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The city satellites of Allestree, Quarndon and Duffield

PUBLISHED: 16:27 01 September 2014 | UPDATED: 16:27 01 September 2014

Park Farm Centre

Park Farm Centre

Ashley Franklin Photography

Ashley Franklin discovers three villages that are changing and developing and, in the case of Allestree and Duffield, villages with wealthy amenities and activities, and considerable retail clout

Anney Grace and her Little ShedAnney Grace and her Little Shed

In my 35 years of driving home to Milford from Derby, I always take pleasure in the city merging so quickly into countryside. If I head up the A6 into the Allestree estates, the urban arguably becomes suburban yet, soon after the Palm Court roundabout, you drive down one of the loveliest tree-lined avenues in the county. Little wonder that Allestree is often called ‘The place of all the trees’, even more evident should you veer off into Allestree Park.

If I leave Derby taking in the handsome city houses along Kedleston Road, it’s not long before Allestree disappears and you climb the country lane through Quarndon village where estate agentese overdoses on phrases like ‘desirable’, ‘highly sought after’ and ‘Ecclesbourne School catchment area.’ As both routes out of Derby eventually sweep you down the A6 into Duffield – which actually houses Ecclesbourne – that key phrase has even richer resonance.

But what of the overall resonance of these three places in the ‘Derby Surrounds?’ They are villages that certainly offer permanence and peace of mind. The comment of Allestree resident Bill Grange that his village is ‘a safe, pleasant and very green place to live’ could apply to all three places, as could Quarndon resident Bryan Harris’ comment that his village is ‘convivial, contented and convenient.’

Chalybeate WellChalybeate Well

Allestree

The ‘permanent’ in Allestree include its old village centre where the 17th century Red Cow pub sits close to a Norman church amidst a cosy cluster of attractive, age-old cottages. This snugness is in stark contrast to the 260 acres that make up Allestree Park, described by resident Bill Grange as ‘the most scenic park in Derby with its hilly topography, views to the Peak, extensive woodland lake and abundant wildlife.’ There’s also a picturesque golf course with tree-lined fairways. The Friends of Allestree Park are currently working through a Five Year Plan which takes in everything from nest boxes to visitor centre. The latter could feasibly form a part of the sadly deteriorating Allestree Hall which is on the ‘Heritage at Risk Register.’

There is both permanence and progress, too, at Park Farm Centre which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary. Its buildings may hark back to the 1960s but the centre has prospered through fresh flower beds, rebranding, a loyal customer base, a continuation of its free parking, and shopping outlets offering what Centre Manager Kate Davies-Bates describes as ‘a good marketing mix of current and fashionable retail.’

It’s a healthy mix, too, of high street names and independents, with recent arrivals including the bright, airy and welcoming Four Seasons coffee shop/restaurant which seats 60, and the delightfully named A Little Mooch, offering colourful, quirky gifts alongside a wide range of jewellery. Owners Jen and Sarah believe that ‘our shop is unique and distinctive due to the mix of things we sell. We have often been told by customers: “I come here for all my presents now, as I know I’ll find something”.’

Bethany Mugglestone, Holly Rawlinson, Lisa Jeffery and Sarah Rawlinson of ElevenBethany Mugglestone, Holly Rawlinson, Lisa Jeffery and Sarah Rawlinson of Eleven

There are established outlets, too, like the health food shop Nature’s Way which has been at the Centre for 41 of its 51 years. The longest-serving retailers are Gordon and Kathy Dawson who have run the florist Seasons for 28 years. Starting out as a small unit, it must now be one of the largest flower shops in the county. One certainly can’t miss its forecourt display of bay trees and planters while inside there is an impressive range of flowers, with a special reputation for its sweet peas, grown especially by former Derby City Council nursery manager Alec Cave who last summer won six prizes at the National Sweet Pea Society Competition. What’s the key to their longevity? ‘We listen to our customers,’ says Kathy.

As for Park Farm’s longevity, it’s been able to tap into the increasing appeal of out-of-town shopping experiences. As one retailer told me: ‘Think of us as an open air hypermarket.’ One could also consider it as a community centre, especially as it’s joined to Allestree Library. Centre Manager Kate also points to the centre’s involvement in the community, notably at the local Lawn School and through its sponsorship of youth football teams.

At one point during the recession, 16 of the 56 units were empty. Now, there are just four, and potential renters might take note that Park Farm has a catchment of over 60,000 shoppers within a ten-minute drive to the centre.

Two other reasons to shop in Allestree are the clusters of stores in both Blenheim Parade and Duffield Road, where the latter has seen the introduction of A Little Shed, a bright new gift and jewellery shop in the garden of its exuberant owner Anney Grace, designed and built by her partner Nik.

