Could Congleton be Cheshire's healthiest town?
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 June 2019
How Congleton became a centre for wellness.
Mark Twain famously suggested that the only way to be healthy was to eat what you didn't want, drink what you didn't like and do what you'd rather not. They must have missed that memo in Congleton because here, a healthy town is a happy town! It's developed a reputation as Cheshire's centre for wellness, with a huge range of alternative treatments on offer - from candling for your ears to reflexology for your feet and other therapies for every bit of you in-between.
Most of them are offered at Bare Health which, according to owner, Melanie Ratcliffe, it is a one-stop shop for health with the upstairs housing a team of trained therapists, including her mum, who offer many treatments including pregnancy massage, acupuncture, hypnotherapy and aromatherapy.
'I guess it would be easier to list what we don't offer,' says Melanie, a highly qualified Thai massage specialist, who believes the people of Congleton have driven the huge influx of therapists to the town; a simple case of supply and demand
Melanie converted the ground floor of her premises to a health store, providing everything from Horny Goat Weed to plant-based 'milk'. Don't expect a solemn atmosphere when you visit.
'We've got to get away from this idea that adopting a healthy lifestyle means being a bit po-faced. The other evening, we had 30 women here learning how to use raw chocolate, it's good for you and delicious and it was loud, cheerful and a lot of fun. They're regular events and we always have a full, noisy house,' says Melanie
Her nutritionist, Nuri Adams Davies, produces tailored food programmes and agrees that food is something to enjoy, not be frightened of.
'My rule is 80/20. Try to eat well 80 per cent of the time and you'll be fine but remember, you are what you eat,' says Nuri, who regularly sees a variety of clients from menopausal women to men with aching joints, as well as children with behavioural problems.
'Sometimes, issues can be helped with making some simple changes to the diet and it is always a good place to start. I've seen enough remarkable results to convince me it's the way forward.'
One healthy, simple change is to use less salt and that's where herbs come into their own. 'They add huge bursts of flavour, so who needs salt?' says Rozanne Gimson who, with husband Paul, owns RSG herbs. They sell at local outlets and can be visited by appointment.
'They're gorgeous and their fragrances can aid memory; our herbs were also used in the award winning Tatton RHS Dementia Garden. There is so much they can do - after all, herbs were the only medicine for centuries and although we don't advise on that, the internet is full of herbal cures for whatever ails you.'
Herbs flavour many of the dishes available at 'Wild and Wild,' a vegan café run by April and Chris Wild which has a menu that attracts people from far and wide.
'Lots of people come to Congleton to take advantage of all the therapies on offer, so it's natural that they come here and, of course, many people are concerned about the effect that meat eating is having on the planet.
'What really pleases us though is that many of our diners aren't even vegan, they just love our food! Some of them get a surprise when they discover they've had a vegan meal. We make it bright and colourful because why should plant based food be boring,' says April who is keen to point out that vegan food is hugely energy-giving and she and Chris should know - they have four children!
'We even have professional sportspeople like Manchester United footballer, Chris Smalling regularly coming in and they don't seem to be short of energy in any way,' says Chris.
April, who is also a trained Doula, has been asked many times for her recipes so hopefully, there will soon be a Wild and Wild Café cookbook. 'It would probably be quicker to do that than what I do now, which is to give out individual recipes,' laughs April who, with Chris, has converted the upper floors of Wild and Wild into spaces that can be used by alternative therapists.
The highly trained Victoria Beech has her own studio, The Yoga Tree, at Glebe Farm. 'The first thing to say is that yoga isn't a one size fits all. There are many different types and each one offers something different. A new mother's needs aren't going to be the same as a sportsman's but one yoga, whatever type, is good for the soul. It's certainly brought me through many trials and tribulations,' says Victoria who catches them young by offering baby yoga and massage.'
Victoria, whose oldest client is 80, added: 'Nowadays, we hear about top sporting clubs offering yoga to the team and, maybe as a result of that, more and more sportsmen are coming along because it does build strength and flexibility.
'Start at any age and just do what you can, it's not a competition and don't worry about having to dress in fluorescent lycra.
'Wear jogging bottoms if that's what you're comfortable in because no-one will notice, let alone care and don't worry about that old myth of escaping gas… so what, it's a good sign you're doing it properly!'
It's a pity Mark Twain isn't alive, a visit to Congleton would have had him thinking twice.