February is the month of romance.
Think of February and you think of Valentines Day – the opportunity to make someone aware of your feelings for them or the chance to remind the ones you love of just how much you care. Ashbourne has everything you need to make a really special gesture – if you look hard enough. It’s easy to buy a card and gift from a supermarket and throw it in the trolley but something done with a little more originality, care and love will go a long way.
In the run up to Valentines Day you will need a card – who knows: you may need a few! Best Wishes is a fabulous card shop run by one of the town’s most active and supportive traders. We were recently on holiday and shared a gite with a greetings card supplier who knew all about Ashbourne due to this shop. Cards are usually significantly cheaper than the high street chains and there is a huge selection from the comedy to the A3-sized padded overkill variety. Alternatives include the more limited but very interesting selection in Bennett’s, perhaps some handmade luxury in one of the galleries (Opus has some exquisite handmade ones), and the High Street chain providers.
You’ll need flowers too. We have some great florists who will work from Dawn to dusk to get all the deliveries out at this time of year. There are good everyday florists such as the Flower Cafe, the Flower Shop and Absolutely Fabulous but we also have an excellent designer florist with John Preston. His striking arrangements feature in a number of outlets around the town and you can visit his outlet at Preston’s Garage. As something different why not consider a living plant – you can by these in most of the florists but also at Fresh Choice or at the Fairways Garden Centre.
For the special people in your life why not look for a small token of your affection. Something personal or quirky. There are some great ideas ranging from some designed jewellery or a Pandora bead from Sellors or Avanti, some funky costume jewellery from Equatorial or the Olive Tree, or an interesting gift from Sticky Fingers or Bluebird. The galleries don’t just sell paintings – they have small pieces of glassware, pottery and jewellery which just might fit the bill and you won’t find another the same. I went to a few shops to see what they had available.
The Olive Tree have good artificial single red roses for a long term gift. They also have some small painted pebbles with romantic messages and tiny stoppered bottles of Love Dust to sprinkle around. Vintage Bluebird has probably the largest collection of heart shaped items – ornaments, coat hooks and wall hangings. They also have a really cute mug set which only shows the full tender message when the two mugs are together. Opus Gallery has the great cards but is having some locally-made porcelain hearts as a fragile but beautiful momento. If you plan well enough in advance you could demonstrate your undying love by taking the time to paint a mug or a plaque in Sticky Fingers.
Of course there is then the day itself which this year falls on a Friday. If you are working you can’t enjoy the lovely walks through misty countryside but for the lucky few a quiet walk through Dovedale would be a lovely way to spend some time together – possibly a tandem along the Tissington trail or a double kayak on Carsington Water? In the evening you want somewhere where you can talk without being overheard and a warm and cosy environment. If you plan to entertain your loved one at home you can buy the food of love with some Oysters from Hulme’s (there’s an R in the month) , some asparagus from Fresh Choice may just make it from the local growers or some beautiful chocolates at Bramhall’s.
If you want to go out The Dining Room is a wonderful place to eat with great food, an ambience which is bound to impress and an unhurried atmosphere right in the heart of town. Here’s a TryAshbourneFirst review I did recently – The Dining Room review. The Lamplight too has the right feel to it and so does Carletto. If you fancy something a bit spicier a meal under the red arches of The Basement Thai or the more modern environment of Red Chilli are in order – just make sure you match your garlic intake.
As ever…try Ashbourne First!