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Kids Christmas gifts galore

Sam Bertram

23 October 2017

Radish Loves is a children’s shop with a difference. Located just off Marlborough High Street it’s teeming with children’s clothes and unique gifts you won’t find anywhere else. We spoke to owner Amy Willsher to find out what she’s got in store for Christmas. What Christmas treats have you got for kids? ‘I think there’s a perception that we’re a baby shop which isn’t true. Our range has things for new-borns right up to young teenagers. We’ve got something for everybody – from stocking fillers to the bigger presents. If you’re looking for presents under £10 there’s plenty of choice. ‘Unicorn snot’ with its scented range of lip gloss and body glitters is new and already extremely popular. Girls love the pompom hair bands, clips, necklaces, bag brooches & pins. There are also fingers puppets and plenty of tattoos and stickers. The nail varnish is child-friendly and completely chemical free, and for the boys there are notebooks, spy pens, bouncy balls and yoyos, slimy slugs and lots more. I’ve started stocking a larger range of Maileg as it’s proving really popular. It’s a Danish brand with gorgeous bunnies and mice. It’s beautifully made with my favourite being The Princess and the Pea – a mouse sleeping on several mattresses with a pea hiding beneath. The mini furniture, clothing suitcases, tents and sleeping bags all fit for the mice are also fabulous. Another popular brand is Candylab cars - beautiful hand painted Beechwood classic American cars. They’re really fun with some quirky features like a magnetic surfboard which snaps on to the roof.  If looking to jazz up playrooms, nurseries or bedrooms Fiona Walker’s felt animals have just come instore. Whether it’s a dinosaur or flamingo head or hooks you can hang on wall they look great. Try a Little Lovely Co, ghost or popsicle bedroom light or some rainbow shelves to house the books. Hang a dream catcher on a child’s bedroom window to catch the bad dreams. And there’s plenty of glitz – furry, sparkly bags and glittery skirts and tutus. With winter encroaching we’ve got woolly jumpers, hats and scarves and plenty for that special Christmas outfit.’ Halloween is soon, what have you got planned? ‘We stock lots of party accessories and we’ve extended our party range to include Halloween. There are spooky cookie cutters, plates, cupcake cases and tattoos. On the Saturday before Halloween we’re holding an instore event from 12.00 to 3.00pm. There’ll be tattoos, balloon giveaways and a real-life fairy coming to visit. She’ll be granting wishes and telling stories. It should be great fun.’ And if people can’t come into the shop, they can shop online? ‘Yes, we’re an online shop too and we’ll also be at some other venues this Christmas. I’ve got a pop-up shop at Cobbs on Saturday 28th October, Saturday 2nd December and Saturday 9th December. I can also be found at the Christmas fairs at St Francis, Pinewood and Bowood. I’d love to see you there.’ www.radishloves.com

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Marlborough's historical treasure

