Marriage is all about give and take, so after an hour of being dragged around Fords of Winsford yesterday feigning interest in one identical car after another, I naturally decided to assert my rights to go somewhere nice as a reward.
We decided to head towards Northwich (yes, I know, pretend the blog is called "Things to do near Manchester, Cheshire perhaps" just for a moment or two) and found an embarrassment of riches there. Our first stop was The Hollies Farm Shop, part of an impressive site that also includes a garden centre and a caravan park, and a currently vacant barn that promises to transform shortly into a Christmas shop.
The farm shop itself is huge, full of enticingly overpriced items that you never even knew you wanted; I showed enormous self-control but still emerged with the most expensive bread I have ever purchased, along with some pork chops from some local pig or other, and a jar of pickle apparently made by a rosy-cheeked dame in an apron somewhere. The shop also has a restaurant called the Friesian Rooms, where I ate an excellent pate platter watched over by enormous paintings of comedy cows.
Full details of this treasure trove are on their website at http://theholliesfarmshop.co.uk - it's worth going to the restaurant page for the mooing sound effects alone.
Restored by the pate and a nice sit down, we drove another two minutes or so and happened across another gem in the form of a discount bookshop. The Bookstore at Oakmere does not initially look promising - the first thing you see when you go in is an array of those slightly tacky "supernatural Cheshire" type books that bode ill for the rest of the stock. But do not be put off: the shop is stuffed with books for everyone, most of which are half price or less. The range includes fiction, food and drink, biography and history, and most are newly released paperbacks.
True, I have slightly niche tastes, but I left clutching seven books that cost me less than £30, including a book on Shakespeare I've been meaning to get for ages and the collection of letters between the Mitford sisters. Indeed, so teetering was my pile of books that the very charming owner rushed over and took them off me as I browsed, putting them aside for safe-keeping. Apparently new stock is arriving all the time, so I shall definitely visit again.
Clearly the day-out was now over (seven new books to be taken home and read), so the Shire Horse Centre has to wait for another day, as must the pub that caught my husband's eye (never let a man catch sight of a venue that sells beer AND appears to have helicopters landing in and taking off from its back garden) - who knew Northwich was such a draw?
The Hollies Farm Shop is on Forest Road, Little Budworth, Cheshire CW6 9ES; The Bookstore at Oakmere is on Chester Road, Oakmere, Northwich, Cheshire CW8 2HB.