Why Ribchester has such an enduring appeal

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 August 2019

Relaxing by the Ribble

Relaxing by the Ribble


With fine wine, fine art and a fine sense of community, it’s no wonder Ribchester has been so popular for so long.

The Romans were pretty keen on Ribchester: one of them, on returning home, wrote that the village was the richest town in Christendom. Those days have gone but there is still plenty going on and it's easy to see why it remains such a popular place.

Modern Romans are among those who make their way to the picturesque Wine Shed, owned by Nuala Wheeldon and managed by Jackie Bishop.

'We have had people come from all over the world and it's amusing when they spot a wine that is made near their home but they had to come to Ribchester to find,' explains Nuala, who makes sure her shelves are filled with wines that it may be tricky to source elsewhere.

'Our customers want to know the story behind the wine and to be able to taste that in the glass. We're wine detectives in a way, both in sourcing it and helping people discover what they, or whoever they're buying for, might like,' says Jackie who is also becoming a dab hand at matching customers' menus to the wine: in August, white Rioja and elegant Chablis are top of the list for pairing with salads!

Stydd GardensStydd Gardens

'People can have antipasti and nibbles here too and of course, enjoy the wines.

'We're all about making it friendly and getting away from this idea of wines being intimidating.

'Although some of our wines are just under £100, others begin at £10, so there is something for everyone's pocket.'

A glass of wine was needed by Rebecca Lamond and her mum, Christine Frankland when they had their very own Fools and Horses moment.

Ribchester St Wilfred's Parish ChurchRibchester St Wilfred's Parish Church

It happened when the pair, who run Maison de Lamond - a business specialising in painting furniture and selling personally sourced interior pieces - spotted a huge chandelier hanging in a period building that was about to be demolished.

'We had to release it the same way that Del Boy did, gently unscrewing it and then standing at the top of ladders, bracing ourselves with a sheet to catch it. It was a heart stopping moment when it began to swing but, unlike the Trotters, we caught it,' laughs Rebecca who, at only five feet tall, is used to having ladders to hand for whenever a client asks her to restore and paint a large piece of furniture in situ.

Rebecca and her mum stock their shop with lovely things from antique pot cupboards to gilt mirrors and this year's trends - different metals and raw woods.

'Some people ask us to source items - an unusual one was a death mask - and a few times, we've often ended up sourcing things for an entire house. We love it and never lose our cool - even when the BBC came to film a design segment here. Well, when you've kept cool balancing on a ladder with only a sheet between you and a ginormous chandelier, everything else is a piece of cake,' laughs Rebecca.

The BBC have to yet to visit Ascot Studios, a gallery and studio run by husband and wife team Phil and Angela Harwood. That said, Mark Thompson past director of the BBC is one of their fans, often visiting and often purchasing one of Angela's original paintings.

He's not on his own; international collectors are snapping up her work, with one of them reading about her on a first class flight to the USA.

'It was a prestigious art magazine and Angela was on the front cover, which grabbed his attention. He phoned us and said he was coming over to buy up almost all the works she had available which was pretty exciting, although as her work is rising in value - it's held in collections from Manchester to Monaco - it was probably a pretty shrewd decision on his part,' smiles dealer and curator, Phil.

Angela has her fabulous studio on the premises situated in the light and airy Bee Mill but the gallery also houses work by other artists, with something new to look at on every visit.

'We want to get across the idea that there is nothing intimidating about coming into an art gallery/studio. We won't pounce on you. If the door is open, pop in. You won't find yourself struggling home with a massive canvas and wondering how that happened... promise,' laughs Phil, who also offers appointments for those who want to chat about starting or adding to their collection. As he represents 25 artists, so there is usually plenty to chat about.

'I was asked to find an original Banksy, which I did, and sometimes people ask me to their homes to show me a space they want filling with art and to help them commission an artist to fulfil that. It's a white glove service,' smiles Phil.

Geoff Rollinson, gamekeeper turned painter, also has a gallery in the village where he displays and sells his own mainly Lancashire countryside and wildlife paintings. He also undertakes commissions; more and more people are asking for pictures of their pets but perhaps his most famous was the one he was commissioned to paint for The Queen when she visited what she has declared to be one of her favourite parts of England.

'I painted the area around the River Hodder at Whitewell but from a slightly unusual angle which she didn't immediately recognise and so I had to explain it to her. She seemed pleased and prints of that picture are still popular today,' says Geoff.

There are plenty of creative people in the village and a fair proportion of them are in Ribchester Amateur Theatrical Society or, for those in the know, The Rats! Viki Mason is the group's chairperson and she says: 'Ribchester is hugely popular with families and many of them join as a way to become involved in village life. We even have a Young Rats section - they join as young as five - and they write a lot of their own stuff. We start them young, so that the village will have a constant supply of thespians.'

A sense of community binds the local tennis group together too. In fact, their tennis courts are the only public ones in the Ribble Valley, open to all, although members have to come from the immediate area.

'We play in leagues such as The Ribble League and usually do well - our players range from beginners to county standard and our current coach, Josh Pye began as a junior, which is pretty special. Of course, we also fundraise rain and shine from 24 hours tennis-a-thons to safari suppers,' says secretary, Aileen Gallagher who adds that the club has 80 members aged from five to 80. No wonder the locals make such a racquet about their village!

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