Gladstone & the Good Life – Hawarden, North Wales

Family ties

The Gladstones’ longest established business is Pedlars, which sells stylish vintage items, with a shop and café in Notting Hill and what is known as Pedlars Towers in Hawarden. However more recent projects have included the award-winning Hawarden Estate Farm Shop and the successful refurbishment of the Glynne Arms in the centre of the village, which takes its name from the family of Catherine Glynne, Gladstone’s wife, and recalls Charlie’s ancestors throughout its décor.

Treats at the Hawarden Estate Farm Shop

Another success has been the Good Life Experience, a festival focusing on music, food, crafts and the great outdoors that has just celebrated its third year, which Charlie and Caroline run with musician and presenter Cerys Matthews and her husband in the grounds of their home, Hawarden Castle. “I had always wanted to do a festival,” says Charlie, who worked in the music industry in the 1990s and discovered the Charlatans. “And I had been toying with the notion of the Good Life – it somehow became relevant after the crash in 2008. A lot of the old rubbish like luxury handbags or whatever began to feel a bit tired and making your own things and growing your own food came back into fashion.”

At the right sort of time, Charlie bumped into Steve “Abbo” Abbot, husband of Cerys Matthews, and the two couples took on the challenge of creating their own festival. As well as music, “there’s an enormous range of craftspeople”, explains Charlie. “Coracle-makers, potters, axe-throwers. Lots of British crafts and British food.”

By anyone’s standards, running several different businesses at once is no small feat. Where does Charlie’s drive come from: is it innate or does it come from having to look after what he has inherited?

“Part of it is innate,” he replies. “My most famous ancestor was properly energetic, but I think part of it,” he stops to think. “What is in me is a very strong sense of duty and that manifests itself in trying to better the place.” He smiles. “But there’s also an element of trying to prove that I’m not just a gadfly.”

You don’t have to spend very long with Charlie Gladstone to realise that he is not, in anyway, a gadfly. Sensitive and warm, he is absolutely brimming with enthusiasm and ideas. “What we have got which is really exciting – as well as not massively long lives – is an amazing blank canvas. I’m very proud of our estate, and it is really well run, but someone else does that… What l can do is make a difference with this,” he gestures to the farm shop behind us and the fields beyond it, where tents for the festival are starting to go up.

The Glynne Arms, built around 1812, takes its name from Gladstone’s wife’s family. Spot the crossed axes above the fireplace

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