What the locals really think of Ramsbottom
PUBLISHED: 00:00 02 February 2017 | UPDATED: 08:50 02 February 2017
Ramsbottom has enough to warm the cockles on the most wintery of days, writes Mairead Mahon.
When Ray Charles sang ‘Baby, it’s cold outside’ it was in an effort to keep his loved one warm and cosy indoors and, on a winter’s day, most of wouldn’t need much persuading. That could all change though if Ramsbottom is the destination as a trip to this pretty town is going to give even the chilliest soul a warm glow.
One of the best ways to do that has surely got to involve cake and Ramsbottom is home to Cake Craft run by husband and wife, Kathleen and Sean Axon. Their cakes are so good that one or two have even required their an airline ticket so they can be transported to foreign climes in their own seat!
A glance at their shop front was enough to stop fashionista Gok Wan in his tracks – he was a passenger in a car that had stopped at the lights. He jumped out and ran back to press his nose against the window of their fantastic display.
‘He had gone before we had a chance to speak to him but, luckily, that is the exception as most people actually make it through the door, including the occasional soap star,’ says Kathleen.
When they do, they are faced with a cornucopia of cake and not just any old buns but magnificent structures that are dreamed up in something called a consultation suite. Those who fancy themselves as Bake Off contestants can make their own, as the shop is also stocked with everything for the home baker.
So, Sean must make some pretty spectacular cakes for Kathleen’s birthday. ‘No, I have never had a birthday cake in my whole life,’ she laughs.
Maybe she has had a birthday bouquet though, another proven way to brighten up a winter’s day. Ramsbottom is home to a florist with the rare distinction of being approved by the international fashion designer, Vera Wang. Ruth Atherton-Kelly’s shop, Alternative Arrangements, is full of scent and colour and, as Vera Wang knows, her bridal bouquets are second to none. In fact, Ruth’s work has often appeared in fashion shows and on television programmes such as 60 Minute Makeover. It’s not all glamour though – Ruth is a big fan of different varieties of ivy and is often found scouring the county in her non-designer wellies collecting it.
Of course, to go with a designer floral display, what better than a Vera Wang dress or, for that matter, a pair of Jimmy Choo’s or a Mulberry bag. You can find them in Ramsbottom and what’s more they needn’t come with the usual dollop of guilt that can accompany post-Christmas clothes shopping. That’s because you’ll find them in The Dressing Room – a designer dress agency run by Jude Exton and Karen Waterworth.
‘Most people are very environmentally aware and are really keen to recycle. Our clients include footballers’ wives, well-known actresses and ladies who just want to have something for a special event,’ explains Jude.
Jude and Karen enjoy the shopping experience as much as the clients. ‘Well, we love putting outfits together and being able to tell clients the provenance of what they’re buying. Who wouldn’t be excited by knowing that a selected garment had been to meet the Queen or to a BAFTA awards ceremony? It’s sad but true – our clothes quite often have better social lives than we do,’ laughs Karen.
Laboutin heels can certainly put a spring in your step, but so too can a confident posture and that is something Amanda Heath can help with. She trained with top practitioners and her studio not only offers classes but state of the art pilates machines that are not often found outside London.
‘I have seen the marvellous effects they can have and to me, it was essential that they formed part of my studio. Honestly, you might not feel like skipping around Ramsbottom in this dreary weather but pilates and yoga can gladden your heart, relieve stress and do wonders for your well-being,’ says Amanda.
Kerry Khan of Hearts for Homes
Peter Larkin and Geoff Sword at the Theatre Royal, Ramsbottom
Amanda Heath of Natural Balance Pilates (Centre) with clients in the studio
Kathleen Axon of Cake Craft of Ramsbottom
Karen Waterworth and Jude Exton of the Dressing Room
Ruth Atherton-Kelly of Alternative Arrangements
Linda Grundy and Judith Horrocks inside Clark Craft
Gina Louden at Memories Antiques and Collectibles
As hundreds of people from all over Lancashire attend her studio every week, the oldest is 82, and as new men only classes have just started – that’s right, pilates and yoga aren’t just for women – then expect to see straight backs and happy faces wherever you go.
They say that crafting reduces stress and, if that’s the case, there must hardly be any at all in Ramsbottom, as its home to one of the largest independent craft shops in the UK – Clark Craft. Owned by John Clark, it stocks over 100,000 items with everything from art materials to beads and glitter glue. Professional artists visit to give classes and it hosts a range of activities such as, ‘Knit and Natter’ sessions.
Crafts and nattering must go pretty well together as, Kerry Khan is a self-confessed chatterbox. ‘It might be from my many years as a community nurse or because I’ve got three boys to look after but it’s certainly true. Crafting and talking go hand in hand,’ says Kerry, who upcycles furniture for her venture, Hearts for Homes.
The shop is stuffed, almost exclusively, with the work of North West artists and craftspeople, including her husband’s furniture made from reclaimed wood. Those Lancastrians who sadly find themselves in exile overseas-often through no fault of their own – have been known to gladden their Lancashire hearts by having Kerry’s items shipped to them. Maybe they’ll be the antiques of tomorrow.
They’re certainly keen on the past in Ramsbottom – it’s home to the annual 1940s Festival. If you’re looking for something authentic to take along to it, a trip to Memories might help. Run by Gina Louden, her shop is certainly a hit with producers of shows such as Antiques Roadtrip, who are always confident of finding something precious or quirky, whether it’s a rare button, costume jewellery, vintage clothing or a full military uniform.
The award-winning Summerseat Players are 50 next year and their story is another uplifting one, full of rags and riches. Almost completely under their own steam and with no drama other than that on the stage, they have become one of the top amateur theatre groups in the country, with a clutch of awards to their name.
Based in the lovely Theatre Royal, they did everything, including buying and raffling a car, to make sure they succeeded.
It might not be the most tempting weather out there but if you do venture out, Ramsbottom has everything you need to make you warm inside!
While you’re there
• Check out the events programme at the town’s East Lancashire Railway Station
• Take part in one of the Heritage Society’s Guided walks
• Enjoy the annual 1940s weekend which takes place in May
• Visit the Farmers’ Market on the second Sunday of every month
• Don’t forget to call into one of the town’s many great eating places: from chocolate cafes to award winning vegan restaurants and plenty in between. And don’t miss the Eagle and Child, a dining pub which was a winner at the Lancashire Life Food & Drink Awards.