What the locals really think of North Rode
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 November 2016
The village of North Rode proves that anything is possible with a little community spirit. Rebekka O'Grady visits to meet the locals and find out more.
It was 1978 the last time Cheshire Life visited North Rode. In the intervening four decades, a lot in this East Cheshire village has changed – but a lot has remained constant too, as as we found on our return visit.
An untouched parish to the south of Macclesfield, this picturesque village is home to a handful of residents – some who were also featured in our spread the first time around.
It’s clear to see from visiting North Rode that it’s the sense of community among these residents that keeps this village together – especially when it has no real amenities like a convenience store, railway station or cafe. What it has instead is bags full of friendliness, spirit and pride – plus plenty of characters.
Ruth and John Shaw - Dobford Farm
John Shaw’s family have been in North Rode since 1923, when his grandad, George, bought Dobford Farm during the sale of the Daintry Estate. The Daintry family had been associated with the village and owned it as an estate since the early 1800s. However, after the collapse of the bank they owned, the family were forced sell the properties. The sale of the various lots has been documented in the North Rode Manor Estate catalogue, a fascinating piece of history which Ruth and John have a copy of.
‘My father farmed the land and I did it alongside him until he died,’ explained John, who at 75 is the oldest parishioner to have been born in the village. His parents, also named John and Ruth, were photographed in the 1978 Cheshire Life article, where he was referred to as ‘another young John’ who would carry on the farming.
Unfortunately, the decline in the farming industry led to the diversification of Dobford Farm and now the Shaws let out the various farm buildings as units for businesses as another income. However, it’s nice to see that farming is still in the family as their daughter and son-in-law still farm some of the land and live in nearby Higher Sutton.
For 25 years Ruth ran the Post Office from the table in her kitchen, which she said was a hub of activity. ‘They didn’t want me to stop but I fancied a change. It was quite a meeting place; people would come by for a chat. North Rode is a very nice village, with a good mix of old and young.’
Shirley Tudor-Evans - The Grange
If you have a flick through any modern copy of Cheshire Life, you will find the ‘dream home’ – a double page spread on a luxurious property somewhere in Cheshire. Back in a 1960 issue, The Grange was featured in a similar fashion when it was owned by Shirley Tudor-Evans’ mother-in-law.
The Georgian house with stunning gardens has been in their family since 1955, and Shirley and her husband, Edward, have lived there for nearly 40 years. ‘We’re very lucky to live here, but as you can imagine there’s quite a lot of upkeep!’
Shirley, who is originally from Kent, didn’t know about Cheshire at all until she moved up here. ‘It’s a great part of the world, and for such a little village the community spirit is fantastic. Everyone seems to just rally around when a function is on.’
Each year, Shirley organises a charity Christmas fair at her home to raise money for different charities. For the past few years, proceeds have been donated to The Saramek Trust, a child sponsorship scheme based in Kericho in south west Kenya set up by her son, Will Tudor-Evans and friend, Ollie Webb.
Rt. Reverend William A Pwaisiho OBE - St Michael’s North Rode
Standing in the centre of the village, St Michael’s North Rode is an important part of village life, with annual events such as the Harvest Festival and Christmas carol service with the Macclesfield Light Orchestra. The church wardens are hoping to soon install a kitchenette and new toilet to encourage more events and community activities.
Built by Thomas Ryle Dainty in 1846, the church was designed by Charles and James Trubshaw, who each designed the Grosvenor Bride, Chester, and Midland Hotel, Manchester.
Since 2014, Rt. Reverend William A Pwaisiho OBE has been the vicar at the church, as well as at nearby Gawsworth where he has been since 1999. Before that, he was at Sale – where he moved to from the Solomon Islands in 1997.
‘For me, Cheshire is England,’ said Bishop William, who is also a representative for the Archbishop of Canterbury and Chester. ‘You read of the history of England in school, but when you come to places like North Rode – you know this is the real England, unspoilt and beautiful, just like in the history books. This church embodies history, values, love and nature – and you find that in a lot of villages like this.’
Wendy Atherton - Daintry Hall Nursery and Pre-School
Located just across the road from the church, Daintry Hall Nursery and Pre-School is often home to the youngest residents of North Rode. Since opening in 1999, the local community and those further afield have been sending their children to the hall for childcare that is very much focused on the fabulous setting around them.
‘We are so lucky to have the support that we do from the local community,’ said owner Wendy Atherton, who runs the nursery and pre-school with a team of 20 staff. ‘Residents here expect to see us out and about in the fields, at church events and walking through the lanes – it’s really community orientated.
