It begins with a bang with the last tick over into the new year. The pubs in Ashbourne are heaving and the goodwill spreads around the town. Old friendships are rekindled, new friendships forms and, in some cases, friendships won and lost in the same night. The town is small enough that house parties can be walked to and walked back from safely. The Market Place is an excellent focal point when the clock strikes. Shortly afterwards the firework displays kick off around the town.
Ashbourne is a slightly eccentric place and one of our four slightly unusual events** takes place in January. Weather permitting the cobwebs can be blown away on New Year’s Day with a visit to the Mapleton Bridge Jump. This is always well attended. Teams paddle rafts down stream to the steeply arched bridge, jump off it into the cold River Dove and then finish by running to the pub. Some just come to do the bridge jump in costume. Definitely a way to start the new year with a jolt!
There’s varying support for the New Year’s resolutions. For those struggling to stay focused or to fulfil the keep fit option: the wonderful countryside is accessible year-round and the Tissington Trail stays passable for cyclists pretty much throughout. Early January sees all the local attractions well attended but this tails off towards the end of the month.
The build up to Shrovetide begins in two ways. Firstly the two people who have the honour of turning up the ball are announced. Typically they will be local characters, occasionally celebrities and often former players. It is the equivalent of the Ashbourne New Year’s Honours List. The second clue is the number of small groups out training. Wherever there is a hill you’ll find groups running to get in shape for the big event. By the end of February we are possibly the fittest town in the UK!
The local traders will have their January Sales like any other High Street so, while restocking the fridge and freezer, you can pick up some wrapping paper and cards for next year, some nice warm clothes using your present money, new wellingtons or walking boots to replace the ones you wore out last year, maybe an optimistic barbecue in expectation of the summer ahead.
January gives everyone a chance to recharge the batteries before the Ashbourne calendar really picks up pace again.
** For me the odd, but part of our culture, events are Mapleton Bridge Jump, Shrovetide, Highland Gathering and Dovedale Dash..I’m sure there are many more.