Inspired Villages, Gifford Lea, Cheshire, comes complete with a swimming pool, spa, gym, cinema, library, café, and restaurant. This is retirement living with a difference: a life less ordinary. It reminded me of: ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost: ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.’ We were there to explore the notion of a retirement lifestyle with well-being and positive difference at its heart.
WORDS: Jean Hill
His & Hers had an invitation to lunch and an opportunity to meet managers and residents at Gifford Lea. The host was James Cobb (Director of Inspired), alongside Inspired Villages’ CEO, Jamie Bunce.
It takes vision (a mission statement), inspiration, energy and funding to take a bold concept to successful completion. Wellness and above all, enjoyment, are at the heart of every Inspired Village.
Wider aims would be combating older age loneliness and isolation, where more than a million older people say they go a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. The UK has an ageing population, and is, arguably, somewhat underprepared to meet the needs of this ageing demographic. Currently, there are nearly 12 million over 65s, a number expected to increase by 50% over the next 20 years.
Gifford Lea is a stunning retirement community and an extension of the wider Tattenhall village. It has been designed to bring connectivity back, and to encourage involvement: socially, mentally and physically.
I arrived, a little late, just in time for the tour: I had somehow, inadvertently, taken the road less travelled. It did include meandering village lanes with panoramic views of beautiful countryside, so I am not complaining. I am not sure what I was expecting. The reality is riveting. The interior of the Grange, which is the hub of the village, is beautifully designed. The furnishings are bright, colourful, modern, and state of the art. There is a space that is part delicatessen that transforms into a bar area later in the day, that boasts utterly beautiful bespoke Moroccan tiles underfoot. The penthouse apartment we viewed, was spacious, with a generous kitchen area, and oceans of closet space. For me, though, what was most impressive was the outside ‘patio’ space, that residents could make their own, with spectacular views across the Cheshire countryside. The penthouse would cost around £800,000, which would be a solid investment. A one-bedroomed apartment could be had for around £250,000. Renting is also an option.
In public areas, I loved the classic wallpaper, designer lighting, comfy, colourful sofas, and sense of bright light streaming in. The swimming pool boasts aqua tones, a waterfall effect and, naturally, a sauna. Further on, we interrupted a dance class, and I had to stop myself joining in. The gym is state of the art, and looks like fun, with technology at the fingertips.
Lunch was prepared by Chef Dominic Ash who had created a bespoke tasting menu to complement English wine pairings prepared by international wine expert, Elizabeth Hawthornthwaite. We began with sparkling English wine: Nyetimber, Hampshire, which was light and delicious. My own personal favourite was a gentle red wine: Gusbourne Pinot Noir, Kent, England, that beguilingly tasted of strawberries with a hint of raspberry. It is a very impressive wine list.
We began with lobster tail, alongside venison with torched pear and blue cheese. This is probably the best way to eat venison, rich and smooth with a great kick of succulent flavour. Next came cured monkfish tail with treacle chilli, which was as delicious as it sounds. The mini Christmas dinner, which is probably the size we should all be aiming for on the day, was most impressive of all. Tender Poussin breast, chestnut, sprouts, with goose fat potato was utterly divine, without that over-full feeling. The ravioli came complete with Delamere goats’ cheese, honey, courgettes and pickled pecan. All beautifully combined to deliver a sweet and savoury hit. The miniature Christmas pudding with brandy anglaise was exactly the right size, ridiculously rich, smooth and totally recommended.
I met some fascinating people. Caroline, a relatively new resident, has joined a Tattenhall amateur theatrical society. She was reassured to find that the Tattenhall village residents had totally welcomed a retirement village in their midst. She and her husband welcomed family to their new home, (there is guest accommodation available) and was loving the whole experience. I chatted to Jean, who had spent most of her life in Carolina, USA, and is still writing novels, aged ninety. She is vibrantly involved in her new community. The proposition that people can enjoy later life, if the environment, support and stimulation are there for them, would definitely seem to be true. Older age should be fun, and this could well be the ideal way to negotiate retirement.
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