Sarah Toon of Mimi TokoSarah Toon of Mimi Toko

‘The Little Shed is a dream come true,’ says Anney, ‘as I can now showcase my own jewellery designs alongside my passion for beautiful products, home and party styling. I always wanted a shop in Allestree – it’s such a lovely, friendly and family orientated place – but never found suitable premises, so I thought “why not create a shop in my own garden, allowing me to balance work with bringing up a young family?”’

Since opening last month, Anney has enjoyed ‘shedloads’ of customers, not least the locals who have eagerly followed the two year progress of Anney’s project. As for outsiders, Anney believes her gift shop is unique in Derbyshire as ‘a place to go treat yourself, decorate your home or find the perfect gift’ whilst also offering bespoke jewellery.

Quarndon

Ruth Eley in her design studio at Pure HomeRuth Eley in her design studio at Pure Home

As I drive further north, the conurbation that is Allestree opens out into countryside and eventually Quarndon, which has defiantly resisted Derby’s encroachment and remains a proper village, with some of the most attractive houses in the county. Even though its post office/store is long gone, there is still – like Allestree – a traditional heart which encompasses its parish church, primary school and village hall, a hive of activity which this year celebrates its centenary. Another community service is the telephone box, now a library.

Down the lane opposite the village hall is another permanent fixture: Quarndon Cricket Club, which has one of the finest settings in the Derbyshire County League. Formed in 1884, the club celebrated its centenary by last year becoming the first Derbyshire team to win the National Village Championship at Lords in 1983. Thirty years on, the club still enjoys an enviable reputation: it runs four senior teams and has around 100 Junior Members aged 7 to 17. The club isn’t pitch perfect, though: Chairman Chris Storr reveals that ‘player commitment is waning and we are losing a lot of 16 to 25-year-olds.’ Finances are tight, too, and volunteer help has dwindled but there is still drive and optimism, says Chris: ‘Our ambition is to win the Derbyshire Premier Cricket League with mostly home-grown players. We continue to make clubhouse improvements and we still have an active committee dedicated to making our club better, year on year.’ There is also strong community involvement with the club hosting ‘Proms on the Pitch’ and firework nights.

Further down the road, Nancy Bird at Quarndon Hall occasionally opens her gardens, seven acres of beautifully landscaped colour and variety, with around 100 species of magnolia, and even more species of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and acers.

A Quarndon landmark is the Chalybeate Well, a fine crenulated stone structure with pointed arches, which itself points to Quarndon’s history as ‘the Malvern of Derbyshire’ – the spring water was used to treat numerous maladies.

Although the well ran dry over a century ago, the watering hole that is the adjacent Joiners’ Arms has been pouring pints since the 17th century. It is soon to enjoy a fresh lease of life under the guidance of Richard and Loren Pope, who Joiners’ regulars – current and lapsed – will be pleased to hear own the highly successful, reputable pub and restaurant the Bull’s Head in Repton.

Richard is well aware that the Joiners’ was ‘THE place to go’, though he adds that ‘if we are going to make the most of the pub, it requires serious money.’ He hopes to be ‘on site’ towards the end of this year and, in the meantime, says: ‘Don’t worry, it will still be a pub but we also love good food and have exciting ideas.’

Coincidentally, the boards are set to come down at the Kedleston Hotel in the village, with the Derby Brewing Company joining with the Kedleston Estate in a renovation programme costing £750,000 which will see this Georgian Grade II listed building turn into what the Company describes as ‘an up-market drinking area, with something of a ‘country-house-meets-pub’ feel about it.’ There are also plans for a gastro-style restaurant, five bedrooms, a meeting room, a one-storey Orangery at the back and an extended landscaped area for marquees.

Duffield

Although Duffield sits further from the city, it’s increasingly turning into more of a town. However, resident Judy Clough believes it’s ‘a small town with a village mentality.’ Judy should know as she’s run Duffield News with son Steve for 33 years, in which time she has become Duffield’s listening post, stress counsellor and agony aunt. Policewoman, too: she once chased burglar breaking into the Co-op in her dressing gown at 1am.

Judy’s love and passion for the village especially extends to children. She works closely with local schools, notably Ecclesbourne. Many consider the school the primary reason Duffield’s population has mushroomed over the years, maintaining an affluence noted as far back as 1835 when Pigot’s Directory of Derbyshire remarked that ‘it has long been esteemed a favourite residence of persons enjoying a respectable competence.’

Duffield has rich amenities and a vibrant community spirit, encapsulated by a record turnout at the recent Duffield Carnival. In this age of risk-assessment, it’s heartening to see a carnival that processes through the heart of the village with a flotilla of floats. The procession’s destination is Eyes Meadow, a thriving 48 acres of sport and recreation with delightful views of the Derwent Valley. It is also home to Duffield Dynamos Football Club, the second largest junior club in the country, and Duffield Cricket Club which, like Quarndon’s club – and Allestree’s too – has a great reputation, notably for having the largest junior cricket club in Derbyshire.

