So much gorgeousness here from all over the world: chocolates from England, Turkish Delight from County Cork, jewellery from Denmark, ponies from England, socks from France, make up bags from Los Angeles, pennants from England and pens from South Korea and Germany. Cosmopolitan Christmas at The Hambledon. And we're not making generalisations about pink, it just looks so darn pretty.
Lucy has been very busy in the grotto. Check out her homage to Martha Stewart. It's a world of pearly wrap, glitter stickers, mirrored alphabets and candy cane tags.
There is nothing, we repeat, nothing wrong with a little kitsch at Christmas. Might even go so far as to say it's a requirement for the festive season. Please get involved in a frosted parrot, some neon pineapples (for the animals to eat!) and a glittery dog or ten.
We are absolutely always on the lookout for new and interesting. So imagine how delighted we were to find Nathalie Bond Organics on a recent scouting/spying/buying mission: a skincare brand made from 100% organic raw plant ingredients, produced in the UK and beautifully packaged. This is a small, but growing, family business run by Nathalie and her husband Andrew and all the products are handcrafted in their workshop in Sheffield.
Nat's pregnancy in 2013 marked the start of the company. She became increasingly sensitive to synthetic chemicals in mass produced bath and beauty products and began to create her own simple soaps, balms and candles using only natural ingredients which could be safely absorbed by the skin and weren't harmful to the environment.
The company remains very conscious of their wider responsibilities. A percentage of profits are donated to World Vision to help children in some of the poorest communities in the world.
Nathalie Bond Organics skincare products and candles are available instore and online now.
We are all about gluttony this holiday season. Get involved in artisan chocolate, silly chocolate, Turkish Delight, liquorice pipes and sugar mice. And all manner of cookbooks and kitchen accoutrements. Eat up.
Amelia Rope's first foray into making beautiful chocolate came in 2007, with handmade truffles and chocolate dipped in crystallised flowers, decorated with gold leaf. Since then, she has refined her brand – creating unique flavours and simple, bold designs.
From pocket-money potato harvester to Masterchef contestant to practice manager, Amelia has pretty much done it all. Living abroad, studying herbal medicine, nutrition and massage therapy have all helped on her journey to super chocolatier. And if you're wondering where that talent for alchemy comes from, that'll be her training as an aromatherapist.
Stained-glass windows, mosaics and pencil nibs – all the things that have provided inspiration for the foil and kraft paper packaging. Behind the prettiness, Amelia has built strong and ethical business. She won't compromise on the quality of the end taste and insists on a sustainable single origin for her couverture (that's cocoa to you and me, we can test you later). Most of the product where possible is made in England and she works with a company that sources cocoa fairly and supports and empowers farmers through education. Cocoa from different regions adds a distinctive edge to the products. A rich chocolate pudding taste from Tanzanian beans, notes of caramel from Ecuador and dark spicy citrus from Madagascar.
And in a question probably asked 1000 times – yes she loves them all, 'crushes' on certain flavours (grab one of her current favourites, Dark Honeycomb & Sea Salt here). She'll always have a soft spot for both her Pale Rose and Pale Lemon and Sea Salt, her first award-winning flavours. As she says, her name is on the product so it has to be good!
Amelia Rope chocolate bars are available instore and online now.
Photo Credit: Tim Booth and Mary Wandsworth
Arpenteur (French for 'surveyor' if you're interested), was founded by cousins Marc Asseilly and Laurent Bourven in Lyon in 2011. Wearing its French heritage on its very neatly designed sleeve, inspired by traditional French workwear and with a commitment to keeping all garment production based in France, Asseilly and Bourven have grown a business with 98% of sales to international territories. Arpenteur is a brand which delights in its Frenchness (2% of sales within France suggest this is somewhat wasted on the French but enormously popular in other parts of Europe, the States and particularly Japan).
Autumn 2015 sees Arpenteur collaborating with Filature Arpin, a family owned business which has been weaving wool in Seez Saint Bernard in Eastern France since 1817. The Bonneval cloth, which is unique to the Arpin mill, is a dense, robust fabric, named in honour of a famous mountain guide of the 19th Century, Pape du Bonneval sur Arc. The cloth is traditionally used to make shepherds' capes and knickerbockers. But Asseilly and Bourven have a more modern interpretation with their waistcoat and overcoat. Homage to the region comes in the form of a mountain hat.
Martin Magnusson started making gloves for local lumberjacks in 1936. The early incarnation of the business was based in a workshop in Magnusson's farmhouse in the village of Hestra, Smaland (a province in the south of Sweden, known for lakes, dense forests and marshlands). In 1937, a ski slope opened nearby, Magnusson's sons Lars-Olof and Gote became keen skiers and the family identified a new market for their high quality, durable gloves. Today the company makes 400 different styles, still serving the early adopting lumberjack, the downhill skier (both the Swedish and the Norwegian ski teams wear Hestra) and all points between.
Although Hestra produces 2 million pairs of gloves annually, they still manufacture from their own factories in Smaland with hand making techniques on some models. The technical possibilities available in glove manufacturing today are great. However, making gloves for different needs and environments requires a special set of skills. The demands of mountaineers are different from the needs of a family of half term skiers. Fighter pilots have certain requirements, while kayak paddlers have others.This means that finding the right balance between aspects like durability, cold and moisture resistance and flexibility is extremely important. Simply maximizing the properties – durability, water resistance and insulation – seldom results in a good glove. Whilst we like to think of ourselves as elite athletes at The Hambledon, we're leaving the very technical gloves to the experts. We are all about the deerskin with the Primaloft lining.