Janet Reeder meets a trio of residents who work, rest, play and contribute to community life in the neighbouring villages.

Great British Life: History in TattenhallHistory in Tattenhall (Image: Kirsty Thompson)


Great British Life: Martin Cooke, TattenhallMartin Cooke, Tattenhall (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

Martin Cooke
Fifty years of volunteering

'We have a wonderful high street, you can walk to the shops, walk to the library, walk to the sports clubs you don’t really have to drive anywhere'

We’ve lived in Tattenhall since September 2000. I worked in Liverpool for 35 years commuting from various parts of North Wales and Cheshire and eventually from Tattenhall. We were quite methodical about choosing to live here. I knew the villages to the south of Chester reasonably well and Tattenhall ticked the most boxes by far. Then it was a case of finding a house big enough for our large family. 

One of the really important factors that attracted us to Tattenhall was its amazing sports club at the Flacca. All our kids have had the opportunity to play sport there and now that they are all grown up, they are still involved with various sports, and that’s a direct consequence of being able to try everything in Tattenhall when they were youngsters. 

I’m a bit of a butterfly by nature and throughout my life I have been doing other things in parallel to my day job in the investment world in Liverpool. In my 20s I was involved with the Chester Civic Trust trying to make sure the architects and builders of the late 1960s and ‘70s didn’t tear down too much of historic Chester. With a group of friends, I was one of the founders of the Chester Summer Music Festival, which ran very successfully for more than 30 years until Arts Council England destroyed it. I was also a governor of the King’s School, Chester for 12 years.  

In Liverpool, I was a director of Radio City, Liverpool’s commercial radio station, and on the board of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. I have also been a  trustee of the St Endellion Music Festival in North Cornwall for many years. In May 2018, when I received an MBE from the Queen, for Services to the Arts and the Community in Cheshire and North Cornwall, Her Majesty asked me how I managed to be involved in activities three hundred miles apart.

Tattenhall has a large number of businesses either within or not far from the centre, which is quite remarkable for somewhere out in the countryside; it’s a tribute to the Bolesworth Estate, which very early on started converting farms into business units. With the help of  Anthony Barbour from Bolesworth, I started the Tattenhall Business Club. Then came the Tattenhall Business Alliance (of which the Business Club is now a part), started by Alison Pritchard, who runs the coffee shop in the village, and the Alliance supports the village website, Tattenhall Online (tattenhall.org).  

More recently a group of us have come together under the banner Transition Tattenhall, with the aim of encouraging people to do as much as possible to address the different pressures facing us locally and globally as a result of climate change, fossil fuel depletion and community fragmentation. The pandemic slowed the process but we now have a Repair Café to which people bring things that would otherwise go into skips; we also have a mini meadow project which is about encouraging people to cut their grass less often and to sow wildflowers. 
When we were looking for places to live, we thought: it’s got to have a high street, it’s got to have people there who are not just dog walkers, it’s got to have a culture of volunteering for the benefit of the community. Tattenhall has all of these, which makes it such a great place to live. In Tattenhall we have a wonderful high street, you can walk to the shops, walk to the library, walk to the sports clubs. You don’t really have to drive anywhere. And at weekends when I don’t get into my car, I think that’s great. 

Great British Life: Artist Beth BarlowArtist Beth Barlow (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

Beth Barlow

'We came full circle and found a place that had so many things we were looking for'

I moved to Tattenhall last February so I’m fairly new to the village. I work as an artist and run classes as well as my own practice. 

I sell some of my work at the market, which is on every Friday, usually 10am until 12 pm, and runs throughout the year. It’s at the Flacca, which has just won the Club Mirror Family Club of the Year Award. A lot of people come for the social aspect. There are tables in the middle, so you can have a cup of coffee, meet people and shop. The lady who runs the WI stall brings honey and eggs and then there are people like me who sell their works if you are looking for gifts. I use the market as a time to frame the work I’ve done in the week and show people what I am up to, and if I sell it’s a bonus. The stalls are only £3 to rent so it’s really cheap and consequently, there’s not that much pressure on selling as there would be at fairs. 

Prior to living in Tattenhall I was in Chester and then we went to France for a little while, then to Northwich way before that, so I’ve always been around this area. At first, I resisted coming here because I felt it would be too remote. I was a bit worried as I don’t drive, and I thought I’d be cut off here but there’s enough in the village for me.

When we were in France, we were looking for somewhere where we wouldn't feel the need to travel to other places. There’s a book called The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, where the writer goes on a long journey and comes back to more or less where he started and that’s us. We came full circle and found a place that had so many things we were looking for.

When I first moved here, I went to an art workshop run by the British Council, and it felt as if I’d moved to a wonderful beautiful holiday camp where there were lots of activities. There are plenty of things here to do, so I don’t really go outside the village. I go once every four to six weeks up to Chester.

Being an artist it’s hard to earn a lot so I live with my partner and a friend we can share the cost of living. My partner is also an artist so we can carry on doing art and get involved in things that aren’t just about the money but being part of something bigger, such as Transition Tattenhall, which is all about trying to secure a good future with climate change. There’s a good community here. You can walk down the street and say hello to more or less everyone. We have ended up somewhere we are very content to be. 

Great British Life: Will Hunter, Owner of Hunter Tree Houses, TarporleyWill Hunter, Owner of Hunter Tree Houses, Tarporley (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

Will Hunter
Owner, Hunter Tree Houses

'We like the independent stores and things that are a bit niche, so Tarporley suits our style'

I moved to Tarporley a decade years ago. At the time I wanted to move out of my parents' home at Little Budworth and be near pubs and bars and restaurants and have a social life and my work is based in the local area, so it worked out for me. I now share my home with my wife Katy and our 19-month-old son, Woolfie. 

There’s a lot going on for a small place. I take my wife shopping – well, not as often as she’d like. We like the independent stores and things that are a bit niche, so Tarporley suits our style.

Little Tap is our favourite bar, and we had our Christmas party there. We like to help them out and they help us out too.

My office is based at home and my workshop is over in Kingsley, which is a bit of a drive away, but we work in the Tarporley area. Before I set up the company, I was a tree surgeon and worked on agricultural buildings around Cheshire and now I make tree houses. I think it was an inner childhood dream of mine to build tree houses.

We started the business, Hunter Tree Houses (huntertreehouses.com), in 20015 and went limited in 20017 it was a bit slow at first, then Covid happened, and everyone started getting frustrated with their children who were getting bored being at home all the time. They liked the idea of a tree house and that’s when it really took off.

Tarporley is certainly a good place to have the business. There’s definitely disposable income and lots of great gardens and great houses.
One thing Katy and I would love to do in the future if we can get the right place, permissions and finances is to create a tree house retreat.