Ringwood is a wonderful town on the end of the New Forest; steeped in history, with a mixture of independent shops, national brands, cosy cafes, enticing eateries and bustling businesses. At Christmas this popular market town lights up, literally through the wonderful festive lights, creative window displays and popular community events.
Every year Ringwood Town Council put together what they call their ‘Winter Wanderland’ - a series of festive themed activities to build on the heart-warming Ringwood community spirit and to encourage visitors and shoppers into the town. No it’s not a typo, the “wander” reflects the active nature of the events to promote movement around the whole of the town.
This year it kicked off in full force with their launch-into-Christmas big community event on Sunday 26th November, when the majestic Ringwood Christmas Lights were switched on. Expectant crowds waited to see a glimpse of Father Christmas arrive on his red sleigh and they weren’t disappointed. Hundreds of excited children and their families joined in with the event, with many parents sharing their updates on social media. The incredible Steamship Circus added to the parade with their stilt walking fairies, giant unicycle toy soldiers and tinsel-clad acrobats! An impressive selection of over sixty hand-picked market stalls with unique gifts and tasty treats decorated the high street, whilst over two hundred lucky children visited Santa’s charming grotto at the Gateway.
The majority of The Furlong stores and a number of High Street businesses took part in the Late Night Shopping initiative on Thursday 30th November. Emma Betsy, owner of High Street gift and flower store With Grace, invited the public to visit the High Street and its independent shops under the twinkling Christmas Lights. The Furlong’s landlord, Rocco Homes, paid a generous contribution towards a giant inflatable snow globe photography experience for customers. As well as getting the chance to play with the pretend snow in the globe, families and friends received a link to download a free picture of themselves taken by a professional photographer.
On the same day, clothing brands’ Hobbs, Phase Eight and Whistles put on an exclusive Fashion Show with prosecco, in-store discounts and goodie bag giveaways, supported by a number of Ringwood businesses. A selection of local community choirs; including ‘Sing for Joy’, ‘The Tuesdays’ and ‘Rising Voices Wessex’ sung their hearts out in the historical Furlong Centre courtyard to raise money for their chosen charities, and dance troupe ‘Rueda De Amistad’ performed a Christmas Latin Surprise finale. Alongside all this, the kind-hearted volunteers from RACE (Ringwood Actions for Climate Emergency) held a Children’s Eco Christmas Crafting Workshop on the top floor of Boston Tea Party. Children had great fun making Christmas lantern decorations out of recycled jam jars. Although the event was free, any donations received from parents or carers were put towards the good work of this charity to ensure Ringwood has a more sustainable future.
A record number of businesses and community organisations, throughout the High Street and from The Furlong shopping centre, are also now taking part in the Christmas Window Display competition. Visitors of all ages are being encouraged to follow the Wanderland trail from now until Christmas Eve and vote for their favourite window creations. You can pop into the Ringwood Gateway council offices to pick up a printed map or have a look at the Christmas edition of the Ringwood & Fordingbridge News to guide you through the trail. To vote for your favourite click here.
Mary DeBoos, Mayor Consort, tells us why she thinks Ringwood is a must-visit this Christmas; "Shopping locally and supporting our business owners is vitally important so we encourage everyone to visit, whether you are shopping, eating or both. Your trip to Ringwood rewards all the hard work that goes in to making Christmas special. If you are looking to find out more about the town, why not pick up a copy of the Ringwood Town Trail? The guide allows you to explore the history of the town, with opportunities to stop and admire the Market Place, West Street, the High Street and The Furlong along the way. For me Ringwood is truly a magical place and never more so than at Christmas.”
Many Ringwood business owners believe that the big companies or online retailers might not even notice your purchases over the next few weeks but the small, independently owned businesses located conveniently on your high street or in your local town will. This Christmas, they want you to believe in the magic of shopping locally - so you can make your town or village merry and bright for many more for years to come.