Putting Ashbourne on the map - new website to highlight the town's offering
PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 July 2016
Ashley Franklin Photography
Derbyshire Life talks to some of the traders behind a new website who are determined to unite to highlight all this gem of a town has to offer
ACTING as the gateway to the White Peak and the outstanding natural beauty of tourist honeypots such as Dovedale, many visitors pass through Ashbourne – but not all of them stop.
Those who do pass along the A515 heading into the Peak District National Park without making time for Ashbourne are missing out on a market town that has its own character and charm.
Rich in history, and centred around its cobbled Market Place, the town has a wealth of independent shops that you won’t find in the big city malls, a wide selection of cafés and restaurants and plenty of inns offering a warm welcome to residents and visitors alike.
While many market towns of a comparative size across the country have little to attract visitors and have empty retail units and a half-closed feel, Ashbourne is bustling and attractive.
With beautiful countryside on the doorstep and a range of attractions from historic stately homes to Alton Towers just a short drive away, Ashbourne should be a destination in its own right – it just needs to shout about it a little bit more.
That’s the view of Ashbourne residents and traders, who know they live in a gem of a town and who are eager to share it with as many people as possible.
That’s why a new website ashbourne.life has been launched which acts as a one-stop shop for locals and visitors alike. It’s a business directory, where firms and traders can advertise their services; it’s a guide to all that’s going on in and around the town; it’s where to discover places to eat and drink and, overall, it’s a showcase for a thriving, vibrant market town that has its own unique character.
You can check out accommodation for a holiday and get a feel for the town. If you live locally, it’s where to find out about local services and traders and where the town’s attractions are highlighted and celebrated.
Tony Grace and David Hidgcock, from the Ashbourne Life Retail Group, have been instrumental in bringing the website into life.
Tony said: ‘It came originally out of the old Ashbourne Partnership and I was on that board. The partnership folded and the new group took over the old domain name and eventually created the new site.
‘We are building it up for retailers, solicitors, dentists, garages... you name it. We started by being Ashbourne centric and have expanded it out from there.
‘It’s now all about continuing to generate the advertising support we need and making the website important to visitors and residents alike. We want people to come here, appreciate a good market town, understand it, and enjoy the ambience of the place.’
So whether you want to browse in the antique shops, find a place for lunch, or check out fashions in the independent clothes shops, the information is at hand at Ashbourne.life.
Tony believes that the town has so much to offer.
He says: ‘Ashbourne has it all – but it has been buried for some reason. We need to take a pick and shovel and open it all up and really go for it.’
Alan Matkin, from Avanti Jewellers in Dig Street, is one of the businessmen giving the project his full backing.
He says: ‘I have said for a long time that we need to market the town and not just act as individual traders. I believe every business is responsible for its own future but you have to contribute to the town a little bit as well. It’s important to think about marketing Ashbourne.
‘But it can’t be just a few people getting involved, it has to be everybody if we are going to make a success of it as a town.
‘I believe in Ashbourne, which is why I think showcasing the town is important.’
So what does Alan think is the distinguishing character of Ashbourne?
‘A lot of people are becoming fed up with the big shopping centres and their emphasis on the same brands,’ he says. ‘Even if you do like that, occasionally you might want to do some traditional shopping. The atmosphere here, especially on a sunny day, is special and completely different to a big city.’
Mick Gallimore, who runs the Ashbourne Shoe Company, agrees.
He says: ‘A lot of people like the individuality we have here. If you are coming away on holiday you don’t want to see the same things you have back at home. Those independent shops are our selling point and we must look after them. We want people to be able to walk round and see lots of different shops they want to walk into.’
Alan says that he doesn’t fear competition and welcomes new traders into the town.
‘People want choice,’ he says, ‘so rather than see new shops as competition, more shops just draw more people in.
‘On a good day, Ashbourne is buzzing, so we know what can be achieved. We are way ahead of many small market towns but Ashbourne deserves to be one of the jewels – one of the towns you choose to go to.’
The website is just one way of helping to grow interest in the town.
Alan says: ‘The whole point of Ashbourne.life is that it’s there for residents and visitors alike. The old Visit Ashbourne site was really only about the tourists. But we need as much help and support as we can get to promote it.’
Tony hopes that more companies will back the plans.
He says: ‘The small businesses need to step up to the mark and say “right, this is what the new Ashbourne Life trading group is all about, let’s get behind it”.’
Increasing footfall in Ashbourne is a key objective and events like the Ashbourne Festival, which takes place every June, help greatly in attracting more people into the town.
Mick says: ‘The old saying is that “people attract people”. You hear people go somewhere and come back saying “it was packed”. You get an empty town and no-one wants to go there. People like to be amongst other people. They enjoy the hustle bustle.
‘Residents need to shop more in the town. We need to get more people coming from the wider catchment area and we need the support of holidaymakers. They are all important.
‘The overall aim is to attract people into the town; so if they want to buy something, this is where they come. If they want entertainment, this is where they look because there are things going on. We want them to look to Ashbourne and, when they come, to like what they find.’
Go to ashbourne.life for all the latest information on the town.