Christmas gifts the Derbyshire way - local festive gifts and hampers
PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 December 2016
If you turn into Scrooge the minute someone mentions Christmas shopping, why not relax and try sourcing your presents from closer to home. Claire Bore has been on the hunt for the best local festive gifts
Nothing says Christmas quite like a luxurious hamper and there is something slightly decadent about receiving one. Oozing luxury and mouth-watering treats, a Christmas hamper is arguably the perfect Christmas gift and can easily be personalised.
While hampers originated in medieval times (wicker baskets were used), it wasn’t until affluent Victorian families began the tradition of giving them as gifts to staff that the concept of the Christmas hamper was born.
Today, we are spoilt for choice with offerings of home-made food and cleverly crafted products, and Derbyshire is the perfect place to find the ultimate Christmas hamper or gift box. The county’s produce is so popular that celebrities are queuing up for a little bit of Derbyshire – Mick Jagger, Tom Stoppard and HRH The Prince of Wales have all ordered hampers from Chatsworth Farm Shop over the years.
So why are these individualised gifts so popular? ‘A lot of people get to the point where they don’t know what to buy. A gift hamper of food is a nice gesture. There is such a varied range and you can make things up to suit. It’s a nice surprise – people think: “What is coming in the box?” It is a real treat,’ says Claire Millner, Director of Hartington Cheese & Wine Co and Hartington Creamery. For Sarah Hobson, who makes personalised bespoke gift hampers, it’s about the ‘wow’ factor, ‘Giving something that you haven’t just walked into a shop for – a personalised gift that can be treasured.’
Hartington Cheese hampers are that extra bit special. Popular with locals and tourists alike, The Old Cheese Shop is set behind Hartington’s quaint village pond. The hampers are extra special because a lot of their cheese is made just two miles away. ‘In 2012 we opened the dairy and then in 2015 we got the Stilton licence. We’re really proud to be one of only six companies in the world allowed to make Stilton. It gives us a little edge,’ says Claire. ‘We make a lot of the cheese ourselves, so we are quite unique.’
With eye-catching pink Red Windsor (port and brandy), and moreish Irish Porter (stout runs through it), Hartington’s cheese is popular all year round but at Christmas things get even busier – other tempting flavours include white Stilton with mulled wine, mince pie, chocolate orange and luxury fruit and brandy cheese, and there is always an element of excitement over the release of the Christmas specials, packed ready to ‘grab and go’. For some customers a trip to Hartington is part of their Christmas tradition. Others order hampers from as far away as the Isle of Skye and one customer calls from Australia each year to arrange for family hampers. There is also a ‘bespoke’ element, as Claire says: ‘We do offer a personal service and it’s fair to say the staff get to know their customers very well – especially at Christmas when they dictate personal messages for hampers and gift boxes. We’ve had to write some interesting messages over the years. It always puts a smile on our faces to know we are spreading Christmas joy.’ One to try: Hartington Cheese Luxury Hamper – a mouth-watering combination of cheeses, drinks (wine, bitter and port), chutneys, pâtés, crackers, biscuits and napkins, plus cheese knives and a board. It’s jam-packed with goodies and great value. Particular mention must go to the creamy melt-in-your-mouth Stilton, the refreshing lemon Wensleydale, the soft tones of the Cornish Yarg or the lightly sweetened and truly addictive Irish Porter – one tasty cheese that certainly won’t last the night! Call into the shop, phone 01298 84935 or go to www.hartingtoncheeseshop.co.uk
If you have a serious chocaholic to buy for, Holdsworth Chocolates should tick all your boxes. With over 30 years’ experience of making chocolates by hand, the factory in Bakewell has maintained its family ethos whilst growing on an international level; a family business that puts love and care into each chocolate. The proof is certainly in the eating! ‘Chocolates… they just are Christmas – aren’t they? Giving someone that gift… how can they not be pleased?’ says David Sharples, MD at Holdsworth Chocolates. ‘Christmas is huge for us. We are a traditional English chocolate maker, creating an affordable luxury. Our boxes are pretty special, one of the things we’ve tried to keep over the years is beautifully designed boxes, such as the Truly Scrumptious design. It helps when you have beautiful, striking packaging, and when the chocolates are fresh, really nice and handmade.’
