The Times Saturday January 16th 2010MYSTERY GUEST – Wizards Thatch, Alderley Edge, Cheshire
Even locals in Alderley Edge, the village popular with wealthy Manchester business folk (and footballers), have not heard of Wizards Thatch.
When I said I was staying at Wizards my taxi driver took me to a pub with that name, which was closed, on a deserted country lane about a mile from my five–room guest house. As I stood stranded by the road in early evening darkness wondering what to do, however, a friendly local stopped by. She did not know Wizards Thatch but drove me to the centre of Alderley Edge, where I eventually came to a hidden–away, ivy–covered thatched cottage.
It was worth the wait. Through a creaky wooden gate, I found myself in a tiny yard hung with handkerchief–sized red, yellow and blue Buddhist prayer flags. Beyond was another yard with a circular table, on which empty bottles of champagne were neatly placed.
I pressed a buzzer. There was no reply. I pressed it again: nothing. Then I rapped on the window, and a slightly-hunched grey-haired man, Ian Lambert, the owner appeared in an eclectic entrance chamber not much bigger than a telephone box and decorated with old newspaper cuttings. He shook my hand, and told me that the 400-year–old cottage was once the family home for his five sons, who had grown up.
My room, the Merlin suite, required me to duck through a low doorway and climb a short, creaky staircase covered in plush red carpet. This led to a terrific space with ancient beams and plaster panels painted in eye-catching reds, golds and blues (a look described as “Jacobean extravaganza”). There was a large tan leather sofa, a desk on which stood a pile of Elle magazines and a mini game of skittles, a side–table with a burgundy–coloured kettle, a neat microwave oven and a flat-screen TV with a stack of DVD’s.
Up a couple of steps I found myself in a charming bedroom, with a four-poster bed with a red duvet and pillows filling almost the entire space. A creaky door led to a small shower room with plush red towels.
It was extremely comfortable, cosy, spotless and full of intrigue, without being odd.Old Punch magazine cartoons and newspaper front pages covered the walls, including a copy of The Macclesfield Courier & Herald from September 1875, announcing harvest thanksgiving services and “emigration to Queensland: free passages are given to female domestic servants of good character”.
Rows of old ginger beer bottles lined little shelves, and there were books on great Cheshire walks and the county’s best pubs.
The name Wizards Thatch comes from a local legend that a wizard encountered King Arthur in these parts. The only thing that rankled was the missing apostrophe in the name. Wizards is a great discovery (once you actually find it).
The Mystery Guest paid £119. Room 9.5 out of 10 Service 9 Value 9 Score 9.17