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Ashover - Best Village in England!

Posted Thursday, June 7, 2007

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ASHOVER - (Reflections Magazine 2006)

`The Best Village in England - and that's official!'

The ancient village of Ashover, first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 where it is recorded that `Esseover’ (meaning Ash-Tree slope) has `a church, a priest, and a mill which together are worth a total of thirty shillings’ (£1-50!) - has evolved over at least a thousand years of recorded history into the best village in England - and that’s official!

The village’s success was revealed by celebrity author and broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh at an awards ceremony in London recently, when he announced that Ashover had beaten off competition from forty other county nominated villages to win top spot and become the Best Village in England for 2005.

The village initially carried off a regional category prize for young people as well as the overall regional title for Central England, and in an exciting finale, Ashover was up against four other regional winners – Audlem, Cheshire; Loddon, Norfolk; Cradley, Herefordshire; and Chale, Isle of Wight for the ultimate accolade.

Representatives of Ashover were thrilled when it was finally announced that their village had won the title for England, along with the £6,000 top prize which was in addition to the £2,000 prize money the village had already been awarded. Not bad for a thirty bob Domesday village!

The competition, organised by Calor with additional funding provided by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) assessed communities on six aspects of village life with catagories in building community life; business; young people; older people; the environment; and, judged separately; information communication technology.

By providing the extra funding Defra’s special aim has been to encourage the inclusion of all groups and individuals into the fabric of rural community life – building cohesive and mutually supportive communities, and 2005 marked the first year in the competition’s nine year history that allowed every village in England the opportunity to enter the competition – thus making Ashover’s victory all the more remarkable!

Councillor Clive Baxter, Chairman of Ashover Parish Council praised the village’s community spirit, saying;

“ We are all very proud that we have won this national competition; the efforts of the organising team, presenters, and over forty Ashover parish groups, businesses, sports organisations and clubs in putting on such a superb and well presented show for the judges is a credit to us all. Ashover truly has something for everyone, and as this competition has justly revealed, it’s about putting the community first.”

Alan Titchmarsh was joined by Howard Kerr, managing director of Calor who sponsor the annual competition, to present representatives of Ashover with their prizes.

Alan commented:

“Rural communities are an essential part of the fabric of our country –they are the backbone of British life. It is for this reason that the Village of the Year for England competition, which aims to support and promote village life, is such a positive event and something which I am happy to support. The competition highlights the very best of village life, encouraging villagers to work together to the benefit of all residents. More importantly, it provides a forum for communities to share best practice and encourages them to address any problems or opportunities that become apparent following their involvement in the competition.”

England’s top village - `Asher’ as it is colloquially known in the local dialect - stands high above sea level about four miles north east of Matlock, off the B6036 Matlock to Chesterfield road, and for those unfamiliar with its environs, it is a large, sprawling settlement of many parts and has a rich and fascinating history filled with remarkable characters.

Situated in the beautiful Amber Valley, the village nestles snugly in richly picturesque countryside almost in the centre of a vast bowl of land, with wooded slopes and rocky hills rising all around, and with narrow lanes leading like strands of a spiders web from the village centre in all directions.

The large parish is of some ten thousand acres, and the richness of its diverse nature can be attributed, not only to the community-spirited folk who populate it, but also to its geographical location and geological landscape.

The gritstone hills which surround the village contributed to its independent character, for they isolated the village to such an extent that it was late in the eighteenth century before the first wheeled vehicles penetrated this part of the Amber Valley.

For centuries until the first metalled road was driven into the valley, Ashover remained virtually a self-sufficient and self supporting microcosm of Derbyshire, rich in both minerals and lush pastureland suitable for dairy farming, and throughout its history these two occupations have provided the main source of Ashover’s prosperity. They are also major contributory factors in it’s recent success, for the competition judges look for well balanced, pro-active, caring communities which, irrespective of size, have made the best of local opportunities to maintain and enhance the quality of life for all residents.

The judges learned that Ashover, nominated to take part in the competition by Derbyshire Rural Community Council, is an extremely active village with a calendar of events including activities from forty different clubs, groups and associations, and a range of events taking place throughout the year.

Highlighting some salient points in Ashover’s triumph, Howard Kerr, Managing Director of the organisers Calor, said:

“The variety of businesses in this village is impressive and they clearly play an important role in community life by providing employment opportunities and supporting fund raising efforts.

The village is home to a total of seventeen farms, many of which have diversified by opening farm shops and livery stables. A particularly interesting diversification is the provision of a mountain boarding park which is suitable for hosting international competitions. This is also a great facility for the village itself and young residents are encouraged to make full use of it. The young children of the village are particularly well provided for, and in a concerted effort to enable children who have grown up in the village to remain there, the village has worked to provide low cost housing, in the form of flats, as a solution to the problem of rising housing costs in the area”.

He concluded:“Ashover is a warm and well-rounded community. It is at ease with itself”.

Ashover caters equally well for it’s visitors and enjoys minor popularity as a mini-tourist haven during the summer months, especially with the walkers and hikers who come to share its welcoming hospitality, and to walk the plethora of scenic footpaths in and around the village.

It has three very hospitable watering holes!

The Crispin Inn claims to date from 1415, but this must refer to an earlier building for it is one of many houses surviving from the 17th century along with ‘The Nettle’ at Milltown, named after a famous greyhound. The other two village inns are the Black Swan (1740) and Ye Olde Poets Corner (formerly the Red Lion) (c1780), which was recently voted CAMRA Pub of the Year.

The famed Ashover Show, which has been interrupted only by the Great War, continues to be the major event in Ashover’s calendar every August. A firm fixture on the national horticultural & livestock calendar, the show attracts entries from as far afield as Scotland and Wales, and in accordance with the village’s increasingly elevated stature, has enjoyed record crowds of almost twenty thousand in recent years.

Modern Ashover is a thriving community of some 1,800 inhabitants whose social calendar of clubs and societies must be the most comprehensive in the county, boasting a range of activities from flower shows to ferret racing. At the hub of the community and epitomising it’s community spirit is the village store, `Ye Olde Tuck Shop’, owned and operated by Mrs. Roma Unwin.

“The building is five hundred years old,’ said Roma, who is ably assisted by daughter Anna,…. `but I’ve only been here since 1947!”

Voted East Midlands `Shop of the Year’ in 1994, Ye Olde Tuck Shop is a veritable emporium of excellence with a comprehensive range of provisions and household goods and gifts, and a warm welcome for everyone. It reflects the tremendous community spirit engendered here, and it is this combination of factors which has earned Ashover and it’s inhabitants the right to add to its illustrious history the deserving title of Best Village in England 2005 AD.

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