Malpas, the village that never sleeps (with audio)
Our watercolour artist Gordon Wilkinson takes his easel to Malpas
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Looking at these beautiful watercolour paintings of Malpas, you'd be forgiven for assuming this was a quiet picture postcard village. But you'd be mistaken.
Malpas, which nestles 13 miles south of Chester, is a place where things happen. It is a working community of around 1600 inhabitants, a local centre in a largely agricultural district, providing shops and services and removing the need to travel to the main centres of Chester or Whitchurch.
Malpas is a microcosm where you could function quite easily without ever leaving the village boundaries. Schools, a village hall, a surgery, pubs, almshouses, nursing homes, a fire station, gift shops, country clothing shops, electrical shops, a bakery, a launderette, bowling clubs, golf clubs and even a dog grooming parlour - the list goes on and on. And dominating it all is stunning St Oswald's Church, a Grade One listed building which, situated on the highest point of Malpas, can be seen on all approaches to the village.
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Local photographer, Trevor Gillot, 64, lives, owns studios and runs courses in self-sufficient Malpas. A perfect business to make the most of the local scenery (it has won Best Kept Village of the Year many a time) as well as its close proximity to the county boundaries of Shropshire and North Wales.
'We're very lucky in that we've got everything here,' he said. 'One of the reasons the businesses are doing as well as they have done is the high cost of fuel, so the grocers have done well because if you run out of something, there's no need to drive to a supermarket for it, it's all here.'But the best thing about Malpas is that it's on the road to nowhere; the pimple on Cheshire's plain. You don't just come across it, you have to know it's there.'
Although by virtue of the Charter of 1281 Malpas is officially a town, it has a parish council - making it a village. It is the thorough and passionate nature of this council which makes the place so energetic. Following their action plan launched in 2007, the council, chaired by Russ McGinn, has taken residents' feedback on board and taken active steps to achieve what was suggested.
They are currently building a new interactive website, launching their new monthly farmers' market on March 20, holding a Malpas Arts and Literary Festival in May for details click here and creating a range of 50 impressive houses in the St Joseph's redevelopment, this is a council who like to keep their mini-world up to scratch.
'What's very good about Malpas is that it's nearly an autonomous community,' Russ said. 'You don't need to get out of the village very much. It's got a surprisingly vibrant high street, which people from all of the surrounding villages come to use.'
The name 'Malpas' is from Old French, meaning bad/poor (mal) and passage/way (pas), which indicates why their predecessors ensured inhabitants could survive without having to travel. Modern Malpas has simply made the most of this, says Trevor: 'It's certainly not a stagnant community - there's a lot going on.'
Facts: St Oswald's Church stands on the old compound of Malpas Castle, which was built around the 12th century
The settlement around Malpas Castle was granted a charter for an annual fair and a weekly market in 1281. Eventually, Thursday became Malpas Market day and there were also two annual Fair Days, at Martinmas and Corpus Christi
Remnants of the Market Square's cobbled surface can still be seen from the church to the cross
The Spanish Flu pandemic swept through Malpas following the Great War, and 35 of its victims were buried in Malpas cemetery between October 1918 and February 1919, 21 of them under 45 years of age
The Jubilee Hall was built in 1887, by means of a public subscription which raised �12,000, to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee
Where is it? Two miles south east of the A41 Chester to Whitchurch road, to which it is connected by the B5069. Typing SY14 8NN into your satnav should take you to the centre
Where to park? There are two car parks off High Street
What to do? Soak up the history and grandeur of St Oswald's Church, walk the Sandstone Trail or grab some food at popular restaurant, A Table at Eaton's
Gordon Wilkinson has been Cheshire Life's watercolour artist since the 1990s and has painted hundreds of wonderful images of the county's villages and beauty spots.
He started painting in acrylics more than 20 years ago before moving into watercolours and his work is now a common sight in village halls and libraries. He also holds workshops with budding amateurs and teaches at colleges.
All his original watercolours featured in this article are for sale. Contact Gordon on 01244 531785, or email him at email@example.com. More of his work - including paintings he created for Cheshire Life - can be viewed at www.gordonwilkinson.com