Adjacent to Eyes Meadow is another village gem: the Millennium Meadow, formerly rough grazing land turned into a nature haven thick with 2,000 native trees, 3,000 wild flowers and a wetland which attracts increasing wildlife, including 500 species of invertebrates. My last visit revealed excessive growth which has obscured the view of the large pond, though this is being dealt with as part of a five-year wetland programme. Recent developments include a disabled pathway and branch removal which allows clearer views through the copses and more sunshine for the plants.

On the northern green fringes of Duffield sits Chevin Golf Club, which is taking in new members at a rate above the national average and has introduced a hugely popular Sunday Only membership. Vice President Peter Baines speaks of ‘a friendly club with a competitive playing atmosphere and numerous social events plus excellent bar and dining facilities’, though the club’s pièce de résistance was revealed when Peter took me out on one of the club’s new buggies. Chevin Golf Club has the most scenic course I have ever encountered, a mixture of parkland and moorland with undulating, varying fairways graced by multifarious trees. Ironically, the hole I remembered the most – the 13th – was not for its rewarding view: known as ‘The Gibbet’, the tee sits next to the wood where sheep stealers were hanged.

Duffield is also well off for racquet sports with the Squash, Racquetball and Tennis Club on High Street. As for this main shopping street, recent talk of the demise of the High Street has, as with Park Farm, made no impression here. There isn’t one empty retail outlet. Pertinently, recent arrival Belle La Vie was previously run by Debbie Bowler only as an online gift shop. ‘I love providing a shop where people can come to touch, see and smell the goods!’ smiles Debbie. ‘I also loves the sense of community and the businesses in the village who work hard to achieve this, and my customers are fantastic. I have put a lot of love into Belle La Vie and I hope it shows.’

What the shop certainly shows is a dizzying array of gifts, incorporating kitchen, bed and bath accessories as well as cushions, clocks, candles, signs and pictures – and there’s everything from vintage to contemporary items.

Opposite Belle La Vie is an even more recent arrival: the café Eleven, poignantly named by owner Lisa Jeffery as it was the shirt number of her 15-year-old son Reece who died playing football. If anything, this makes Lisa all the more determined to see Eleven succeed. She has made a promising start, providing a light, bright, cosy traditional tea room which has been commended by several customers for its ‘lovely ambience.’ ‘The homemade scones are lovely, too,’ says another, ‘and you get loose leaf tea in china cups – this is a proper tea room.’

Lisa plans to extend the deli service and hopes to provide an after-school club with cooking sessions for youngsters. Eleven will also soon be licenced.

Of the longer established businesses, Duffield Eye Care has recently expanded. Previously offering only three half-days, there is now a full-time optician: Trush Patel. This development has already led to increased ‘walk-ins’ for eye tests that incorporate the latest technology and ‘on trend’ designer frames. Trush also feels the building has ‘great character’ with a classy, comfortable waiting area and experienced staff.

Although the bridal shop Mimi Toko has been in Duffield for 17 years, Sarah Toon only took over nine months ago. She has an impressive range of classy, beautiful gowns including selections by Ian Stuart (‘theatrical’ says Sarah), Enzoni (‘lacy’), Mooshki (‘short, vintage, 50s style’) and Timeless (‘handmade in Wirksworth with Hollywood red carpet sophistication’).

‘It’s a high end service in a high-end village,’ says Sarah, ‘and I love our very visible location.’ Indeed, Sarah tells me that lots of former Ecclesbourne girls who spent many a lunchtime gazing on the window displays, come to Mimi Toko for their wedding dress.

There is sophistication and class at the other end of the village where, in a former antiques shop, Ruth Eley has set up Pure Home Interiors selling quality gifts, furniture, picture frames, lighting and decorative antiques alongside her interior design centre which has served Duffield for ten years. In those years she has built up a phenomenal pattern library and a great deal of experience which has brought much repeat business. ‘I’ve honed my skills as a good listener with an intuition for good design, and someone who doesn’t do what’s necessarily fashionable,’ she remarks. ‘I’m also happy to provide everything from a single kitchen blind to a whole house makeover.’

Based a few hundreds away from High Street, Ruth is anxious to see residents discovering the delights of Pure Home. She should be encouraged by the success Felix Frixou has made of his high end prestige vehicle showroom Benz Bavarian at the Derby end of the village. Mind you, as I wander home along the A6, I do find it hard not to notice the fine lines of a Ferrari or the points of a Porsche.

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