Barry Pearson sets his stall out – food, drink and entertainment, it's all here in Ashbourne.
JUST stop to think of the wide variety of Ashbourne-centred activities we have available.
Starting with food, we have challenging and innovative fine dining, we have a number of mid-priced delightful restaurants and a number of budget eating places in all of which we will be well looked after.
Our pubs are equally varied, some offering ales and pub grub, others concentrating on what they know their customers value most, great ales uninterrupted by music or fruit machines.
Mark Grist has some excellent suggestions for pub walks – that lets me off the hook, I'll use the car! Please don't get the wrong idea – what we do is to nominate a "driver" in rotation. Or get on the bus.
The sheer variety of entertainment that is available to us is astounding.
The Arts Festival offers a range and calibre of entertainment from high to low- brow, theatre, music and personalities seldom equalled elsewhere. We have enjoyed and will enjoy nationally-known artists at affordable prices and, of course, for many, the highlight – the Streetfest, two days of free fun, but don't forget to show the bucket-wielding collectors your appreciation.
I am delighted to see that street comics the Traffic Wardens are returning – perhaps our normally humourless district council will keep the real enforcement officers away for the weekend!
We have music festivals that are becoming increasingly well-known and popular. We have recitals, we have the Town Band, Ashbourne Singers, flower festivals, church-sponsored events – bluntly we are just incredibly fortunate to have so much available to us.
Beyond our immediate horizons we have theme parks almost on our doorstep, Crich Tramway Village, Gulliver's Kingdom, Alton Towers and there are swimming pools and water parks. Over and above all of these we live in some of the most beautiful countryside open to all of us.
To those that know me, it is no surprise to learn that food and drink are of particular interest, so I am going to declare particular favourites at the outset.
In due course, I will write of them in detail and challenge myself to either match or better them and, if you care to let me have your thoughts, please do.
We have some great pubs, the Smiths Tavern concentrating upon quality real ales without compromise and a range of whiskies second to none. I am becoming a fan of the George and Dragon since Sue and Dave took over offering both food and good beer. In summer, the Coach and Horses is greatly enhanced by its garden.
Let's turn to food. My special-occasion choice for fine dining is the award-winning Dining Room, where Pete and Laura translate their love of food into a meal that is stimulating, exciting and challenging. It is the place to give your taste buds a real treat.
I am very fond of the Lamplight, where variety, local produce and presentation combine with good value for money. I look forward to going back again soon.
Now to my "budget" favourite, the Stepping Stones. I have eaten there alone, with friends or as part of a group and have enjoyed each visit. Time it right and there are some great offers to be had.
So there is my canvas, to explore on your behalf – I'm look forward to it.