When’s the last time you ventured into a new shop while out-and-about in Chester? If you’ve walked past Wildwood you’re missing out. Here we shine a spotlight on the indoor garden cafe with a difference that’s settling in just fine on St Werburgh Street…
She was a secondary school teacher for more than 12 years, but swapping the classroom for a calming oasis of flowers was a dream move for one new businesswoman.
Aubyn is the force behind Wildwood Event Florals, the shop she lovingly restored from its former days as a building society, that’s nestled in among a row of shops on St Werburgh Street, opposite Chester Cathedral. It’s a gem of a place – but you really need to step inside to fully appreciate what it has to offer.
There’s 80s music playing in the background and there’s tea, artisan coffee and locally sourced cake to entice you, too, but the flowers are the real stars of this indoor garden cafe. They are as bright and as colourful as you’d expect from any good florist shop – except the ones at Wildwood are all made of silk.
“I want people to come in and see just how good artificial flowers are,” she says. “The amount of people who walk in and don’t realise the flowers aren’t real – some even bend down to smell them!”
She opened Wildwood in August 2021 with the aim of highlighting just how beautiful and cost-effective silk flowers can be. While the initial outlay may be higher than for fresh flowers, she says, her silk creations are everlasting. You need never replace them.
“My style of floristry is a bit wild and free-form,” says Aubyn. “I like making things look natural, so that’s lots of ivy, shooting off in lots of directions.”
Her skill is in creating structures and as well as running the shop she dresses venues. Some of her creations can also be found outside her near neighbours in the city centre, Duttons and The Botanist.
As well as offering a drop-in service, Aubyn also creates bespoke bouquets and wreaths. “I get people bringing in grave pots and vases and they drop them off and say they’ll pick it up next week. Others come in and pick individual flowers and I’ll wrap them – just like a fresh florist,” she says.
There are wreath-making workshops throughout the year, both in the shop and elsewhere: Aubyn is happy to take the workshops to other business premises.
Liverpool-born Aubyn is happy, too, that she made the transition from teacher to florist and that she opened her first shop in Chester. She began as a hobby florist and started a flower business while she was still teaching. When it took off, she switched from teaching to floristry and set off on her first adventure into the world of retail with the opening of Wildwood.
The renovation was a labour of love. Her long-standing friend, joiner George Walker, hand-carved pieces for the interior and together they worked for months to transform it from a soul-less office into a welcoming oasis. Aubyn’s flower garlands and wreaths adorn the walls and there are hand-made rustic wooden benches and tables, a beamed ceiling and wooden floorboards.
They spent a winter using hand axes to uncover the original floor, which lay underneath concrete and chipboard. It was a process that took months of hard work. They put in the ceiling beams themselves and used reclaimed pitch pine to clad the walls.
So, why Chester?
Aubyn was attracted to the city because of its charm, unique vibe and great business community, she says.
“Chester is beautiful,” she adds. “It has this lovely mix of village, town and city, and all the businesses around here are full of lovely people. It’s like a community, which is quite rare.
“I’ve been coming to Chester since I was little. We used to get dressed up. You’d come shopping to Chester to feel like a princess,” she adds.
Aubyn is proud of Wildwood and is proud to welcome customers both old and new into her world of silk flowers, coffee, tea and cake. She will also welcome your dog, too. Wildwood is doggie friendly and very soon they’ll have their own, special menu.
Wildwood is usually open from 11am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday, but if the light is on when you walk past on your way home from work, she’s more than happy to pour you a coffee or rustle up a pot of tea while you step in to admire her silky creations. She’s often there later in the day, prepping the flowers. The shop’s mellow, wooden floorboards, she says, look stunning in the evening light.
- For more details visit wildwoodeventflorals.co.uk, search for Wildwood Event Florals on Facebook and Instagram or email Aubyn on firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wildwood is available to hire in the evenings for meetings and events. Single or block bookings welcome
- Wildwood is at 27 St Werburgh Street, Chester CH1 2DY