This Christmas why not make it a celebration of all things British. Support your local community and eschew supermarket fare and mass produced decorations for something locally homemade and unique. When you scratch the surface you're sure to find amazing creativity and delicious produce available right on your doorstep; farmers markets, delis and gift or craft shops are a great place to start. As well as gathering the freshest ingredients for your Christmas cooking you can pick up quirky gifts, hand made decorations and cards, often for a fraction of the price you'd pay on the high street. If you're struggling to find places to shop, the websites Folksy.com and Etsy.com are great places to browse a selection of modern British craft from independent craftspeople.
Hunting for the perfect, real Christmas tree is a tradition loved by many families and you probably already know the best places local to you – word of mouth and local press tend to spread the word quite effectively. If you're not sure where to look, start with the British Christmas Tree Growers Association. Their website www.bctga.co.uk can help you search for growers in your area.
This December the BCTGA awarded a lifetime achievement award to Ivor Dungey, who owns Santa Trees in Liskeard, Cornwall. Setting up his christmas tree business aged 17, he has provided his local community with the trees for 60 years. In that time he has produced around 100,000 trees to become one of the country's best christmas tree growers – with up to 20 varieties. Producing the trees is a full time job with each one taking 8-9 years to grow and year round care required.
Every christmas time magazines and newspapers run 'taste tests' on Christmas puddings to find the consumers favourite. Ironically, most of the supermarket brand puddings are all produced in one factory in the Midlands, it's a brilliant operation but the puds are hardly home made. If you look outside the supermarkets you will find a growing number of small, artisan producers making delicious puddings. Markets, farm shops and deli's are great places to start looking. With their focus being on quality over quantity you get the added bonus of a limited edition or 'exclusive' feel!
One producer who have been put to the test this year are The Ultimate Plum Pudding Company in Kendal, Cumbria. They have the honour of creating Fortnum and Mason's 'Nuts About Christmas' Pudding, which will contain a delicious brandy butter filling. As a luxurious nod to the traditions of bygone years, one will contain a gold sovereign coin worth £200.
If turkey is your first choice of festive meat, your local butcher is a great place to make your order if you want locally sourced produce from a reputable supplier. If you want to push the boat out and try something a little different, you might well be able to purchase locally sourced wild game such as rabbit and pheasant. As well as being traditional and a welcome change, these meats are much more environmentally friendly as they don't involve factory farming or transportation.
Last but not least, the festive tipple. Mulled cider is a great choice of drink for casual gatherings, especially if you're out and about on cold nights! There are many producers of cider across the country and most can be found at Christmas markets sampling their delicious mulled cider. One great example is The Orchard Pig, based in Glastonbury. Their fun, quirky branding and rustic charm are sure to delight and bring festive cheer!