Sitting here in the study gazing at the dazzling-hued chestnut trees that line my back garden, I remember back in London I had medium expectations of foraging little local food treats. However it turns out I have yet to drive for more than 20 minutes in any direction without tripping over yet another farm shop, independent producer, butcher’s, greengrocer’s… It is my idea of heaven.
Tarporley itself is blessed with an excellent butcher’s (perfect for weekday shopping and really excellent sausages), a lovely chocolate shop, a wine shop and a Co-op doing the basics. The only puzzling thing is not so much the lack of fishmonger’s (people never use fishmonger’s and then they complain of their absence. Use it or lose it. It’s very simple. Here the problem is circumvented by the butcher’s stocking frozen fish), but rather the lack of a decent greengrocer’s. There evidently was one but clearly it befell the same fate as the fish and now we are reliant on the very basic offerings of the Co-op. Not so much a problem, but without a car, I was climbing the walls a bit until the monthly farmer’s market came along with all the glorious sunset colours of autumn vegetables.
So now I have a car and it takes every ounce of willpower (does anyone ever say gram of willpower? Imperial is imperative) I own not to simply sling MCD Jr in the back of the car every day and drive off to yet another rumoured treasure trove. It has to be said the only reason I’m resisting is the money it seems obligatory to spend, because I cannot walk away empty-handed.
Just 10 minutes up the road is The Hollies Farm Shop. This is one seriously glamorous outlet. Built on a scale to rival Harrods’ Food Hall, I have found that there is almost nothing they don’t stock. The prices rival Harrods too but for weekend treats and for guests, it’s a must. And it’s not just any old farm shop. You can ‘glamp’, visit The Christmas Barn or stop for lunch at their cafe, which is reasonable food but at inflated prices (says the Londoner).
In the other direction, down proper twisty-turny (and yesterday very muddy) lanes lies The Rose Farm Shop. Decidedly less Elizabeth Taylor, more Hilda Ogden, nevertheless the butcher’s counter remains a work of art, the vegetables are seasonal and fresh and the Food Hall is admirably stocked with everything you need and nothing you don’t. They even have a little Post Office and groceries section. They have a garden centre and a basic cafe which overlooks a field of friendly, demanding sheep. (MCD Jr’s first live experience and a bit of a shock).
Should you fancy ice cream, on the way into Tarporley is Snugbury’s, who announce their presence with a huge, 50 foot polar bear and cub moulded out of straw in the next door field. You can find their ice cream everywhere around here, along with Cheshire Farm. Tiresford make excellent yoghurt, particularly lactic and grown-up – again on sale everywhere local.
So far, a month in, I haven’t actually been to a supermarket. I’m led to believe there’s a big Sainsburys at Nantwich, which I shall have to get to at some point, but it’s not an appealing thought.
But if you didn’t want to cook, man, can you eat out. Tarporley itself has three or four pubs all serving good to really good food plus Piste, our local wine bar which is a bit more ‘London’. But five minutes away is The Alvanley Arms or The Fox & Barrel, both in The Good Food Guide. And that’s just what we’ve seen on drives past.
We still feel like we’re in a holiday cottage and at any moment we’ll have to go back to ‘real life’. It hasn’t quite hit yet – no doubt the winter will help) – that this is our life. It’s a pretty decent one.