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.
The journey takes us past Hilltop school and on to Premier Avenue. We can see the emerging Willow Meadow Farm development of “luxury homes”, now bizarrely and dreadfully named Saxon Fields, and the stumps of the trees that had to go for road widening. We should enjoy the glimpses of green fields while we can – although oddly the advertisements for anyone interested in living on Saxon Fields have illustrations of leafy trails through woodland where Caucasian families can cycle joyfully (with small print at the bottom of the page clarifying that the images are for illustrative purposes only). Through the houses we can see the excellent Ark, the Bowls club and the Ashbourne Golf Club. All will be familiar either though fund raising events or the excellent facilities they provide for parties. From up here too you can hear events at Darley Moor.
The walk down Premier Avenue is a steep one. The sand boxes at the side of the road hint at the challenges the Winter brings in this part of the town. Anyone with a 4×4 has a few days of smug motoring while everyone else needs a shovel to get their cars on the drive. When the estate was first built it was known as Upper Tin Town. The houses opposite the old Nestle plant (and below the bottom end of the Premier Avenue cul de sac was known as Tin Town after the product being manufactured by in the factory. There is a pedestrian access down to Tin Town and these streets are a fun place to visit near Christmas. The houses here are dressed to the nines in lights better than anywhere in town.
Of course, at the bottom of the hill, is the Waterside development. It was its own source of planning stories in the Ashbourne News Telegraph with the ridiculous delays in getting the pathway built, the change of use amendments to the original planning permission and the arrival of Marks and Spencer’s. The Elim Church here is yet another great community facility in the town. We make our way past the end of Homebase, past the site of our new and eagerly anticipated Aldi, and down to The Hug statue – an iconic image which hints again at Ashbourne’s heritage.
As we make our way back towards town along Mayfield Road there are more stories which have graced the Ashbourne News Telegraph – the mown poppies in the cemetery, the St Oswald’s Hospital development (more luxury homes) – before arriving by the beautiful St Oswald’s Church. It sits in an oasis of calm and it’s spire is visible from all directions. The great Georgian buildings are visible from here too; the old grammar school and the Mansion House. We cut through to the Leisure Centre as it is being renovated after the Swimming Pool arson attack and the upgrading of the gym. Sadly the repeated vandalism to the skate park also made the news. Since the demise of the Green Man this is also the venue for the Shrovetide Lunch.
We come out by the old railway station which suffered at the hands of Dr Beeching like so many others. Ashbourne artist Stuart Avery painted the well-known Shrovetide painting which contain over 200 local faces. He is now about to do the same with a picture of Ashbourne station in its pomp. There are a number of distinctive buildings in this area which hint at the railway heritage. I am going to take a diversion at this point onto North Leys. It offers some very good views over the town but also contains the marvellous Ashbourne business – William Haycock – clock makers and precision engineers. The workshops are a thing of beauty and they have been producing handmade English clocks for almost 200 years.
Back down onto Station Street and we can go past the excellent Panda Express takeaway and into Compton. We are on the final retail journey now and there are some people to celebrate and thank on the way. Benny’s contributed a huge £2500 to the bunting fund and the owners are investors in the town. They recently purchased properties on the market square so there are hints of news stories to come too! We pass Pachacuti – a model independent retailer whose owner Carry Somers was behind the inaugural worldwide Fashion Revolution Day highlighting the hidden stories behind our clothes. We also have Nigel Brown’s butchers owned by another Ashbourne supporter and fundraiser. As we turn into Church Street we need to thank Bennett’s, the Smith’s Tavern and Young Ideas for their substantial donations to the bunting fund before finally we finish our journey by turning into the Market Square and return to the. Ashbourne News Telegraph who organised and donated themselves. Well done to Carolyn Bointon in particular.
Hopefully the journey has made us appreciate the scale of the Ashbourne bunting and what a little bit of community engagement can achieve. I don’t want to be churlish but this has been achieved entirely by local businesses and people. There have been no donations from the developers, estate agent chains, major supermarkets – the ones with the most to contribute. Stuart Lees and the volunteers still need assistance in getting the bunting up and taking it down and would like to hear from anyone who can get involved.