcus, our musical director, holds up his trusty cracked mirror so we can see any strange expressions we might be making when singing – yes, singing can bring out your inner ‘gurner’,’ smiles Hazel who is delighted the choir has raised funds for many charities such as Teenage Cancer Trust, Sightsavers and Alder Hey Children’s Charity.
‘As an added bonus, singing also gives you a full physical work-out almost, but not quite, without us noticing,’ laughs Hazel.
Jo Comerie’s work gives her a full physical work-out – and she definitely notices it. Earlier this year, she opened Cheshire Cut Flower Farm in a beautiful ancient garden, just outside Tarporley in Bunbury.
‘It was a vegetable garden for centuries, so I’m benefitting from all the tilling and hoeing that our Cheshire ancestors did,’ smiles Jo, who has a fair-weather helper in Pudding the dog and who specialises in English country flowers.
‘People often buy a bouquet
at the gate – it’s an honesty box – and yes, Tarporley folk are honest – or brides come along to choose their bridal flowers. I’m also happy to plant flowers for them and they can watch their own bouquet grow. It is so joyous and personal for a Cheshire bride to carry English blooms grown in our own Cheshire soil on her wedding day,’ says Jo, who doesn’t use any chemicals and who finds herself equally busy in the autumn and winter; making sumptuous door decorations or providing floral decorations for Cheshire supper parties as the evenings draw in.
Rachael Carr doesn’t grow flowers but, as a trained artist, she has helped many people to paint them; as well as drawing nudes, making Papier Mache figures, drawing landscapes and a good many things in between. Her Craft Room is filled with glorious light.
‘It’s one of the reasons I chose it. A good light is essential in an art class,’ says Racheal who runs workshops for both adults and children and who finds that Tarporley ladies like to book the studio for a hen or birthday do.
‘It’s relaxing, bonding and you have a piece of art at the end: what’s not to like,’ she says.
Nikki Abell-francis, who runs The Zenchi Clinic, provides an enormous range of relaxing therapies and treatments; fast becoming the first port of call for mums to be, dads and babies, who might find themselves in need of some restful massage.
‘I specialise in all types of massage such as Thai and as, well as mums, we also have clients who need a bit of help after cycling and equestrian activities,’ says Nikki, who has a reputation for magic fingers among the Cheshire horse set and who often gives talks on therapies, as well as having a regular slot on local radio. It might not be too long though before she is finding herself interviewed as a bestselling author.
‘Yes, my first book has been published and, no surprises, it’s a love story set in the polo world. It’s not me, though and none of my clients are in it,’ laughs Nikki who has already been asked to write the sequel and, by necessity, is having to learn the best massage to deal with writers’ cramp.
She might find a comfy writing chair in the Tarporley War Memorial Hospital charity shop but this shop, which has raised tens of thousands, is no ordinary charity shop.
‘People think we are a commercial upmarket trendy vintage store, when they first enter and I guess, apart from the commercial bit, we are all those things,’ smiles manager, Clare Bond, who, along with her volunteer helpers, takes enormous care in presenting items such as crockery by Clarice Cliff, vintage designer handbags, period furniture and quirky items such as the much sought after Pelham puppets.
‘People come from all over the UK to see what we have in stock. We’re not particularly cheap I’m afraid but then our items are pretty special,’ says Clare who is also known for her regularly changing eye-catching window displays.
Tarporley ladies are definitely doing it – not just for themselves – but for their village too.
Si Belle in Tarporley is known for offering fine ladieswear from some of Europe and America’s finest brands and designers.
The past year has seen the addition of Elie Tahari, Nicole Miller, Temperley London, Tory Burch, and Max et Moi.
This trend of offering top brands continues in Si Belle for Spring and Summer 2019.
Roland Mouret will be a new addition. Roland is an unlikely designer. He is self-taught, the son of a butcher in a small village in south west France, but his business is based in London and he lives in Suffolk. He aims for a timeless quality in his clothes: “I learned as a country boy growing up with the seasons that what is beautiful one summer will be just as beautiful the next”.
As an aside, Elie Tahari is another self-taught designer: earlier in his life he was an aircraft technician in the Israeli Air Force!
By contrast, the founder and designer of Milly, another brand coming to Si Belle next Spring, is Michelle Smith, and she studied fashion, interned at Hermès, and worked as an apprentice at Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. Remember Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama, commissioned by The National Portrait Gallery, earlier this year? It was in all the newspapers. The dress Michelle Obama is wearing was designed by Michelle Smith of Milly.
Also joining Si Belle are Blumarine and Blugirl: two brands better known in Italy than in the UK, and very highly regarded. Both brands are sophisticated, elegant, and have a lightness of touch about their design. Blumarine is a more mature look, and Blugirl is aimed at younger women, or those who are young at heart.
For something to wear over your cozzy on the beach or next to the pool, Melissa Odabash will also be available in Si Belle. A well-known swimwear model before she started her own brand, Melissa Odabash brings more than a touch of glamour to beachwear. Si Belle will concentrate on Melissa’s cover-ups and kaftans.
Finally, High by Claire Campbell is making a very welcome return to Si Belle for the first time since 2017. As another aside, Claire was the chief designer at Marithé et Francois Girbaud before founding High.
Si Belle crosses continents and oceans to bring you the best ladieswear from designers you usually only find in international cities like London, New York, Paris, Milan, and Dubai. You need only pop to Tarporley to find the best brought to you!