Shropshire village named 'Britain's poshest' - but locals don't know what to make of it
A north Shropshire village has been declared the poshest in the UK . . . and the locals don't quite know what to make of it.
Chetan Koyani can barely contain his laughter. "Do I look like I'm posh?" he says, from behind the post office counter at Hodnet Village Store.
Jean Powell is also quite amused. "I've been looking for my tiara, but I can't find it," she quips.
Martin Board, who runs the village pub, also joins in the banter.
"Here are the two poshest cleaners," he says, gently ribbing two members of his staff.
Anyhow, we had all better be minding our Ps and Qs, given that we are in the UK's poshest village.
According to The Times, that accolade now falls to the north Shropshire village of Hodnet, about six miles south west of Market Drayton.
This places it above illustrious locations such as Braemar in the Scottish Highlands, Burnham Market in Norfolk, and the medieval riverside village of Castle Combe in Wiltshire. Footballer's favourite Alderley Edge also makes the list in ninth place, although one or two eyebrows may be discretely raised at the inclusion of somewhere which has in recent years been associated with the noveau riche.
The Times attributed much of Hodnet's desirability as being down to the £2 million refurbishment of The Bear Inn, which has transformed a tired village local into a stylish gastropub and boutique hotel, attracting customers from across the region and beyond.
Sitting in the reception area at the rear of The Bear is the man in charge. Chef Martin Board who runs the pub with his wife Mel, took over at The Bear following the completion of the two-year refurbishment in 2021.
He is delighted that the village has been recognised, but is not sure that 'posh' is quite the word he would use to describe it.
"'Posh' can be interpreted as an offensive description," he says.
"You get a diverse range of different people come in here, some with money, some without.
"You don't get people walking around in designer cuban heels.
"It's great for the village, though, everybody's talking about it. The Bear came out of it really well."
Martin said the pub's refurbishment was very much the brainchild of Tom Heber-Percy, whose family lives at the historic Hodnet Hall across the road from The Bear, and owns much of the property in the village. The restaurant now features in the Michelin Guide, and holds three AA rosettes.
General manager Chloe Turner, Hodnet born and bred, is delighted that the village is enjoying its moment in the spotlight. But she also wonders if 'posh' is quite the word to describe it.
"I wouldn't say I'm posh," jokes Chloe, who is in her mid-30s.
"It's a lovely village. The thing I like best is the sense of camaraderie, everyone looks out for each other. My grandmother's 88 now, and lived here all her life."
Like many young people growing up in rural areas, Chloe left Hodnet in her 20s for a crack at life in the big city, and went to work in London. But the coronavirus outbreak gave her the urge to return to the village.
"For me, that was the call to come back. A lot of my contemporaries in London did the same," she says.
Chloe believes the transformation of The Bear is one of the reasons why Hodnet was chosen for the accolade, and says the phone has been ringing off the hook from people wanting to stay since the article first appeared.
"It's been great, it can only bring more people in and more visitors to the county. We also get people who live nearby, we get people from Wolverhampton coming to stay at The Bear."
A few strides away from The Bear is another of the village's big attractions, The Character Jug Co run by ceramic artist Mike Powell, who produces hand-decorated tableware for those with discerning tastes. He proudly shows off the plates he decorated for Prince William's marriage to Kate Middleton in 2011.
The 69-year-old moved into Hodnet with wife Jean 23 years ago, and for many years they kept the village newsagent's. The couple were unaware that their village has been rated the poshest in the country.
Jean, who is 68, says: "I wouldn't say it's posh, but it's nice. The people are very friendly. I was born and brought up in Shrewsbury, and we just fancied a change."
Mike adds: "I wouldn't have said it was posh, but when you live here, you don't really notice. I suppose if you are coming from the middle of a big city you might think it seems posh."
Over at Hodnet General Store, owner Chetan Koyani seems quite amused by all the attention the village has been getting.
"They'll be putting all the prices up now, and I won't be able to afford anything," he quips.
"It can't be that posh, they don't buy my wine."
Chetan, 41, who took over the shop and post office two-and-a-half years ago, is better placed than most to judge, having previously lived in London, Cheltenham and Derby. He reckons Hodnet is the best place he has lived.
"London and Derby were the worst, they were nothing like Hodnet," he says.
"I moved here because I thought it would be a nice place for my two kids to grow up in.
"It's a good place to live, the school is good, you have the countryside in the surrounding area, and everything you need is within 10-15 miles."
Village florist Dorne Vernon-Tew can also claim a royal connection, having produced the bouquets for the Queen's visit to Lichfield Cathedral in 2011.
Originally from Wrexham, the owner of Mulberry Bush Studios moved to Hodnet 30 years ago, having also lived in London.
Dorne is thrilled that Hodnet is finally enjoying its day in the spotlight, and says the restoration of The Bear has given the whole village a boost.
"It's great, it's amazing. I'm so proud of Tom (Heber-Percy)," she says.
"It was his dream of creating a lovely destination, and what he has done is wonderful. He knew he was creating somewhere special. He is a young man who knows what he wants.
"Hodnet Hall gardens are also amazing."
Britain's poshest villages – the full list
Saltaire, near Bradford, West Yorkshire
Forest Row, near Crawley, Sussex
Abersoch, Llyn Peninsular, Gwynedd
Church with Chapel Brampton, Northants
Castle Combe, near Chippenham, Wiltshire
Alderley Edge, Cheshire
Burnham Market, Norfolk
Studland, near Poole, Dorset
Harome, near York
Great Tew, near Banbury, Oxfordshire
Ballygally, near Larne, County Antrim
The Witterings, near Chichester, Sussex
Hopeman, near Elgin, Moray
St Mawes, Cornwall
Mells, near Frome, Somerset
Solva, near St David's, Pembrokeshire
Walberswick, near Southwold, Suffolk
Barningham, near Darlington, County Durham
Mumbles, near Swansea, Glamorgan