“Experience the thrill and fun of skating on real ice in the beautiful Calverley Grounds this Christmas.”

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Tunbridge Wells are once again laying on ice skating in Calverley Grounds.  The ice rink opened on Friday 23 November and skating runs until Monday 7th January 2013.  You can see some great photos of the opening ceremony at Tunbridge Wells Life and to find out more, visit their website or Facebook page.

Ice skating is a popular pastime, particularly since the advent of Dancing on Ice, and Christmas is the perfect time to don a pair of skates.  Why not imagine you are Robin Cousins or Torvil and Dean or if, like me, you struggle to stay upright on the ice,  simply soak up the atmosphere at the rink-side cafe and listen to the music whilst watching your children skate.

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Children can visit Santa

This is the second year that there has been an ice rink in Tunbridge Wells and this year it is bigger and better, with the added attraction alongside the rink of traditional style wooden chalets housing local independent businesses selling a wide range of quality gifts, just perfect for Christmas.

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Doodlebags hired one of the chalets over the weekend of 1st/2nd December and we were blessed with the most amazing weather which made it a joy to be outdoors.  Admittedly the temperature barely went above 0 degrees for the entire weekend, but the brilliant sunshine put a smile on everyone’s face and encouraged everyone outside.

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It was cold!!!

Being the first year that the chalets have been at the ice skating meant that many members of the public were unaware we would be there and consequently came out without the intention of shopping.  However, speaking for ourselves, enough people bought to make the experience financially worthwhile and as word spreads then business will continue to build for the traders week on week and year on year.

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Stunning lighting made for a very festive atmosphere

I met some wonderful people across the weekend, organisers, customers and stallholders alike and I would like to tell you a little bit about the other businesses occupying the chalets whilst we were there.

Spade and Spoon:  The delicious smell of melting raclette (a semi-firm, cow’s milk cheese) wafted across from Spade and Spoon who were selling a selection of take away foods and rinks, with ingredients sourced from across Kent and Sussex.

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Deliart:  Inspirational and humourous phrases adorn the plaques made by Deliart, who are able to make to your specific requirements should you not see exactly what you are looking for.

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RSPB:  The RSPB do an amazing job in raising awareness of the problems faced by birds and wildlife and the work needed to maintain certain species within the UK.  It was wonderful to hear the enthusiasm with which the RSPB representative spoke about wildlife: an enthusiasm echoed by the children he spoke to and which in turn encouraged parents to invest in a membership which would help in protecting birds and the environment.  “The need for an effective bird conservation organisation has never been greater.  The RSPB could not exist without its supporters and members. Whether you join us, give a donation, purchase items from us or undertake voluntary work, your support is vital to the future of birds and the places where they live.”

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Cute as a Button:  Sporting the tagline of “Handmade with Love”, Cute as a Button have an extensive range of bespoke gifts for any occasion, with the added option of having your gift personalised.  Catering for all age ranges, tastes and styles, you are bound to fall in love with what they have to offer.

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Temper Temper:  Who doesn’t like chocolate?  Temper Temper are masters of their craft and the quality of their chocolate is simply superb.  They also run chocolate making parties for both adults and children and having seen the fun my daughter had whilst attending a friend’s party held at Temper Temper’s premises in Southborough, Tunbridge Wells, I can attest to the excellence of what they do.

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Wood-Knit-Bee:  As the name suggests, Wood-Knit-Bee specialise in objects derived from wood, wool and bees.  To quote their website: “We source our products from ethical companies and individuals implementing sustainable solutions to environmental and social concerns.”  In and around their chalet they had a display of delightful wooden reindeer and a wide selection of bee-derived products including beeswax candles, honey, balms and snacks.

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Lynne Meek, Kate Hasted, Caro Spinette:  A wonderful collective of three very talented artists working in different mediums.

Lynne Meek:  As Lynne herself explains, an animal’s character can be found in its eyes; as an animal portrait artist she she is able to capture her subject’s personality perfectly in her portraits.  Working to commission her skill is unmistakable.  Contact her at Lynnemeek@btinternet.com

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Kate Hasted:  Kate is a textile print, fashion and accessories designer, and her stunning designs can be seen on her scarves and jewellery; you can even buy some of the silk off-cuts to use in your own textile and crafting projects.

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Caro Spinette:  A Tunbridge Wells based artist, Caro‘s hand painted ceramics are simply beautiful; the objects enhanced by her artistry include tea pots, plates, cake stands and tea cups.

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Alphabetty Designs:  To quote their own business cards: “Alphabetty Designs offers a fabulous, stylish organic educational gift or the perfect eco-friendly choice for today’s parents – our t-shirts and bags are 100% organic and eco-friendly with a hand stitched alphabet eco-fi felt applique.”

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My First Boutique:  With the cost of clothing a child escalating year on year, what better way to reduce the cost than to buy quality pre-loved children’s wear?  With labels such as Mini Boden, Monsoon, Joules, Gap and Ralph Lauren, and with an age range spanning 12 months to 12 years, you’re bound to find the perfect outfit for your little one.  Based in Langton Green, Tunbridge Wells, My First Boutique also stock maternity wear.

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The view from my chalet after sunset: stunning!

The Ice skating is open every day from now until Monday 7th January (except Christmas day) from 10.30am until 9pm.  Whilst some of the above traders may not be there again (unfortunately Doodlebags is one of those), you are guaranteed to find some excellent businesses occupying the chalets and I would urge you to show your support for independent local businesses by making Calverley Grounds your first port of call when Christmas shopping in Tunbridge Wells.

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You can find Doodlebags at Hildenborough Farmers’ Market every Tuesday morning, at the monthly Artisan Market in Canterbury and on Facebook; if shopping before Christmas, you can also find us at Saint Hill Manor on Sunday 16th December.

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