Ashbourne: the friendliest town

27th Dec 2012

Before bidding everyone a Happy New Year there is an inevitable time of reflection on the outgoing year. The weather was awful and the economic climate dire but despite this (one way or another) Vintage Bluebird survived and prospered throughout the year and we head into 2013 stronger for the experience.


It is now 15 months since we relocated to Ashbourne and this move has been the making of us. I was asked recently by Derbyshire Life magazine to comment on the town and the first remark that sprang to mind was that Ashbourne is probably the friendliest town in the country. A bold statement based on pure unashamed opinion. But a statement I will intend to stand by for the foreseeable future. Imagine a town where people say ‘hello’ to you in the streets, where people make efforts to shop locally and support the town, where there is a strong voluntary community network and where strangers are treated as friends we have only just had the pleasure of meeting. This is my biased opinion of Ashbourne. Of course there are tensions; but tension can be the glue that binds us as well as the force that threatens to tears us apart.

On this final point Ashbourne in its dim and distant history created a novel solution to resolving any niggling tensions. The whole town congregates each year on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday and plays a football match involving around 3,000 or more participants. One half of the town verses the other separated by nothing more than the side of the river Henmore you were born on. There are very few rules except commonsense gamesmanship to keep the match flowing (such as not introducing a fake ball or committing common law murder) but outside of this the game is a no holds barred example of mob football. The excitement is already mounting for this year’s game, the beautiful colourful cork and leather balls are receiving their finishing touches; and scores and vendettas will be settled over the two days of play in this most cathartic of exercises.  The town will then be carried forward into another year on the shoulders of the spirit of Shrovetide Football and all talk will be of what happened during this years match.

As for us; we will board up our windows on Saturday night and re-open on Thursday after the match has run its course. Shrovetide Football is not much of a spectator sport or a time to do any business; these two days belong to the players, the people of Ashbourne. And when we re-open we do so safe in the knowledge that everyone shook hands, had a drink and put their tensions and troubles behind them. This years match takes place on 12th and 13th February.

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