Sam Bertram

17 June 2016

We visited The Merchant’s House, Marlborough to find out a bit more the house and how it all started. So why should people visit The Merchant’s House, Marlborough? ‘It is a fabulous example of how a rich merchant might have lived in the 17th Century and is incredibly unique - there are no roped off areas and you can look at and touch everything. You can even get into the bed if you so wish! It’s also a work in progress so someone might be doing restorative work on the furniture or walls as you walk around. Feedback from the tours is always extremely positive. They are very personalised and interactive – if you’re interested in needlework you can ask more about Mr and Mrs Bayly’s costumes, and conversely if art is your subject then you can ask about that too. What people don’t realise is you learn more than just the history of the house.  You get to understand all about the history behind the Marlborough area and its role in the civil war too.’ Tell us a bit about the merchant who lived in the house ‘Thomas Bayly described himself as a silk merchant which suggests his customers were from the upper echelons of society. As well as serving the local gentry Thomas also benefitted from Marlborough’s strategic position, serving passing trade between London and Bristol. There’s no doubt that Thomas was a prominent character in the town, he served as Mayor twice. He was also living in the house when the fire of 1653 burned down most of the High Street.  Marlborough were supporters of Cromwell so following the fire Cromwell rewarded their loyalty with a national collection to help re-build Marlborough. The Merchant’s House was given the second largest amount and, after it was re-built, Thomas lived there with his wife Katherine and their nine children until his death in 1670.’ When did the house come into trust? We’ve just celebrated 25 years of the trust and when you come on a tour you’ll learn all about it. It was started in 1991 when the tenants, WHSmith, were moving on.  A group of locals went to the town council to ask for support in turning it into an attraction for Marlborough. Many thought it would be a five or six year project but the house is still being restored and visitors are still coming and many of the original group are still involved as trustees today.  When the Trust first started restoring and uncovering the wall paintings and panels they found it was a far greater treasure than they originally thought. There are now over 100 volunteers working weekly as well as some part time staff. This year we’re doing some restorative work on some wall paintings in the top bedroom. The space above Clarks has also become available so we are discussing restoring that and establishing a Marlborough museum. You’ve got lots of events coming up in the summer – tell us more We’ve got lots in store for the summer with a talk by historian Michael Gray on 17th and 18th Century Oak furniture on 28th June.  Our annual lunch at Marlborough College during Summer School promises lots of family fun with the history of Punch & Judy followed by a show. We have a harp recital in August and an evening with Mr and Mrs Bayly in September. How do you generate fund for the trust? The Trust receives some rental income to help with the costs of running the charity. All profits from events and the shop go towards restoration.  So when you shop with The Merchant’s House you know your money is going towards restoring and keeping this national treasure. In the shop we have some great brands and try and stock local products when we can. There are some Marlborough branded gifts and we’ve got lots of appealing gifts for dads for father’s day so pop in. http://www.themerchantshouse.co.uk/

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Get Creative at Mimo

Sam Bertram

12 February 2016

Mimo is a lovely interiors shop that’s a little bit different from the mainstream, just a short walk from Marlborough High Street in The Old Ropeworks near the river. Owner Sally Ballard has also recently started running creative workshops there to great success.   Tell us a bit about how you ended up having a shop like Mimo? ‘With a background in antiques and interior design Mimo is a shop where I make the things I love & collect for the home available to the public.  It’s full of vintage, restored and quirky pieces.  I love seeing my regular customers popping by to make sure they’re not missing out on any treasures! It all started shortly after embarking on my working life when I was a nanny for some amazing people, whom I’m still great friends with today.  They introduced me to friends starting an interior design business being run alongside an antiques business and, although initially I just helped out, I eventually took over the admin side /  project management. This led to a further job with another antiques dealer running the interior design side & eventually opening my own shop in the Cotswolds shortly after meeting my ex-husband. My first shop was short-lived though as children arrived soon after, not helped by a rather gloomy recession. Now my children are older – Alex, 22 and Will, 20, I’ve had time to focus on having my own business again and I set-up Mimo in 2011.  Gary from Eric’s Attic initially offered me space in his shop to sell my collection but when the space came available downstairs I leapt at the opportunity to take it and set-up by myself. I’ve always had the idea of making one of the rooms available for creative courses.’   Interesting – what type of workshops are you offering? ‘I’ve always thought there was an opportunity to offer creative courses in Marlborough as Marlborough College Summer School is only for four weeks of the year and beyond that there didn’t seem to be much available of this type.  I’m an optimist by nature and I really felt there was potential to offer workshops in the centre of town. We’ve had some fabulous courses here so far, from upholstery to sewing & dressmaking and plenty of arty courses for both adults and children alike. I’ve loved the mosaics courses, and in particular the floristry, creative writing and Christmas Wreath workshops were incredibly popular. Next planned is an Arts & Crafts workshop for kids during half term and an upholstery weekend at the end of February both which still have places so get in quick! I’m always open to ideas so if someone has something they’d love to learn or love to teach I’ll do my best to make it happen.’   Are you Wiltshire born and bred? ‘Not at all – I was born in Oxford where I lived and attended college and my mother still lives there. It was a fabulously buzzy & exciting place to grow up although I’ve moved so many times since I’ve almost lost count of the places I’ve lived.  The first antiques business I worked in was in Woburn, after marrying Nick we lived in various places in the Cotswolds and eventually moved to Ramsbury just fore Will was born and where the boys spent their childhood.  I now live right in the middle of Marlborough and I’m loving it.  It’s great being right in the middle of town and Marlborough has so much character.  As my boys have left home for work and uni it’s mainly just me and my dog, Monty.’    So what’s planned for the future? Just enjoying where I live and my business for now.  But what will be will be – I don’t mind moving, so if I had to move again I would. But for now Mimo isn’t going anywhere soon. I love meeting new people so please pop in and say hi. http://www.mimo-trading.com/  

