WE BEGAN the year in Ashbourne’s usual unorthodox style - by watching dozens of people leap off a bridge into the icy River Dove.
It was also a good start to the year for our retailers, who told the News Telegraph Christmas had been a busy season, with tills ringing across the town.
They did, however, take the opportunity to point out that high parking rates were crippling them - something that is still a bugbear as the year draws to a close.
January was the month we first announced there were talks under way to revamp Ashbourne’s park - and, a year later, this is finally looking like it might be coming to fruition.
However there was bad news for Ashbourne’s Thursday market - which has dominated headlines all year. We all thought we were about to see the last mid-week market when the district council announced it would rather see profitable parking on the cobbled square than costly stalls.
Trees fell and rivers burst their banks in January following a freak storm - but that was by no means the last of the extreme weather as a bonkers January climate also heralded a remarkably early start to spring.
FEBRUARY began with more bad news for the Thursday market. Not only were the plucky stall-holders threatened with closure, they had all their stalls stolen by thieves and, to cap it all, there was talk of charging them to use the toilet in the nearby town hall following closure of their usual Union Street stop-off.
It really wasn’t a good month for toilets but it was a great year for Shrovetide. Two days of dramatic play ended in a goal a-piece for the Up’ards and the Down’ards and some amazing play that was largely dominated by the Down’ards.
Down’ard Will Mee and Up’ard Simon Jones secured themselves a place in the history books by tapping their leathers on the mill-wheels and a fair draw was the perfect end to two fabulous days.
The insane weather continued through February with a heavy snowfall bringing disruption and misery to many Ashbourne residents.
It was also the month we all met George the pheasant - who hit national headlines after terrorising villagers in Wootton.
The aggressive male bird later became known as ‘George the psychic pheasant’ after he correctly predicted the score for the year’s Shrovetide match.
And we were ‘treated’ to an exclusive look around Ashbourne’s sewer works, which were due a high-tech upgrade to help them cope with Ashbourne’s growing population. Later in the year, several months after our visit, we learned that the project had been completed.
THE month began on a sad note as George the Psychic Pheasant was struck down in his prime following a tragic road accident.
His reign of terror on Wootton was over, and his hopes of a career in sports punditry died with him.
In happier news, we were finally able to unveil detailed plans of Ashbourne’s new library which residents have been able to watch take shape over the year as they pass by its site in Compton.
We were also able to announce details of Ashbourne’s participation in the 2012 Olympic Games torch relay, and we ended March by announcing Martin Handley as the first of Ashbourne’s torchbearers to be publicly named.
Celebrity famous person Jordan took part in the gruelling X-Runner contest in Brailsford and councillors granted the Thursday market a ‘stay of execution’ which has so far seen them through the year.
There was also excellent news for sports fans in Ashbourne as it was announced the town was being given lottery funding to build a new football pitch on the edge of town.
Meanwhile the owner of The Mansion, in Church Street, told the harrowing story of an armed robbery at his home. James Cartland was tied up and blindfolded as three masked men threatened him and ransacked the historic rooms for antiques.
AFTER three months of talking about 2012’s erratic weather, it took an even more extreme turn in April. Within 72 hours we went from a scorching heatwave to several inches of snow. And it wasn’t the only weather story that dominated the month.
It was also the month the whole Green Man debacle began. The troubled but much-loved pub and hotel was put up for sale by its administrators and an auction was held a few weeks later - but it failed to reach its reserve.
Flood defence work was completed around the park, at a cost of £2.5 million, but in the same week the town council branded it ‘hideous’ and Ashbourne Heritage Centre opened in Church Street - a project that began in 1985.
Ospreys were spotted at Carsington Water, prompting hopes that it would lead to them staying for the summer, fears were raised by some of the town’s businesses as sandwich giant Subway announced it was eyeing up potential sites in the town and designs were put forward for a new one way system that would transform Compton. None of these three stories came to fruition.
And we ended April, following an early heatwave, with talk of a crippling drought and even the threat of hosepipe bans after one of the driest starts to the year on record. It wasn’t to last...
OUR first story in the busy month of May gave news that plans were afoot to bulldoze the former St Oswald’s Hospital. It was, developers said, the only way to econimically deliver a new housing development on the site. It’s still standing now, though.
There was brighter news for another old building as we exclusively announced that the Green Man Royal Hotel had found a buyer. Could this be the end to its long-running decline? Our fingers were crossed.
Carsington Water celebrated its 20th anniversary with a free family weekend and a poignant service was held at Ashborne’s Memorial Gates in Park Road to add the names of five Ashbourne soldiers who died in World War One but had not been named on the memorial’s original plaques.
There were plans announced to privatise and move Ashbourne’s market which were met with mixed views and we welcomed in a new Mayor, Steve Bull, who accepted the chains of office from outgoing Mayor Tom Donnelly.
Tissington’s popular Well Dressings were blessed on a wet and miserable day - and this was to become something of a recurring theme for the year - and Ashbourne stalwart Tony Millward became the chairman of the Derbyshire Dales District Council.
JUNE was the month of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and we all downed tools for a long weekend and set about celebrating in style.
Despite the weather - we wrote that a lot in 2012 - everyone got into the patriotic spirit and Ashbourne’s celebrations - which included the town council’s hilarious It’s a Knockout-style competition were among the thousands taking place around the coutry.
Wind turbine news has dominated 2012’s headlines and this year in Ashbourne we’ve heard of plenty of controversial applications to build more of the energy-producing structures on the area’s beauty spots - including plans being annouced in June to add to the number on Carsington Pastures - which would bring the total to seven.
June failed to escape stories of extreme weather - in fact, it was the month when severe floods swept the country. Ashbourne got off fairly lightly but it did bring chaos and disruption to many parts of the area after rivers burst their banks and roads were blocked by floods.
A consultation began on Ashbourne’s ‘local plan’ which will eventually seek to identify sites for up to 500 new homes between now and 2028. The reaction was strong, to say the least and meetings are regularly held to allay fears and discuss developments.
Cheese production returned to the area in Pikehall, the High Street Heroes competition was a resounding success and Ashbourne Arts Festival put on one of its best shows yet - despite the weather. (There we go again)
*The review of the year, from July to December, continues next week