Which retailers are right for our High Street?

Two news items caught my attention in the last couple of weeks. Firstly, Martin Freeman was featured in the Ashbourne News Telegraph discussing his search for a suitable site for a Starbucks in Ashbourne. He argued that without the major national brands a town like Ashbourne will wither and die. His point was based on the young people of Ashbourne demanding ‘brands’ or they won’t return when they have completed their education and commuters who live in the town will not visit the centre.

Taking the obvious vested interest to one side I suppose I concur with the strategic analysis but disagree with the solution. Continue reading

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Drinking a toast to success

On Friday night I attended a wine tasting with a difference at QEGS. I’ve attended wine tastings before and even bought wine as a result. I’m no connoisseur and I realise I have no memory for what I’ve tasted. I do know whether I like or don’t like the wine but so much good wine is meant to be eaten with food which makes it difficult to judge properly.

I’m certainly no fan of the snobbishness around wine. I’ve been to a French supermarkets and been bewildered by the varieties on offer. I normally go by colour, strength and price. I can just about swirl a sample in a glass with enough vigour to aerate but not too much vigour to distribute the contents more widely. I’ve learnt the art of tipping the wine and letting the ‘legs’ form on the sides of the glass – I can do it but I’m not really sure why. I can dip my nose into the glass and breathe in and even pick out the odd notes but they seldom match the notes on the label. If it’s not anything I am likely to have encountered in a yoghurt I am very unlikely to identify it. Continue reading

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Belper Crowned Best Market Town in Great British High Street Competition

Visit Peak District & Derbyshire

Celebratory ImageBelper

We are delighted to be able inform you that Belper has been crowned as the Winner of the Market Town category of the Great British High Street and also the Winner of Winners in this year’s competition.

Belper Winner Of Winners

Winner – Belper, Derbyshire

  • WinnerBelper is blessed with a wonderful history as a World Heritage Site but has much to offer as a thriving market town as well. The judges felt that this outstanding application demonstrates how much more can be done to transform an outwardly successful town centre into a go-to destination for locals and visitors alike.
  • The majority of ideas and innovations pouring from Belper Vision have been taken forward by volunteers and it is the scale of the involvement and collaboration from the community that the judges found as impressive as the solutions they are delivering. These include working with a public transport operator to provide branded buses on routes…

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Rumour has it (wrong?)

RumoursIn the North of England the “celebration” of Mischief Night still endures. When I was a youngster it was a far bigger deal than the American Hallowe’en. On the 4th of November young miscreants would forget the Treat and spend the evening Tricking. Generally these were harmless pranks but in some places it became knock-a-door-run and even mindless vandalism.

I’d not thought about it for years and I assumed that Hallowe’en had replaced it in the British psyche. I’ve had to have second thoughts in the light of recent events. I think we may have some mischief makers in our midst… or maybe there is no smoke without fire.

Fear is a terrible, disabling force. Where fear is justified it keeps us from danger or from being disadvantaged by the unexpected. Irrational fear is paralysing however. Continue reading

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Keeping manufacturing in Derbyshire


I keep being told that people will buy our SwearPig but the product needs to be cheaper!

With the UK manufacturing getting smaller and smaller, I thought it would be a great idea to try to keep some manufacturing in the UK and indeed Derbyshire. I may not add very much to the GDP of the UK by doing this but imagine if all manufacturers did do it!

I recently had a meeting with a local potter near to Belper, Derbyshire where I live. I had been speaking to some large pottery manufacturers in Stoke on Trent but wanted to try potters nearer to home.

And guess what?
He can make the SwearPig cheaper than a large manufacturer in Stoke n Trent! Yay for persistence! 🙂

In essence, the potter can’t do substantial numbers BUT I can at least get the ball rolling with a few bespoke designs. In that…

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Building for lifeBy this time a few people will have attended one of the Neighbourhood Plan workshops. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. For those who didn’t make it I would heartily recommend going along to any future running a. Whether or not you want to engage in the Neighbourhood Plan process, the exercise which was led by the team was enlightening.

We take the planning process for granted. We assume that our Councillors and the Derbyshire Dales Planning department know what they are doing and they will make the right decisions on our behalf. What we don’t realise is just how much subjectivity is involved in the process. At the moment we are at the mercy of Sustainability as the only tissue paper standing between a building free-for-all and retaining some form of community with Ashbourne’s values and a place where the next generation may want to live. Continue reading

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My Volvo V40 D2 has matured

volvoI’m now over 70,000 miles into the Volvo V40 D2 and overall I’m pretty satisfied. No time like the present though to give an overview of how the car drives as it gets well into middle age. Although I’ve owned it for 18 months it is actually over two years old now – it was a low mileage demonstrator when I bought it in snowy weather in January 2013. I estimate I’ve now been sitting in the car for the equivalent of 50 days and nights solid so I notice everything and the impact is magnified accordingly.

The negatives are honestly few and far between. There is an annoying groan sometimes when I pull away from a queue on a hill, either the brakes are binding slightly or there is an issue in the suspension somewhere. This isn’t new – it’s just one of those things that didn’t really seem a problem but have a greater resonance after lots of miles.

