Last month I announced that I wanted to see more of the county in which I live in the UK. As a group, travel bloggers generally ignore what’s on our doorsteps in favour of foreign climbs and bucket list entries, when there’s bound to be some special places closer to home, if we just explored more in our locality.
So, to get me looking at places that wouldn’t normally grab my attention, I decided that each month I would pick a tile from a scrabble set to help decide where I’m going to visit and it has to be somewhere I’ve never been before! So, with the letter ‘T’ being my first tile, I scoured the map of Cheshire and after pinpointing so many places beginning with ‘T’ (amazingly), I alighted on Tarporley, somewhere I’ve heard about, but never visited.
As one of the larger villages in Cheshire, Tarporley resides right in the heart of the Cheshire countryside and towards the west of the infamous Cheshire Plain which is a predominantly flat, rural and fertile farming area. It is populated with dairy farms, cow-dotted meadows, pasture and woodlands and broken up by snaking countryside back lanes, the odd black and white timbered cottage and small hidden villages with quaint churches.
By this standard, Tarporley could be considered a small town in comparison to the hamlets and tiny villages that Cheshire is well known for. It’s a perfectly formed village, spread along a main street with small roads leading off to residential areas and with all the amenities you could need, from boutique shops, stores, eateries and churches to schools (for all ages), estate agents; even a bank, a funeral directors and a solicitors.
On arriving in Tarporley, the best place to park if you don’t spot an on-street space is in the free car park to the rear of The Rising Sun Pub. If you’re approaching from the North, the entrance to the car park is immediately before the pub on the right. There are no time restrictions on the car park so as a result it gets full quickly as walkers of the Sandstone Trail use it to park for the day.
So, what sets Tarporley apart and why should you visit? Let’s see….
Well, one of the main attractions to Tarporley is that it’s situated only half a mile from the Sandstone Trail and about half the way along the 34 mile route, so it’s a popular place to begin, end or base yourself for circular walks along the trail. The trail is the main reason I had indeed heard of Tarporley before, as I have wanted to walk the route for several years now.
If you’re not aware, The Sandstone Trail follows the line of the mid-Cheshire ridge, where the sandstone deposits that underpin the Cheshire Plain are most apparent in the sandy coloured escarpment that opened up and eroded over time leaving a gentle sandstone ridge. This runs from Helsby and Frodsham in the North of Cheshire, via the Peckforten Hills and the Beeston ‘lump’ (which Beeston Castle sits atop of a couple of miles south of Tarporley), to Bickerton in South Cheshire. It is considered the perfect introduction to long distance walking trails as the gradients are generally pretty gentle, it can easily be done in 2 or 3 days and there’s lots of places en route or nearby to use as accommodation or watering holes.
To illustrate this Tarporley has 4 Pubs in the village centre: The Rising Sun, The Swan Hotel, The Foresters Arms and The Crown Hotel and there’s a host of charming tea rooms and restaurants to choose from too.
While I was in Tarporley I chose to grab a bite to eat at No. 6 Tea Room which holds a prominent position on the High Street. The cosy tea room delivers a varied patisserie menu of cakes, pastries and desserts which are served all day and in addition there is a breakfast menu served till 11.45, a light lunch menu served 12-3pm (4pm on weekends) and a specials board.
I opted for a toasted Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel from the specials board accompanied by the “The Works” Harry’s Hot Chocolate with Madagascan Vanilla Whipped Cream, Cadbury’s Flake, Maltesers and Mini Marshmallows. I can certainly recommend the latter especially on a cold day!
As I was exploring the High Street, I also pinpointed ‘Latte Da’ Coffee House for a future trip and many restaurants also took my fancy.
Piste Wine Bar and Restaurant looked very upmarket with a quality inspiring menu, and ‘STREET’ Restaurant appealed to me with its ‘around the world’ menu constructed from Mexican, American and Eastern inspired dishes.
My method of exploring Tarporley was to set off to the North along the High Street from the Rising Sun car park till I ran out of buildings around the bend in the road. Then to turn round and continue down the other side of the road, through the village as far as the High School before returning to the Rising Sun. En route, I delved into nooks and crannys, through into courtyards, up side streets, along pathways and down back alleys to see what wasn’t always apparent from the main road.
It wasn’t long into my wander where I found my first surprise… Down a little ‘no-through’ road called The Close was a beautiful line of highly instagrammable matching houses with imposing doorways, easily one of the quaintest sights in Tarporley. The extravagant entrances started my love affair with Tarporley doorways and I will dedicate a separate blog post to show off all the stunning entrance ways I found, for those of you who have a similar passion.
Continuing on from The Close I passed what was obviously an old coaching inn, signalled by the bright red door which heralded the name The Old Red Lion with a fabulous lion door knocker. I’ve tried to find out about his place online but to no avail, so if anyone knows about its origins, please get in touch with me.
As I rounded the corner at the northern end of the village, I came upon Brickfield Farm and as I drew level with the gate, a disgruntled goose started up a right commotion directed purely at me. Clearly fulfilling the role of the farm’s very own guard dog, I’d like to think that perhaps she was just telling me to turn around as I’d run out of village.
