A true Kingsholm legend
- Credit: Â© Thousand Word Media
Katie Jarvis spends some time with Charlie Sharples who, though recently retired from playing, is one of Gloucester Rugby’s biggest assets
Charlie Sharples has been a key member of Gloucester Rugby since the age of 14. A meteoric rise through the academy saw him making his team debut in the 2007/8 season, quickly gaining a reputation for speed and scoring ability. As well as notching up an incredible 275 appearances as a Cherry and White winger, he has played for England four times, scoring twice against Fiji at Twickenham in the 2011 Autumn Internationals.
When Charlie retired earlier this year, it was with the knowledge that his contributions have made him one of Gloucester Rugby’s biggest assets in the professional era. Or, as the club itself succinctly puts it, ‘a true Kingsholm legend’. He’ll now take on an ambassadorial role.
Charlie lives in Cheltenham with his wife, Rose, and their three children, aged five, four and one.
Where do you live and why?
We moved from Gloucester to a house near Hatherley Park two years ago. We’ve got three small children so we love all the parks in Cheltenham – and there are lots of lovely schools. One of my mates, Andy Hazell [the former Gloucester pro], always said, ‘Don’t move to Cheltenham, Chas! You’ll go soft!’ There are people in Cheltenham who think they’ll get mugged if they go to Gloucester; and people in Gloucester who think everyone in Cheltenham is posh. Funnily enough, you don’t get judged if you move to Stroud – it’s obviously neutral!
How long have you lived in the Cotswolds?
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I was born in Hong Kong because my dad was in the army, and then we lived in Surrey until I was 10. That was when we made this big move, to an old house by the canal in Ebley [Stroud]. I loved it straightaway: it had a huge garden, looking up to Selsley Common. The canal was just brambles, but the footpath was there and I’d cycle along with my mates to Nailsworth or Minchinhampton. I’ve loads of fond memories. In those days, the house was surrounded by fields, but it is still really nice there now with all the restoration and building work.
What's your idea of a perfect weekend in the Cotswolds?
Are we talking a weekend with my mates or with the family? In one, I’d have a lie-in, then sit in a pub and drink beer all day… But I’ll choose the other (of course!). A nice sunny day; maybe a barbecue at our house with friends; a walk up Leckhampton or Cleeve Hill. Chilled family time.
With rugby, I never really got my weekends. If I did, it was because I hadn’t been selected or I was injured, which never puts you in a great mood. You can’t just go into the coach’s office and say, ‘I’m going to book this weekend off’. I’ve missed friends’ parties; I’ve missed family weddings – it’s one of the sacrifices you have to make. It does feel good to be able to make plans now.
If money were no object, where would you live in the Cotswolds?
I’d love to live on one of the hills – Leckhampton, or in one of those big houses on Cleeve Hill. I do like a really nice view.
Where are you least likely to live in the Cotswolds?
I’ve been doing a bit of cycling with my dad, training for a charity ride, which has been taking us through all these lovely chocolate-box villages. They’re beautiful, but I just couldn’t take having to get into a car every time we ran out of nappies.
The charity ride is for Gallagher and the Wooden Spoon [the rugby charity helping disadvantaged children]. Gallagher sponsor the premiership, and they’re getting 15 ex-professional players to cycle the trophy 750 miles in a week, from Newcastle to Twickenham, via all the premiership clubs. I’ve borrowed my dad’s road bike to do it, and he’s using his electric one. It’s very frustrating, watching my 63-year-old father pull away from me up the hills…
Where's the best pub in the area?
There are lots but the one that springs to mind is the Beehive in Montpellier. The guy who owns it is very accommodating. If the Gloucester boys are back late from a game, it’s really nice to have somewhere private to bond and celebrate. Sometimes, with an evening game, you might not get out of the stadium until 10 o’clock. You’re loaded up with caffeine – an important supplement in rugby; you’ve got all the adrenaline, and it can be very hard to switch off.
And the best place to eat?
Kibou in Cheltenham: my wife and I love sushi. Bizarrely, my diet has changed in a positive way since I finished playing. I used to have to eat a lot of meat – meals were based around protein. I’m not vegetarian, but I do eat a lot less now. My wife is always trying to get me to buy organic, which is fine for vegetables, but the price of organic meat…!
What would you do for a special occasion?