I also have an occasional problem with the sound system and the Bluetooth. It occasionally freezes (once every couple of months). In those circumstances the iPod connection suddenly stops responding to the controls and the Bluetooth picks up a phone but won’t let me connect the call to play through the speakers. It’s minor stuff but it seems to happen just as the key call comes in. I find myself swapping between my two phones as the call invariably arrives at the wrong one and remains unanswered. While on the subject of the sound system the basic system is good quality but it needs to be. The car isn’t whisper quiet like the German fleet cars, especially on motorways, but probably standard or even above-standard for this class of car.

The build quality seems to have stood the test of time well – and it’s had a fair test from the miles, a family of four and a dog. After the problem with the sunblind in the early days (which were mentioned in the earlier blogs) it’s been pretty trouble free. My only gripe is with the handle on the folding boot tray. It’s made of rubber and it has torn at one of the wire brackets. I can still lift the tray but it really hasn’t had excessive wear and tear and should still be in one piece.

The gear box is good with the only exception of first gear. I sometimes still struggle to hit first gear with an annoying tendency to keep it in third. My final negative observation is that the drive is quite juddery when turning corners when driving uphill. It feels that there isn’t quite enough weight in the front of the car to hold it to the road

But there is so much good about the car too. By this stage I had assumed I would be starting to get a few niggles. I’ve had new brake pads and discs. All the tyres have been changed but there haven’t been any tear-jerking bills yet. More exciting is that the fuel consumption seems to be getting better and better. I’m averaging around 57 mpg with a very high percentage of my driving being over the same journey – my daily 110 mile commute. It’s a mixture of country roads, dual carriageway, motorway and urban crawl so a pretty good test. My record is 74.2 mpg over the sixty mile journey there and just under 70 mpg on the way home. You can knock off 7 mpg for the difference between the trip computer and what my spreadsheet shows unfortunately but it is still pretty impressive.

It’s a comfortable car too. The seats are really good no matter how long the journey is. I get out at the other end of a 400 mile day and still feel fine. With the heated seats even the autumn mornings are fine and the windscreen clears from frost very quickly too with the blower on full. As the dark nights kick in the headlights are useful too. The intelligent xenon, corner-following lights are excellent. They are bright anyway but the added safety is appreciated. The washers and wipers are very good at keeping the view clear too.

If I can get another 40,000 miles of trouble free motoring out of it, the Volvo D2 will rank pretty highly in the cars I have driven. It’s no sports car – I still hesitate before overtaking but it does look good still. It does serve as a good all-round family car. We’ve packed it to the rafters to get children back to university and we’ve comfortably packed for a family of four to go on holiday for a week, with more of a squeeze for a fortnight. A large dog happily sits in the boot space. There is decent legroom in the back as well. My finally observation is nothing to do with the Volvo V40 but more a point about where we live and the type of driving I do. Never, repeat never, have a white car again! The particular characteristics of the Volvo are that it traps the dirt in the recess around the rear registration plate, at the top of the rear windscreen under the rear rood overhang and in the recesses under the door handles – no automatic washer gets close.

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Food Miles in practice

Nigel's Butchers

Nigel’s Butchers

I am a big advocate of Try Ashbourne First. Before you buy anything online at least think about whether you could buy it in one of our independent retailers. I firmly believe that you will be surprised at just what is available and how cheap it is. I’m sick and tired of hearing about the “lack of choice” from people I hardly ever see making their way into our town centre but are happy driving down to Marks and Spencer’s. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the satisfaction of foraging and how food collected by hand somehow tastes better. The same is true of shopping locally. Good, fresh, locally sourced produce will always be better than something which has been processed, frozen, packaged, carried on a van for a couple of hundred miles and then has rested for a couple of days on the shelf. Continue reading

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Ashbourne bunting saved by Ashbourne!

Route progress

The bunting fundraising has continued to demonstrate that, with a clearly defined target, and with a local issue, Ashbourne folk and businesses dig deep. The original target of £5000 has been smashed and so in our virtual journey around the town we have made it to the finish. Last time we stopped on the Trees estate – a good place to stop and ponder the planning applications which are currently being considered by our local authorities. Continue reading

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October 30, 1914

Cracking read as ever

Great War Reports

fireworks web

R. Ward of St John Street decided on a topical approach to promoting the sale of fireworks – claiming they were suitable for blowing up the German Emperor.

On Page 5 one headline in particular catches the eye; although it does not stand out typographically the story demands to be read:

Derby lad wins VC.
Thrilling account of British pluck.

The lengthy account, credited to the Wesley Brotherhood Magazine told how 19-year-old Driver Fred Osbourne together with Sgt Major Farrell and Gunner Darbyshire of the Royal Horse Artillery, dubbed “The Undaunted Three” made a gallant stand after all other men in their battery had been killed or wounded in a fierce battle with German guns. Despite being wounded themselves and having a shortage of ammunition they used precision firing to knock out 12 German guns one by one.

Page 6 of the Telegraph carries a short report on the death…

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