Crossing over and making my way back down through the village, I passed attractive houses and cottages and it wasn’t long before I was eye deep in quaint boutiques and independent stores.
Tarporley has a wealth of upmarket ladies clothing and accessory shops such as Elegance, Papillon, Caran D’ache, Sarah’s Shoes, The Wardrobe, Vivienne Rowley and Si Belle. Along with these there is Sophie’s Nail and Beauty and Skin Deep Beauty Salon. In contrast I only saw the one clothing store for men called Dettagli .
Tarporley has numerous quirky gift shops worth a visit such as Bottega, The Willow Tree, Millard & Lancaster and The Copper Tree Gallery; plus 2 florists: The Little Potting Shed and The Flower Room. And all these amenities can be found along what is quite a short stretch of road so easy to get round and see everywhere.
Other buildings worthy of a look along Tarporley’s High Street (and in line with the Old Red Lion), is The Old Fire Station…
…And the Old Police Station.
I love how the frontages and features of these old buildings have been retained despite current usage.
Another surprise is the splendid Manor house which still stands in the centre of the village. Dated 1586 it was built by Ralph Done, who also built a small hall called The Done Room which is the building I found around the back of the neighbouring St Helen’s Church. A listed building, it is now home to Tarporley’s pre-school.
St Helen’s Church is certainly a delight to visit. You can approach the church from either side as it sits back from the High Street and only glimpsed between buildings. Luckily I approached from the Southern entrance and passed through the gorgeous Lych Gate, one of the cleanest and prettiest I’ve seen and on walking through the graveyard you get the best view of the church in my opinion, amongst berry rich bushes and lavender clumps.
The entrance to the church is around the other side and it was nice to find it open. At mid afternoon on a Monday I had the place to myself and it’s considerably larger than it looks from the outside. The church has some impressive stained glass and a number of great artistic displays and embroideries in the entrance presumably made by the community and/or Sunday School.
I learnt during my visit that St Helen’s Church was just one of three churches in the Tarporley Parish Church. The others are St Thomas’ in the neighbouring village of Eaton (east of Tarporley Village) and St John’s in Cotebrook, 2 miles to the North of Tarporley. I didn’t get chance to visit these but looking at photographs of them, they’d certainly be worth a trip in future. Keep them in mind if you’re in the area.
In the grounds of St Helen’s Church is where you’ll find Tarporley’s war memorial and at the Northern entrance to the church yard, the village sign and a homage to the village’s efforts at winning ‘best kept village’ and ‘community pride’ awards.
Tarporley also has a Baptist Church founded in 1866 and a Catholic Church which can be located as you’re exiting the village to the south.
There is map showing all the places of interest and surrounding footpaths on the side of The Rising Sun Pub. Here I found reference to the Salters’ Well which I located as I was driving out of Tarporley, and many other places sparked interest for a future visit.
In the waning daylight of the day, I decided I didn’t have enough time to head out walking on the Sandstone Trail to the nearby section of the Shropshire Union Canal at Wharton’s Lock, so I drove to the nearest possible place on the canal to have a look. This is where Bates Mill Lane crosses the canal at The Shady Oak Pub and from here you get great views of Beeston Castle, though it was a bit too hazy to see a huge amount.
I cannot wait to actually tackle the Sandstone Trail in its entirety and I can recommend nearby Beeston Castle as a place to visit on any visit to Cheshire. One of Cheshire’s few English Heritage sites, I’ve visited so many times over the years and the views from the top are amazing on a clear day!
Here’s a sneak preview of Beeston! Sometime soon I will get round to actually writing about it, but as all travel bloggers will attest to – “that list of blog posts I have still to write gets longer every day!”
So in answer to my previous question, why should you visit Tarporley? Well, just to wander round a beautiful and perfectly formed village with lovely architecture, quaint shops, and a bite to eat at one of its numerous eateries! Then don a pair of walking boots or sturdy trainers and head out on the Sandstone trail into gorgeous countryside and visit a local castle for stunning views of Cheshire and neighbouring counties! It’s certainly my idea of a fantastic day out!
In researching Tarporley, an area of Cheshire I have not spent much time in, I’ve also found so many more places I want to visit, the Cheshire Ice Cream Farm, the Candle workshops, the Shire Horse Centre, Little Budworth, Beeston itself and Blakemere Craft Centre. Not to mention a silly amount of pubs I want to eat at – that’s the trouble driving around Cheshire’s country lanes – the pubs just look so gorgeous and inviting!
And for some of these places I won’t be waiting for a scrabble tile to be picked to go and visit!
I hope I’ve inspired you to get out and explore more of the area in which you live!
Feel free to leave me some tips for places to visit in mid, western and southern Cheshire in particular and enjoy your own travels around this splendid county.
Oh, and I’ve picked my next Scrabble Tile for March – ‘I’
I think I already know where I’m going for this one…somewhere not a million miles from Tarporley (clue: I mentioned it above.) I can’t wait….
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