Classical singer Russell Watson glimpsed his now wife Louise across a crowded room and felt an immediate spark. As he was occupied accepting requests for selfies, he introduced himself to Louise in the time-honoured fashion of sending a friend over. That was 15 years ago, and love is still very much in the air.

‘We met not long after my recovery,’ Russell says. ‘I’d been quite poorly (Russell was treated for a brain tumour in 2006, and again the following year) and wasn’t for socialising. A group of my friends coaxed me out and we went for dinner and then to Panacea in Alderley Edge. I saw Louise and sent one of my friends over for her number.’

‘I’m not exaggerating, there was a queue of people asking for a selfie,’ Louise says, ‘lots of gorgeous ladies, but I wasn’t bothered. I did know who he was but wasn’t interested in joining the queue.’

Great British Life: Poppy, Muffin, Louise, Blaze, and RussellPoppy, Muffin, Louise, Blaze, and Russell (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

‘It was an instant connection that ran much deeper than just initial attraction,’ Russell adds. ‘Initial attraction doesn’t see you through 15 years. There were sceptics at the start of our relationship, but here we are. Louise is not just my wife, she’s my best friend and we run the business together; she’s a huge support mechanism to me in my career and managing our home. We’re not just husband and wife, we’re a team. We’ve got something a lot of people want: a good marriage and a good relationship and mutual respect.’

‘It’s a lovely partnership and we’re very lucky,’ Louise smiles.

‘It’s a joint effort,’ Russell says. ‘We work very hard. Louise runs the farm, she runs the business, she travels with me. It’s always a real mix of jobs – one minute I’m mucking out, the next minute I’m up on stage in front of 10,000 people.’

The Watsons live on a small farm near Congleton, a home filled with love – and animals – many, many animals.

Great British Life: The hens follow visitors about, in hope of scraps, and make a colourful feathered paradeThe hens follow visitors about, in hope of scraps, and make a colourful feathered parade (Image: Kirsty Thompson)Great British Life: A handful of chicksA handful of chicks (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

‘We were searching for seven years for this house,’ Russell says. ‘We were looking around Cheshire as we wanted to stay local to where my daughters are, in Wilmslow, where we had been living for some years. We’d seen places where the house was amazing, but there was not enough land, or there was enough land but the house didn’t suit. Then fortune came our way – Louise's farrier, Julian Welsh, told us a farm had come up for sale near Congleton, it was beautiful, and we should go and see it.

‘We got in the car, and I was thinking “here we go again”, and drove up the lane towards the farm and it felt, while not exactly built up, still not exactly rural, and then we climbed a hill and it felt as if we were taking off from an airport – the view suddenly rises up in front of us, we could see right across to the Cloud at Bosley. I turned to Louise and said: “I don’t care if it’s a tent, I want to live here.”’

‘We weren’t even bothered about the state of the house,’ Louise adds, ‘We would have built a house, but then the house ticked every box too.’

Great British Life: The incredible views sold the farm to Russell before they even saw the houseThe incredible views sold the farm to Russell before they even saw the house (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

‘We love everything about the house,’ Russell says. ‘The way it’s put together, the reclaimed oak beams, the fact it’s all stone. Even the surveyor who came said it was unique for the time it was built, the 1950s, with part of the property dating back to the early 20th century, and he’d never seen anything like it.’

Ensuring they actually got to live in the house they’d fallen in love with wasn’t easy, however.

‘We had quite a battle to get it. We were up against someone else, and it was backwards and forwards and we did reach the point where we said “that’s it, no more”. And literally that same say, the agent called.’

‘It was a huge relief,’ Louise says. ‘We were both crying; we really wanted to live here. We were on pins till we got the keys, which took six months.’

Great British Life: Louise with Obi, 13, her dressage horse and RaRa, aged 15Louise with Obi, 13, her dressage horse and RaRa, aged 15 (Image: Kirsty Thompson)Great British Life: Jasmine Simson is Louise's right hand women in the liveryJasmine Simson is Louise's right hand women in the livery (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

‘I still walk out the back door, look around, and think “I can't believe I’m here”; it’s so beautiful out there.’ Russell adds.