Sold nationally in Waitrose and John Lewis, you can cut the queues and take a wander to the factory shop on Ashford Road, where you’re rewarded with the smell of chocolate making and can peek through a viewing window. ‘People are more discerning these days, they want to know about the ingredients. You are getting something very different with our chocolates, high quality chocolates made by hand,’ reasons David. With cutting edge flavours such as apple and chilli, as well as more traditional ones like peppermint, Champagne truffles and even Turkish delight, there is a plethora of choice. While their classic Champagne truffle remains Holdsworth’s signature chocolate they also look at trends, developing about one or two new chocolates every year. ‘Peanut butter is massive at the moment. We’ve just launched Crunchy Peanut Butter and Caramel Truffles,’ reveals David.
One to try: The Truly Scrumptious Hamper is a stunning showpiece. The handmade, keepsake, foil-embossed hamper trimmed with ribbon contains all seven of their handmade, individually boxed Truly Scrumptious Collections. There is something for everyone, whether you want to split the hamper up and distribute amongst friends or spoil someone with the whole collection. Available from John Lewis and Selfridges for £65. If you are looking for something smaller but equally impressive, try the on-trend Crunchy Peanut Butter and Caramel Truffles. A square enrobed truffle blended with peanut butter, wrapped in caramel and topped with milk chocolate and Cornish sea salt – far too good to share! Price £8. Order online at www.holdsworthchocolates.co.uk/shop or visit the factory shop.
Hampers don’t all have to be food and drink related. Nottingham-based Hobson’s Choice Crafts offers craft hampers with Christmas pillows, bunting and appliqué motifs – gifts for the Christmasaholic! ‘I make personalised bespoke gifts, cushions and anything fabric,’ explains Sarah Hobson.
As a stay-at-home mother of three girls, Sarah started sewing as a way of saving money.‘We couldn’t afford to get the girls pretty hearts and bunting, so I thought how tricky is it? Six years ago I started sewing and I’ve never looked back. I began by making things for the home and friends would ask where I’d bought something and be shocked when I said I’d made it.
People began asking me to make things for them and it just grew...People trust me to make special gifts for them – it is heart-warming and I do feel honoured. I’m asked to make cushions to celebrate special wedding anniversaries or birthdays and I just love it. I feel privileged. The feedback is always so lovely,’ says Sarah. ‘I had a request from a customer in Australia for wall hangers. They are quintessentially British, with a fairy cake, teapot and little sayings like Time for Tea.’ Don’t miss: The Family Hamper has a big family cushion, Christmassy bunting, ‘Santa Stop Here’ banner, elf sign and a personalised advent calendar. If you want to spoil one person, a hamper just for them will raise a few smiles. The Nana hamper is really popular and includes a personalised cushion. Individual items from £15. Hampers can even be hand delivered within the county for a small cost. For details visit hobsonschoicecrafts.co.uk or call 07964999963.
Each Christmas Chatsworth puts on a spectacular display and this year is no different – the house is set to dazzle with its Nutcracker theme. There is also some Christmas magic tucked away in the farm shop at Pilsley that is sure to satisfy the ‘foodie’ in all of us. After 34 years at the helm of all things food and drink, André Birkett, head of Chatsworth Farm Shop, is a professional in the art of making Christmas special. It’s an especially busy time of year but preparations get underway much earlier. ‘In terms of our Christmas produce you have to buy the food very early. It’s not small. We have to anticipate trends in May and then order massive amounts. It costs a lot so you have to get it right,’ he says.
The attention to detail is inspiring in an age of fast food and consumerism. At Chatsworth they take the time to get the best product, whether through working with local businesses on a particular product for Chatsworth or sourcing items that fulfil the Estate’s ethos. ‘Customers can be safe in the knowledge that a lot of consideration goes into it. All of the Chatsworth products have to go through a special quality check. We believe wholeheartedly in proper good food. We even decreased the label size on things like our lemon curd. You should be able to see what you are buying – what great quality it is. There is joy in seeing the product.’
