Villages in this area have very distinct characters and many annual events.
A few miles to the north of us we have Ipstones, a village with several pubs and a great village shop and a butcher. Folk there think of their nearest market town as Leek. Ipstones has a couple of great village events during the year - the agricultural show in the summer and lights night on the last Friday of November. We were helping on one of the many charity stands (The Play Pavilion) and were trying to get families to have a go on a tombola to win a cuddly toy. Even though every ticket was a guaranteed win, it felt like a hard sell. Cuddly toys were being offered as prizes by a lot of the stands and our target audience were wheeling push chairs already laden with soft toys. We walked to the church of St Leonards in Ipstones and admired the Christmas trees decorated by local community groups. These village events have a fantastic atmosphere that can be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
On Friday it is Alton's turn for its pre-Christmas event. A few miles to the south of us, Alton is another thriving village community with two shops, lots of pubs and a butcher. Alton has a classic summer fete with maypole dancing, cake competitions etc and a themed winter event. On Friday there'll be a girl on a donkey led from Alton Castle calling at inn after inn until she is taken to the Round House (a former village lock up). It is tempting indeed to make satirical references to Friday night youth binge culture, but obviously this is a re-enactment of the nativity and Mary on the donkey is turned away by the inns, and the Round House is now a crib scene around which the villagers meet and sing carols. It is all very heart-warming stuff, especially so when drinking Shep's mulled wine. Carols never sounded so sweet.