Local Christmas gift ideas

Christmas is approaching...

Nearly upon us: how is your Christmas shopping going?

Yes, I know. This list of Christmas present suggestions may appear to be slightly – alright then highly – subjective. And long. (Please note that sadly, some of the businesses mentioned in this blog are no longer open, but when it comes closer to Christmas 2016, we will provide a new update).

But that’s the point – there are so many gorgeous, iconic and quirky local products available, how to choose between them? Food and drink are embarrassingly prominent in this list – but their effects can always be burnt off on an energetic fell walk in an attempt to stay calorie neutral, if that’s any consolation.

Love children

Two headed calf from Bowes Museum

The famous two-headed calf is reincarnated in the guise of a cuddly toy

How about a two-headed calf from the Bowes Museum? Modelled on one of the museum’s more bizarre and eclectic exhibits, we have one of these in our household and apparently the calf has a split personality, as the heads argue with each other regularly.

Another idea is a hand-made Herdwick Sheep from The Sheep Factory. Although strictly speaking these aren’t toys, and they are not as cuddly as a traditional soft toy (or even a two-headed calf), their friendly expressions would cheer up any child’s bedroom. Have a look at the website – they are captivating.

Herdwick sheep from the Sheep Factory

Each sheep from the Sheep Factory has its own individual character, but all are utterly gorgeous

Or why not pay a visit to the traditional toy shop in Melmerby and step back in time? The shop displays toys from the past, a wooden rocking horse workshop, vintage teddy bears and a range of new wooden toys for all ages. Alternatively, the Toy Barn at Millstones is a cornucopia of gifts for children aged 0 to ten. Have a look at the finger puppets – the penguins are adorable, the dragon puppets have the most roguish expressions I’ve ever seen on a mythical creature and as for the Velociraptor… I’ve fallen in love.

You should also definitely make your way to the Old Sweet Shop in Hawes, both to admire the beautiful window display, reminiscent of traditional shops in years gone by, and to fill up with stocking fillers. The chocolate angels are very tasty and good for hiding in corners or on the Christmas tree.

Art lovers

If you can, get to the Fairfield Mill Arts and heritage Centre in Sedbergh, one of Cumbria’s leading centres for the visual arts and textile heritage. Here, you will find a fantastic selection of paintings, pottery, glass, felt and knitting. But my favourites are the porcelain items from Rebecca Callis – these are both delicate and elegant, in subtle hues that echo the natural surroundings of the area.

I’ve already mentioned the awesome paintings by M J Forster in a previous blog, but make no apology for repeating myself. Visit the Courtyard Gallery in Appleby or his website. I probably won’t be lucky enough to find one of his watercolours under the tree this year, but one day…

Lovers of the outdoors

First of all, visit our friends at walking-books.com; they have a wide selection of books, maps and guides, for all ages and encompassing the whole area around Waitby School – from the Howgills and the Eden Valley, to the Lakes and Yorkshire Dales. And I’m not sure whether this should be in the art lovers or outdoors category, but check out the Tubular Fells map, also available from this site; this is another definite entry on our wish list.

And if you are more into just splashing around outdoors or on the lake shores, Gina Ricci in Windemere sells Hunter and Dubarry boots, as well as a range of footwear for ladies, men and children.

Food lovers

It has to be cheese first and foremost (a Waitby School obsession. You may have noticed this). Appleby Creamery’s cheese is available through in local shops; if you are in Kirkby Stephen, the Eden Emporium sells our favourite one of all-time, the Eden Smokie. This is a smoked organic brie and once you’ve tried it, you will be smitten.

Wensleydale Creamery in nearby Hawes also sells the most fabulous cheese, available in its inspired miniature waxed truckles. Select the Snowman Wensleydale, Santa Mild Cheddar, Rudolf Red Leicester and add the Wensleydale with cranberries and mulled wine spice.

To complement these miniature delights, visit the Nine Standards Brewery, based in Kirkby Stephen, and choose from the selection of real ales direct from the microbrewery.

Finally, you could just go the whole hog and treat yourself or a loved one to a hamper of local produce from J & J Graham of Penrith, a historic shop founded in 1793. The owners say: “We are particularly fortunate to have on our doorstep some of the finest speciality food producers; Penrith fudge and toffee, sticky toffee pudding from Cartmel, jams and chutneys from Wigton, gingerbread from Pooley Bridge to name but a few.”

Anybody you love

Try the Church Gallery in Kirkby Stephen. This serendipitous shop, which rambles up and down random flights of stairs in and out of several buildings, has a great selection of gifts for all the family.

Rheged is also excellent for browsing, with food, drink, local crafts and books. And talking of books, the Bowes Cookery Book, is also a wonderful gift. Inspired by the exhibition Feast Your Eyes: The Fashion of Food in Art, it features recipes from the museum’s resident chefs, complemented by historical notes.

If toiletries and smellies are more your thing, another local company from nearby Sedburgh, the Bath House, sells beautiful natural fragrance and skincare for men and women. Frangipani and Grapefruit, and Rose and Watermint are divine scents.

But the top present, and one which I always fall back on if in doubt, is anything from the Herdy Company, whose iconic Herdwick Sheep logo never fails to raise a smile.

You can buy everything from mugs, to stationery, kitchenware and the most gorgeous baby grows. The company says all products are produced responsibly, and it donates a percentage of its profits to the Herdy Fund, which supports sustainable rural communities. Sustainabilty, responsibility and drop-dead gorgeous designs. What more could you want?

Love our Herdy mugs

We are always adding to our collection of Herdy mugs

PS. Dear family: take note please.




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