Garden Centres are great places aren’t they? Cream teas and coffee catch-ups, gifts, local artisan products, chutneys galore (if you weren’t aware – I have a bit of a thing for chutney!)
I never go to buy compost or plants or anything like that, perish the thought… (I am clearly not a gardener!) Not since I lived with my parents as a child when I would accompany them – OK, got dragged around with them – as they trawled local Cheshire garden centres searching for the perfect bulbs or garden tools…Only when I became a member of the RSPB as a teen did I start enjoying such trips as I searched for the ideal bird bath and squirrel proof feeders…
However, these days diversification has turned the average garden centre into a mini shopping haven! Now I visit for the fine foods, delectable delis and a cheeky hot chocolate or two!
One thing I love is how in the run up to Christmas, garden centres get taken over by fairy lights and festive frivolities, but none go to town as much as Gordon Rigg in Walsden, and I just love it! Walsden is a large village near Todmorden in Calderdale, West Yorkshire; very close to the border with Greater Manchester and Lancashire (historically it has been part of Lancashire.)
It’s been a family tradition for as long as I can remember that in December we make the annual pilgrimage to Gordon Rigg en route to visit family in West Yorkshire to procure poinsettias and hyacinths (usually at fantastic prices) and the materials for wreath making for my Gran. This year did not deviate from the norm.
Entrance is through a fairy-lit tunnel, all magical and mystical, opening into a colourful winter wonderland with Christmas trees, lights and decoration everywhere. The Christmas shop at Riggs is tremendous and extensive and I love choosing a new bauble for our tree every year from their huge range.
Their room selling Christmas lights is dark to show off the massive array of lights and it makes me want to buy new ones every time! There’s always something different and exciting to see. This year there’s a superb display of wall art pieces lit with LEDs – so many designs it’s mind-blowing!
I just love the central main display around their big Christmas tree, featuring Santa on his ‘sleigh’, reindeer, a telephone box, lampposts, bird houses, a traditional wooden sign-post – all inundated with hanging decorations. The colour scheme is very autumnal which gets my vote every time.
Alongside are Mrs Rigg’s Sweet Emporium and a Miniature World display, all festively decorated! Looking at the sweet shop, I was slightly disappointed the door didn’t open to an actual sweet shop, but it does mean that they did a good job building this set piece and making it look realistic and inviting.
You’d think it would just be the Christmas shop area that would be decorated, but no… literally everywhere in the garden centre is Christmas-ified, adorned with fairy lights, trees and wreaths. The roof bars are all covered in tree greenery, lit and baubled!
The main entrance and exit to the store has been newly built in a conservatory style which currently conjures up a snowy scene with white lights and reindeer. Everything is bright, white and very classy. No tacky inflatable 10ft Santa’s here!
On leaving, see if you can resist the smell of hot dogs and burgers from the onsite fast food van. Or for more salubrious surroundings, there’s Bottom’s Mill Shop opposite Riggs with a restaurant on the first floor. Their hot chocolate is good!
If you didn’t have any when you arrived, you’ll certainly leave with oodles of festive spirit!
And it’s just as fun visiting after Christmas when you can bag yourself a few bargains in the sale!
What’s your favourite garden centre? Do they go as mad for Christmas as Gordon Rigg does?
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