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Unexpected rural delight

Sam Bertram

14 January 2016

Clem Earl helped us collect Refugee Emergency Packs at her gorgeous rural shop near Tisbury. When we went to collect them before Christmas, she took time out of maternity leave to meet us at the shop with her gorgeous 6 month old Rafferty and tell us all about it. Have you always wanted a shop? ‘Yes – when living in London a friend and I were always plotting to open a shop somewhere there. I worked at a catering company, where I met my husband Mitch, but after that I worked for Cath Kidston as her PA. It gave me loads of experience and insight into what it takes to run a shop. I was involved in everything from helping organise the catalogue and photo shoot and copy to stock levels in the shops. So I thought if Cath Kidston can do it so can I! So how did you end up opening a shop in such a rural location? Clementine’s shop is located in one of my parent’s barns at the home where I grew up. While working at Cath Kidston, Mitch and I started to think about moving out of London. We never intended to move back here, but when we mentioned a possible move to my parents their friends, who had a catering company, offered Mitch a job.   So in March 2006 we moved out of London and I started to think about how I could make my dream of having a shop a reality. I originally looked for a space in Tisbury until my mum suggested using one of their barns. Mum had always done her marbling and set-up the Compton Marbling Fairs there, so it was a destination locals were familiar with. 2006 was a busy year – we moved, married in September and the shop was open by December. How have you found having your own shop? To begin with it was really quiet and it was mainly loyal friends who would visit. However, holding the fairs in the same location meant locals soon realised there was a shop here too. My mum and I do the buying together so we get a good view across generations. We have something for everybody and some loyal customers who do all their Christmas shopping with us. I love it and have met and made some really close friends through the shop.  There’s no doubt it is demanding and balancing work and children has its challenges. Tell us about your mum’s marbling My father designed books for a printing press and when my mother went to look round she saw the marbling section and thought she’d love to learn that. So she took a course and set-up her own company ‘Compton Marbling’, selling end papers for books. It wasn’t long before she started making other items. I have memories of bringing my Sylvanian Family house to mum’s office while she worked. She still marbles today and makes items for the shop with the most popular being the lampshades, box files, address, visitor and sketch books. Despite digital photographs albums are still popular too.  And the Compton Marbling Fairs? The fairs have been running for 35 years and started with my mum and her friends selling the things they made.  There was my mother’s marbling, a friend with amazing cardigans, local artists, Christmas puddings from a friend’s catering company.  It just took off from there. I now run the fours fairs we have throughout the year with mum - spring, autumn and two at Christmas. We try to have different businesses every year and have a real mix of stands including small local businesses. Mitch’s cafe Pythouse does the catering.  What are your favourite items in the shop? I love the muslin swaddling cloth and sell a lot, but close to my heart is my mum’s lovely marbled wares and children’s items, especially traditional wooden toys because I love buying things in reference to my three boys. They love going through all the catalogues.  Are you pleased you moved back to where you grew up? I love the familiarity of it all and that our boys; Joshua, 7 Orlando, 4 & Rafferty 8 months are following in my footsteps.  They go to the same little village school in Semley that I went to – the office admin lady is still the same! We even go to the same holiday cottage in Wales where I spent all my holidays. I love it there – there’s no TV and it’s great taking my boys to the same beaches I went to. We love just hanging out as a family – playing football, walking or going on bike rides. One of my oldest friends Chloe also lives round the corner and one of my sisters isn’t too far away. Clementine’s shop is open Tuesday to Friday 10.00am to 5.00pm and on Saturdays 10.00am to 4.00pm. The 2016 Compton Marbling Fairs are on 22nd & 23rd April, 23rd & 24th September and 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th November. http://www.clementinesshop.com/                             

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