Let’s go to Ashburton
- Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Ashburton is renowned for being the gateway to Dartmoor but the town is also fast becoming Devon’s ‘interiors heaven’, as Chrissy Harris discovers
So many pretty things, so little time. It’s a good job I’d left my car in the short stay car park or I would have spent hours and a lot of cash in Ashburton.
It’s wall-to-wall independent shops, with many selling unique home accessories guaranteed to delight those of us who just can’t resist a vintage lamp or brightly coloured cushion.
“We had a man recently who came from Chicago, hired a container, filled it full of things for his home from the shops here and shipped it back to America,” says Susie Myatt, who works in the delightfully named Odds and Suds in North Street.
Hmmmm. A container. I’m not sure I’d be able to sneak that one in back home but it’s tempting.
“Ashburton has become quite a little hub for people looking for something a bit different,” says Susie, as she shows me around Odds and Suds, set up by Jenny Elesmore and recently taken over by her daughter Kelly.
“It’s great because there are so many shops here now that do interiors. People come from all over the country, from Cornwall, Bath, Bristol and London and say they’ve heard about Ashburton. It’s just got a lovely feel about it.”
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With its impressive range of antique shops, Ashburton has been a hotspot for experts and dealers for years and regularly appears on our TV screens.
People have apparently been spotted queuing in their cars, waiting for the shops to open after a particular episode of the BBC’s Antiques Road Trip.
More recently, however, other shops have opened, showcasing the skills of many up and coming local artists and designers.
“Ashburton is a thriving place,” says Mat Hayles, owner of custom designed furniture and lighting firm, Rust and the Wolf.
“There are so many creative people living in Ashburton and the surrounding area who seem to have a very hands-on approach to their trade and have an amazing work ethos and are doing what they love – and doing it all off their own bat.
“Alongside this there is also an amazingly friendly community amongst the designers and shop owners who all seem to have each others’ backs and a wish for everyone to succeed and thrive.”
Sara Perkins owns Vintage Loveliness in North Street. She agrees they look after their own here and there’s a real drive to promote local talent.
“I’ve had the shop here for about 12 months and I wouldn’t have one anywhere else,” says Sara. “Ashburton has just got that vibe of antique, vintage and uniqueness about it.
“We get couples in here on a Saturday, collecting bits for their houses. It’s a great place to come and shop because there’s a bit of everything here.”
At The Emporium, Ian Mitchelmore is busy serving his customers. He and Simon Booth only opened their shop in August but say business is going well.
“We’ve got lots of regular customers already, including a couple who come in and buy something here every week,” says Ian. “We’ve got 18 different people who sell different things, everything from tools to furniture.”
There is so much on offer in a town that seems to pride itself on the finer things in life and even on a cold day, the streets are bustling with locals and visitors.
I bounce in and out of shops in a heady daze looking for my next soft furnishings fix and wondering just how many designer throws I could fit in a shipping container.
For now, I make do with a nice card and a pot of olives (it’s foodie here, too).
But I’ll be back soon….
From the streets: local residents reveal where they like to eat, drink and visit in and around Ashburton:
David Beazley: “Drinking has to be the Exeter Inn. It’s had the same landlord for over 30 years who knows a thing or two about keeping local ale and ciders. The Old Library is a recently opened restaurant and has an excellent reputation. For a ready meal or wonderful fish The Fish Deli is the obvious choice.To walk off the excesses a walk up to Buckland Beacon with its views of the South Devon coast is hard to beat.”
Pete Webb: “For food, the Old Library Restaurant (behind Town Hall) has very good food. Others include the re-vamped Brick House (East St) formerly Café Green Ginger. Also, Ella’s Artisan Bakers (but be quick as she runs out). Ashburton Cookery School has a national and international reputation for its cookery classes (I can personally vouch for the canapes course).
“Church’s Hardware is probably the towns oldest establishment. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of varied stock and the only one still trading in same premises since Victorian times (in the former Mermaid Inn).
“There are some interesting buildings too. Ashburton Railway Station - now the Station Garage. Bottom of St Lawrence Lane with a short distance further down Chuley road to the Bullivers Way footpath along the old railway line.” See friendsofashburtonstation.co.uk
Phil Martin: “Whilst we have many tea shops in town, possibly only outnumbered by the antique shops, the one that I think is worth returning to is Taylors (in the centre of town). It’s not quite Betty’s of Harrogate but it certainly has a charm and character that sets it apart.
“The Dartmoor Lodge, which keeps a great selection of beer and cider and does a pretty good and very popular Sunday carvery.