The farm has given Louise the opportunity to immerse herself in her love of animals, a passion Russell fully supports. As well as Louise's two horses and pony, Obi, Elvis and RaRa, they provide a happy home for chickens (all of whom have names), alpacas (ditto), rescued saluki Poppy, Axel the rescued greyhound and Muffin, a shi tzu. Then there is Figaro the cat, a rhea named Fuzzy and Rico, the parrot. There is also a box filled with chicks in the living room, who will also no doubt all be named before they join their cousins outside.

You’d think that with all this going on, and Russell’s busy life performing, they’d just want to close the curtains, hunker down and shut out the world when they’re both at home. Yet Louise has opened a livery business and there is also a tiny guest cottage she has created from one of the buildings near the main house, The Cloud.

Great British Life: Louise, with Elvis, not the smallest member of her menagerie, but with one of the biggest personalitiesLouise, with Elvis, not the smallest member of her menagerie, but with one of the biggest personalities (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

‘I just want to share the joy of this place,’ Louise says. ‘All our guests love it here. The last guest, a lady from Spain, booked for three nights and stayed for a full week, and wrote us a card when she left, saying “Heaven is a place on earth”, which is exactly how we feel.’

‘The farm is not self-sufficient, so it makes sense to create a business here,’ Russell says.

‘We have 15.5 acres and the horses in livery help keep the grass down, and every year we have a lovely field full of hay,’ Louise says. ‘We want to start developing the livery further by bringing in young horses and training them up in dressage. We’ve got some good people advising us on this, Carl Hester, the Oympic champion, and Brett Wilson, of Brett Wilson Dressage. They’re very generous with their advice and finding fillies for us. And I have the wonderful Jasmine Simson here too, who looks after the horses.

‘I have a menage here, for training on site, but it’s also good to train young horses by boxing them up and travelling, which is what they’ll do for competitions, so I go to Van Egmond, on the Wirral, and train with Spencer Wilton. I compete myself, in British Dressage – Obi and I dance to The Greatest Showman; the louder the music the better for Obi. He loves it; he’s very good – we got to the Pet Plan Championships last year.

‘I started riding I can’t remember when; it’s not a hobby, it’s a way of life.’

Great British Life: Louise promised Russell the alpacas would be the final addition to their menagerieLouise promised Russell the alpacas would be the final addition to their menagerie (Image: Kirsty Thompson)Great British Life: Along came Fuzzy, a rhea in need of a homeAlong came Fuzzy, a rhea in need of a home (Image: Kirsty Thompson)

The farm has glorious views, with line of sight across Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire, and you can walk out of the property and straight onto public walks heading in all directions. One of the selling points of The Cloud, along with great local pubs.

‘It’s great for walks,’ Louise says. ‘The views are incredible. The public footpaths just link one to another. There’s some great food in the area, too. The Plough at Eaton we really like, and the Egerton Arms in Astbury. That’s quite special to us; we got engaged at Astbury, under the oak, on Christmas Eve 2013.’

Russell and Louise have demonstrated their love for the tiny village of Astbury with a very special concert at St Mary’s Church, first in 2022 and then again for Christmas 2023.

‘The church’s flagstones were stolen one night,’ Russell says, ‘and we volunteered to help raise the funds to replace them. We did a concert and raised around £20,000. Then we did multiple nights in 2023, all sold out. The vicar was in tears, she said it would have taken forever to raise the money otherwise.

'I take a great deal of pleasure in giving something back here. There’s such a sense of community, everybody is so warm and welcoming and have really taken us in. The local farmers have been brilliant, our neighbours are wonderful; we just love being here.’

The man behind The Voice

Russell Watson is the UK’s best-selling classical artist.

He grew up in Salford, and from a young age had a voice people wanted to hear. He went on to sing in local clubs while working as a bolt-cutter.

In 1990 Russell won Picadilly Radio’s Search for a Star contest, the start of a long, slow drive to stardom, which finally hit the accelerator in 1999, when he was asked to sing at Old Trafford before the last match of the Premiership season. After the game, when United had won the league championship, he returned to the pitch to sing the Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé song Barcelona. A week later he was invited to sing at the final of the UEFA Champions League, in Barcelona, between United and Bayern Munich, duetting with Montserrat Caballé.

Russell released his debut album, The Voice, in 2001. It went to number one in both the UK and US Classical Charts, the first time a British artist had achieved this. He has released 13 more albums, selling more than seven million albums worldwide. He has four classical Brit Awards, has duetted with some of the world's biggest stars, and has sung for royalty multiple times.