‘We can go down to the farms to see and learn about the baby animals. The freedom for children here is amazing, it’s very outdoorsy. It takes things back to how children used to play, outside and having that rural experience and I think that what parents like.’
Pupils at Daintry Hall, which in its last OFSTED report was graded outstanding, also attend the Forest School for outdoor education such as den building and safe fire use, as well as learning and development and self-confidence building. ‘I can’t ever see us moving from here. Every day when the children go outside it’s a different experience, always something new to see and learn.’
Malcolm Kidd - Yew Tree Farm
After moving over from neighbouring Gawsworth, farmer Malcolm Kidd has been at Yew Tree Farm for 29 years. As well as continuing to farm, there is bed and breakfast on site, which his wife, Sheila, looks after.
‘We’ve had people travel from all over the world to stay here,’ said Malcolm, who added that they’ve even had guests from Japan and Austrailia.
‘We often take them for a walk around, they love the village. It’s funny as we also have other farmers coming to stay here on holiday – but personally I would rather go stay in the city for a change!’
Malcolm and Sheila, along with other members of the community in North Rode, are involved in the now infamous North Rode sheep racing (more on that later). Malcolm helps to set up ‘cow pat bingo’ where – you guessed it – the first pat to land in the ticket holders’ square on the makeshift ‘bingo sheet’ on the field wins.
Sue and Mark Bullock - Oaklands Farm
Five generations of Bullocks have lived in North Rode for at least 200 years, and it appears that staying a part of the community is very important for this family.
Everything from running the Post Office, being a trustee of Daintry Hall and a clerk in the parish council to hosts of the bi-annual North Rode sheep racing and chauffeur of Christmas carollers – Mark and Sue Bullock are right in the mix of things in North Rode. And that’s on top of their full time jobs.
Mark, a chartered surveyor, also farms beef and sheep in his spare time and Sue is his secretary. The couple have two teenage daughters, Florence, 15, and Winifred, 17. So how on earth do they find time to be so involved in the village? ‘If you want to see people, it’s important to have village events and raise money to keep things going,’ said Mark. ‘The sheep racing event is that popular now that we have to stop selling tickets once we’ve sold 700!’
Now ten years old, the event originated from an idea Peter Brocklehurst had about racing the sheep and putting bets on them. The neighbours then teamed up to create the race which happens every two years. On the last few occasions it has been hosted at Oaklands Farm, where Sue runs a BBQ for visitors and there are other events such as the cow pat bingo, wool sack racing and Wellington boot throwing alongside the racing.
‘You get reminded how nice North Rode is when people come to visit,’ said Mark, who used to be chairman of Macclesfield Young Farmers. Sue was also chairlady of Congleton Young Farmers, and she won the battle of which group their daughters would go to. ‘In the gap year of the sheep racing, the village organises events such as open gardens or a promise auction. Shirley Tudor-Evans is a massive support with these; she does a lot of charity work.’
Peter and Rose Brocklehurst - Ladderstile Farm and Twin Oaks
Listed in the 1923 North Rode Manor Estate catalogue as an ‘important cheesemaking farm’, Ladderstile Farm does still have a cheese room but not much goes on in there today. Instead this is a traditional beef and sheep farm run by the Brocklehurst family, who arrived in the village from the Peak District in 1969.
Phillip Brocklehurst at 91 is the oldest resident in the village, but at the time of our visit he was away on holiday with his daughter, Sheila Kidd from Yew Tree Farm.
‘Dad is a very fit and healthy 91 year old, I think it’s down to the healthy living and clean air here,’ joked his son, Peter, who lives next door at Twin Oaks with his wife, Rose. ‘He still takes a great interest in the community and loves the sheep racing event.’
The Brocklehursts’ sheep are the star attraction in the popular bi-annual charity event, which is organised by residents and raises money for a variety of charities and the village church. This year, £13,334 was raised in one day – which is astounding for a village of this size.
Saddles are fastened on to six sheep per race and teddies are attached as ‘jockeys’, before the sheep are set off on an exciting 100m course.
As well as sheep, the Brocklehursts also own two other businesses, Ladderstile Logs and Ladderstile Retreat.
The first was developed 27 years ago by Peter after they were left with a lot of timber as a result of Dutch elm disease, which otherwise would have gone to waste. Rose opened the retreat in 2009, where visitors can enjoy a bed and breakfast stay, or take advantage of a longer holistic therapy break with a number of therapies.