The joy of small communities

Why shopping local makes a difference, and cow of the week!

Welcome to the pre-Christmas edition of the newsletter! Happy Winter Solstice too!

This will be our first Christmas in Derbyshire. I was hoping for snow but I think I might be unlucky on that score!

I want to thank you for reading my little missives, and allowing me to share my piece of the world with you.

Chris, Bamber and I send you our best wishes. This year may be a bit different to how you might have planned it, but we hope you will still be able to have a very Happy Christmas.

I had a realisation this week …

Wherever we go, I audio describe the route and the journey for Chris, picking out milestones, places, pub names, interesting landmarks. It helps him map the bumps in the road, the twists and turns to a visual landscape. Much of the view here regularly consists of fields, trees, sheep, cows.

It was only today that it occurred to me that there are no billboards, no advertising hoardings, no flashing neon lights declaring someone’s wares. There are discreet signs for hotels, restaurants, shops, local produce - coffee and ice cream next right at Tagg Lane is one of my favourites.

So different to most routes into Manchester, for example. I remember so many mornings, stuck in traffic, and being a captive audience for the rotating calls to action by the side of the road. I don’t miss them.

When we said we were moving to the Derbyshire countryside, one of our neighbours in Chorley said she could never do that as she would miss the shopping! I’ve never been a huge fan. Apart from stationery, tech and outdoor boots, I don’t feel the urge to shop. I like the idea of shopping local - perhaps we’ve gone back a few decades but I’m enjoying the exchanges we have with the shopkeepers.

Yesterday I went into A L Hulme, purveyors of fish, poultry and game for the first time. I’d admired the green mosaic tiled building from across the road, and peered into the window to check out the range of typically rural produce. Wild boar, venison, rabbit, pheasant.

This past week I took a photograph of the fishmongers and, as I started editing it, I spotted the beam of light coming from the back of the shop. It’s become a favourite shot.

I knew that they had seen my photograph on Instagram and I mentioned it when I went in yesterday to buy some salmon. We had a nice chat about it and I told them about my Explore Peak Park project and asked if they would be up for that. They said, yes!

These exchanges happen wherever we go. They know us in the sweet shop, the cheese shop, the bakers, the butchers and, of course, the stationery shop! We’re on first name terms. They know our backstory. We’re not anonymous.

There’s a sense of connection that’s often missing in big shops. There’s a vibe about the local shops that I’ve not experienced for a long time. We get a warm welcome wherever we go.

I’ve been trying to work out what’s different. We’ve had meaningful conversations in so many places. People are genuinely interested in who we are and what we do. I’ve concluded that a lot of this is one of the happy side effects of living at a gentler pace. There’s a true sense of community.

I noticed this when I was first looking for a waterproof hat. We tried a number of country outfitter shops in Ashbourne. Where they didn’t stock what I was looking for, they each suggested someone else who might. There’s a sense of cooperation rather than competition. I like that. And it makes sense. These small towns and villages survive because of collaboration. The businesses all depend on each other and on the locals to support them.

We’ve had a fairly uneventful week. We’ve had a few trips into Ashbourne. The first to collect a Christmas present for me, from Chris. I know it’s stationery because it came from Little Paperie! There are no real secrets when you’re blind. Chris messaged Lucy and Heidi, and they wrapped everything for him as well. While Chris is sorting his shopping, I stand outside!! It’s how we do things!

On Friday we called in at Tagg Lane for my weekly cow fix!

Until next time, thank you for reading.