There have been obvious special occasions, like my first England cap; my first appearance for Gloucester; my first try. But I’ve got especially happy memories of my testimonial year [2017/18]. It’s hectic while it’s going on – you’ve got your committee planning events; you’re trying to make sure the tickets sell. But when you stand back and see the support you’ve got from people within rugby, and from the business community in the county, it does feel very good.
What's the best thing about the Cotswolds?
Gloucester Rugby. Goes without saying.
... and the worst?
I don’t think there is a worse thing, is there?
Which shop could you not live without?
This is going to make me sound terribly snooty but I love Waitrose. Going to the café with the kids; the rotisserie chickens; all the different herbs, when you’re cooking for friends. My downfall is Aldi. I’ll go in just for nappies and come out with armfuls of special buys that I don’t need.
What's the most underrated thing about the Cotswolds?
It’s the opposite, really. Rugby is underrated in other counties where football is top sport, but that just doesn’t happen in Gloucestershire. There are loads of rugby clubs, all run by volunteers: the amount of energy and time people put into making it possible for kids to play is amazing.
What is a person from the Cotswolds called?
I’d say a villager. I’m not sure Cheltenham and Gloucester are ‘Cotswold’. For me, it’s all about the nice villages.
What would be a three-course Cotswold meal?
It would have to be a cheese soufflé made with Double Gloucester; then bangers - Gloucester Old Spot sausages - and mash. My favourite pudding isn’t Cotswolds at all – it would be a big brownie sundae. I’m really into baking sourdough bread, at the moment, as well as focaccia and homemade pasta. We also get a Grubby recipe-box each week.
What's your favourite view in the Cotswolds?
A packed-out Kingsholm [home to Gloucester Rugby]. I don’t get nervous about appearing in front of all those people – when I played for England, it was 82,000. The nerves are more around the build-up and the expectation you put on yourself.
What's your quintessential Cotswolds village and why?
Bourton-on-the-Water, with the model village, Brum, and the stream.
Name three basic elements of the Cotswolds…
All the beautiful walks;
The farm shops and farmers’ markets.
What's your favourite Cotswolds building?
What would you never do in the Cotswolds?
I’d never rest on my laurels. The personality you have to develop to be an elite sportsperson involves a relentless pursuit of excellence. Critiquing yourself. For 15 years, while I was playing, I knew what was required of me. Now I’ve retired from that, there’s an adjustment. I’ve just started a job in financial planning with a company called Gemini. So I have to translate that mindset into a new industry, and that’s what I’m learning at the moment.
Starter homes or executive properties?
There’s a question for your local councillors!
What are the four corners of the Cotswolds?
In rugby, Gloucestershire is made up of four districts: the Forest of Dean, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Stroud. Having said that, people from Stow would play for Stroud, and people from Broadway would play for Cheltenham, so it’s not all that straightforward.
If you lived abroad, what would you take to remind you of the Cotswolds?
Gloucestershire is very much my home. Both our families are here, and my job is here. If I did go abroad – which isn’t likely – I’d take a piece of Cotswold stone.
What's the first piece of advice you'd give to somebody new to the Cotswolds?
Who does your pension? Are you looking to invest any money?
And which book should they read?
Jamie McDonald is a mate of mine, and I’m going to say his book – Adventureman: Anyone Can Be a Superhero [about his 5,000-mile run across Canada]. He’s got his charity [Superhero Foundation] and he’s absolutely inspirational.
Have you a favourite Cotswolds walk?
I would love to do the Cotswold Way at some point. But, as a family, we like going up Leckhampton Hill. I also have happy memories of the walk up to Selsley Common, which I’d do as a child.
Which event, or activity, best sums up the Cotswolds?
If you were invisible for a day, where would you go and what would you do?
I’d go to the Houses of Parliament and follow the Prime Minister to get a bit of insight.
The Cotswolds – aspic or asphalt?
I’d want to preserve all the amazing period properties, but I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the Dark Ages in terms of technology. I actually like a lot of modern architecture. I love it when someone takes a bland 1960s house and transforms it into something that turns people’s heads.
Which attitude best sums up the Cotswolds?
With whom would you most like to have a cider?
Vladimir Putin. I want to shake him and ask him what on earth is going through his head.
For more on Gloucester Rugby, visit gloucesterrugby.co.uk; Wooden Spoon charity is at woodenspoon.org.uk
For information on Jamie McDonald and the Superhero Foundation, go to superherofoundation.org