Invest in your home town by shopping local this Christmas

Sidmouth Christmas lights switch on 2021

Shop local this Christmas - Credit: Alex Walton

This time of year is beautifully choreographed to ease us into the bleak mid-winter, step by step.

September these days always seems like a bonus summer month, with many hot days and mild nights. The blackberry bushes fruit and thousands get out the old apple and blackberry crumble recipe. In many communities, carnival season and harvest festivals keep spirits high too.

When the trees turn to gold in October we feel a slight trepidation about the change of seasons, only for our streets to be filled with hilariously costumed children trick or treating, oblivious to any real meaning of Hallowe’en but having fun nonetheless.

Then the first slightly grim portent – the clocks go back. We gain an extra hour briefly but suddenly our days are ending earlier, journeys home from school or work done in darkness. Yet within a few days, we are filling the skies with fireworks and lighting bonfires or even, as in the amazing annual Ottery St Mary Tar Barrel madness, almost setting fire to ourselves!

Remembrance Sunday follows soon after that, one of the times in the year when church-going numbers are particularly boosted, and we all stand in silence in memory of the lost and wounded.

Thus far, therefore, we have eased through the end of summer to the gates of winter with much celebration and commemoration. And then, before we know it, we walk into a shop and Noddy Holder, for the 47th year running, is bellowing “IT’S CHRISTMAS” and we are on for the full six or seven weeks of Advent, Christmas and New Year.

So I am really delighted that East Devon District Council has managed to rustle up some money from the European Regional Development Fund’s “Welcome Back” fund to invest in promoting our local shops in the run-up to Christmas. The campaign strapline is #EastDevonly which is first being introduced within the Christmas campaign and will be then carried through to a tourism campaign launching in the New Year, promoting East Devon’s diverse and beautiful attractions.

As part of all this I am grateful to have these few hundred words to appeal to readers to please visit your local shops. They have an extraordinary range to offer, from clothes to antiques, cards to toys, art shops to diverse food retailers. And you can find absolutely diamond places in every high street in our villages and towns.

Here I have to pay tribute to the extraordinary investment of Axminster’s Ian Styles in the Axe Valley. In my own town of Colyton, he has taken what had been a derelict mill for our entire twenty years living here and converted it into a gym, a vet and a wet fish shop. Suddenly, a large area hidden behind a flint wall has been opened up alongside the river Coly, and one flank of the town has been restored.

In Axminster too he is responsible for saving and then transforming the much loved but eventually unsustainable Trinity House building at the very heart of the town. Today it has a lovely gift and card shop, the elegant Lou La Belle fashion emporium, an utterly brilliant independent bookshop, and on the upper floor with great views of the church green, the gorgeous Community Waffle House.

When I visited the other day they were all thriving, proving yet again that in addition to many other independent retailers in the town it really is a place where you can do some original and local Christmas shopping, and top it all off with a waffle.

Your money spent in your communities really makes a difference to local jobs and prosperity. Before you click on Amazon again – as we all do – please go out there and have a look. You’ll be met with smiling faces for sure. It’s your hard-earned money and if you think local first, you’ll be investing in your home town too.

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