How Alresford is preparing for Christmas 2017
- Credit: Archant
With its claim to be the most joyful town in Hampshire, Viv Micklefield meets some of the Alresford businesses busy preparing for the big day ahead
A long tradition
“There’s been a butchers on this site since 1912,” says Eunice Foundling, of CE Evans in West Street whose meat and fish graces the Christmas tables of Alresford and beyond. “My husband Nigel took over the business in 1996 having trained under the Evans brothers. We’re very much your traditional high street butcher, offering a highly skilled personal service. And as much as is possible, we source local produce.”
She continues: “Not many people realise that turkeys are actually game birds and so need to be hung for longer to bring out the flavour. We usually sell around 300 at Christmas, many of which will be farm-reared Bronze turkeys. These usually arrive in the shop around mid-December and we’ll be busy making deliveries, or customers come in to collect their order on Christmas Eve.”
Goose is popular too at this time of year and so is beef, says Eunice. Their kitchen makes the trimmings from scratch including stuffing balls, and sausages which are often available to sample.
“Recently a new butcher has joined the team, so look out for some new ideas. And our daughter, who’s the fishmonger, will be preparing locally caught crab.”
“Alresford is beautiful at Christmas time and there’s such a lovely feel to the town which encourages people to come to it. We’ll be taking part in the late night shopping evening and, as usual, we’ll be decorating the shop window and wearing our Christmas hats!” says Eunice.
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Debbie Carter has got the sweeter things in life sorted. Having set-up Old Alresford based Chocolate Craft 13 years ago, she faces long hours ably assisted by husband David, professional chocolatiers Fran and Pippa, plus a team of helpers and packers.
“Our busy period starts at the end of June when we start working on orders for customers like Fortnum and Mason who like to get their Christmas stock in early,” Debbie says. “And usually by the time December comes around, we’re already thinking about Valentine’s Day and themed events for the following seasons.
“This time of year is quite challenging, as we run hen and private chocolate making parties as well as workshops right up to Christmas. With numbers limited to 12 plus two tutors, everyone gets lots of individual attention and they take home up to 24 handmade chocolates. We specialise in fine piping, so after being shown what to do, there’s a prize given for the best decorated chocolate lolly.”
According to Debbie: “People travel here from far and wide. What appeals to them is that it’s a real chocolate factory that uses professional moulds.” And with gift vouchers available these workshops make great treats for loved ones and friends.
So does Debbie get a chance to enjoy the festive season? “Yes” is the answer. “Alresford is a magical place with all the Christmas trees on the shop fronts and the arrival of Santa.”
Raise a glass
Sparkling wine producers Simon and Nicola Robinson have the perfect Christmas tipple ready at Hattingley Valley Wine. With grapes harvested from their 60 acres of vines, traditional methods, including fermenting in oak barrels, have been used in Lower Wield since 2004.
Marketing manager Rebecca Fisher admits: “I can’t remember the last time I worked nine ‘til five. It’s a family business that’s growing at a fantastic rate. Everyone pitches-in and what makes it satisfying is seeing the end product on the shelf.
“As creating sparkling wine is a long process, we have a range of vintages currently available: Magnums from 2011 and 2013; Rosé from 2014; and the Classic is multi-vintage, containing reserve stock .For Christmas there should be bottles of our desert wine remaining, and of the Prestige Cuvée, only 1500 bottles of which were produced.”
All that glitters
Having specialised in antique and pre-owned jewellery since 2004, Liz and Damon Barker at D Barker & Son are ready to give advice on collectibles and to offer repair services for much-treasured items. They also stock individual jewellery from designers based across the UK and can hand engrave all sorts of personalised presents.
Dress to impress
Moda Rosa has been bringing top designer labels to Alresford for over 25 years, so the party season is a cinch when it comes to finding the perfect outfit. With Amanda Wakeley, Libelula and Versace vying for attention, if needed there’s an expert alteration service guaranteeing that everything fits like a glove.
Next door, luxe accessories boutique Hêtre also has the festive vibe in the bag with brands such as Anya Hindmarch and shoes from Lisa Kay.
Creating a sanctuary in your guests’ bedroom is the secret to a relaxed Christmas and the Alresford Linen Co’s professional dry cleaning and laundry service ensures that everything’s spic and span ahead of time. Their shelves also boast individual homeware lines including designer Elizabeth Scarlett’s botanical and jungle print bedding ware.
Long Barn’s expansion means more room for the natural bath and body products made from its own farm distilled lavender oil as well as lifestyle and gift ranges (longbarn.co.uk). Look out for the Alresford bauble; this limited edition festive decoration features the big Christmas tree on Broad Street in a design by local artist Jan Boardman, a donation going to Alresford’s Pigs Association who bring the seasonal lightshow to town.
The Mid Hants Railway, or Watercress Line has been inviting passengers to enjoy the golden age of steam since it re-opened in 1977. The hour-long Santa Specials from Alresford station in December are popular with kids big and small as you chug along joined by Santa and his helpers.
Santa will also greet crowds during the town’s late night shopping evening on Wednesday 13 Decembe 2017. Details at alresford.org.
Trees of wonder
Burcot Farm’s festive shop in nearby East Stratton is currently open daily between 9am and 5.30pm selling real Christmas trees from the family run plantation. With the popular Nordmann fir available up to 12 feet tall, as well as the traditional Norway spruce, you’ll be itching to start decorating.