A chandelier-lit marquee with a Christmas tree centrepiece has been set up in the courtyard to house pre-made Christmas hampers. Beautifully boxed and with themes such as the Prosecco hamper or wines in a handy tote. New for this year, customers can handpick products to design their own personal hamper, with selections expertly wrapped by staff. ‘The joy is they are done for you, you can put them away for Christmas and not have to worry about wrapping them up or making them look presentable and personable,’ says André Birkett. Don’t miss: The Afternoon Tea Hamper in a stylish yet understated black box tied with ribbon. You have the excitement of delving in to find the goodies amidst shredded red paper. These include an array of tea bags, coffee, biscuits, juices, cakes and jams. The Apple and Plum Brandy Fruitcake is particularly tasty – made with loving care. Add a log fire and a good book for the perfect Christmas! The Afternoon Tea Hamper is £60. Go to www.chatsworth.org for details and December shopping nights.
SOMETHING FOR CHILDREN
‘Sewing Wizardess’ Emma Turner from Bramble Rose, is so popular she takes Christmas orders in August. Christmas gifts include personalised candy cane pyjamas, as well as Christmas dolls and reindeer. Her products have a nostalgic quality and are built to last as either keepsakes or toys. ‘It’s nice to think that when children are putting out their Santa sacks on Christmas Eve I will have had a part in making those special memories. A little bit of Bramble Rose magic,’ says Emma.
This year Emma is stocking a limited edition of the favourite Cubbie – a harlequin reindeer with festive tartan – as well as a new rag doll called Eve. Both can be personalised and, according to Emma, it’s this personalisation that makes them extra special. ‘The magic is that it’s got that child’s or even adult’s name on. They are mementos, for example a first Christmas is always a landmark occasion. Time and time again I get feedback that it is all about those special family moments.They can have very personal messages. One little girl who keeps going into hospital, has a special doll she takes in with her.’
Don’t miss: The embroidered dolls or, for families, Candy Cane pyjamas are a firm favourite in our household. Items can be collected or posted out – prices from £6.50 for mini rag dolls www.bramble-rose.co.uk for details and online shop.
SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF
We all need a bit of pampering in our lives. An Elemis Christmas Gift Pack from Elegant Touch, based at Mercia Marina near Willington, will please even the toughest critic. There are gift boxes of all sizes for both men and women.
Shop owner Anna Bovey comments, ‘The sets are so much in demand that some are sold out by September! They are such good value that we find a lot of customers buy them for themselves. The Frangipani gift sets are always popular. With their comforting and relaxing blend of exotic aromatics, they are all about nourishing, which – let’s face it – we could all do with a bit of in winter.’
Don’t miss: The Skin Energy Secrets gift box containing the new high-tech Biotech Energising Skincare System, which claims to be ‘scientifically proven to re-boot skin’s performance for a thriving, vibrant and freshly revived complexion.’ The day cream is in two separate tubes that mix when you press the button. Priced at £87. www.eleganttouchuk.co.uk 01283 337614, www.elemis.com
Christmas evokes all the senses, but perhaps the most poignant in the festive season is that of smell. To really set the mood this Christmas Tutbury’s award-winning beauty salon, The Treatment Room, has gone one step further and created its own Christmas-themed candle.
‘Our Spa candle with tones of sherbet lemon, lime, vanilla and grapefruit proved such a big hit that we decided to release a limited edition Christmas candle,’ says manager Hayley McPherson. Called ‘Edition’, with notes of ylang-ylang, jasmine rose, sandalwood and some floral top notes, it oozes luxury and glamour. ‘I said to my candle maker that I’d like a candle based on Chanel No 5, maybe a more mellow version. It comes in gold packaging so it’s perfect for Christmas,’ says Hayley. The Treatment Room also stocks the ESPA range, including the ‘Wonder of ESPA Christmas Collection’, which is a blend of new limited editions, classic luxurious favourites and best-sellers.
Don’t miss: ESPA Sleep Therapy Collection – soothing aromatherapy notes of Frankincense and Myrrh blend with sensuous Ylang Ylang and Sandalwood in bath oil, body oil, a candle and Overnight Hydration Therapy. ESPA’s sophisticated Men’s Skincare Survival Kit is packed in an ingenious tin. The scents are immediately relaxing to help tame even the most stressed male. See www.thetreatmentroomtutbury.co.uk or call 01283 520700. Candles are priced from £12.99, The Wonder of ESPA Christmas products from £13, www.espaskincare.com.
THE SEASON OF GOODWILL
Finally, if you want to embrace the true meaning of Christmas, you can support a charity in Derbyshire, either by volunteering or providing a donation. The Derby-based Padley charity, for example, supports people who are struggling, www.padleygroup.com, tel: 01332 774480.
Wishing one and all a magical Christmas.