With Christmas looming over us, holding the possibility that we might not be able to see some of the folks we love most, we think that expensive frivolous gifts should be off the table and our thoughts should be leaning towards experiences rather than physical gifts, recycled or upcycled instead of new, handmade rather than mass produced and, moreover – local and independent.
First & foremost - check out the Christmas markets happening local to you... that's where you'll find some unique local produce and products perfect for gifting. However, elsewhere on the High Street as well as online, there are plenty of local businesses offering fabulous sustainable gifts and experiences, just ready for the giving this Christmas.
As unpckd delivers to Hertfordshire and Cambridge, we have put together a little list of ideas in these areas – this is by no means a complete list as that would take forever as there so bloomin’ many!
Leave a comment to give us your ideas for local businesses for us ALL to support during our Local Christmas Shop :)
Gifts for the soul
Haelan Therapy is a pioneering centre for personal transformation. They offer treatments, courses and workshops in holistic therapy, Reiki, Shiatsu massage, essential oils and nutrition to name but a few. A Haelan Therapy gift voucher for a loved one this Christmas, who might be feeling out of kilter or in need of a boost, would be perfect and thoughtful.
Know someone who could do with a mental and physical lift after a year of lockdowns? Head over to The Yoga Shed, where there are online or physical classes to suit everyone’s needs and abilities. They also offer retreats and workshops to rebalance your mind and body. If lockdown has left you and yours feeling sluggish and lumpy - buy a class as a perfect post-Christmas rejuvenation.
Jolly Brown is a must for vintage lovers. It is a veritable emporium of sustainable, original unisex pieces. Everything is handpicked, washed and lovingly repaired by the team and sold on to a new loving home. (I bought a beautiful pair of silk trousers, made from recycled saris & I love them!!). They also sell beautiful, ethical products curated with care and love for all budgets, including natural wax candles, UME Dawn luxury incense, natural beauty products and jewellery.
The Shining City of Wardrobe takes in good quality clothing and sells it for you at a small fee. There are some wonderful pieces to be found in here to give as a gift, which helps also out the owners of those finds at the same time! Win win!
H-Town Rags has a huge collection of pre-loved clothing & next door there’s the new Shared Space Shop, where you can find the wares of local makers including The Furniture Parlour, producer of painted and upcycled furniture.
For beautiful children’s gifts, go online to Mini Mench. Originally based on Bancroft, the shop has moved to online only and is waiting for you to browse through their gorgeous pieces for small people. Nothing plastic and flashy here, just thoughtful and sustainable delights!
Harvest Moon is a family run shop selling beautiful fair trade and locally sourced goods. Brilliant for gifts from young to old: go there to find a thoughtful or thought provoking book, an array of aromatherapy oil, a collection of Fair Trade jewellery, and a colourful array of bamboo socks.
Food and drink lovers
Where to start….too many to mention so I’ll keep it brief
The Little Deli is exactly what it says on the tin, a small but perfectly formed foody heaven. Although they have some foreign products, they pride themselves on English and as local as possible. Local artisans include Hibiscus Lily for jams and chutneys with a twist, cold pressed rapeseed oil or giant meringues from Sunshine Kitchen. Check out their popular Local Hamper that showcases the very best that the surrounding area has to offer.Their cheeses are to die for and are definites for any Christmas table.
The Beer Shop on is a specialist bottle shop on Hermitage road and is a good place to buy gifts for the men in your lives. They even have a beer advent calendar! Visit the store for beer to take home their stainless steel reusable growlers, order online for delivery or buy a gift card for the tasting rooms in Hitchin or St Albans.
Gifting experiences...and memories
Instead of holding a gift in your hand, a lovely alternative is to give an experience instead. The Hitchin Forager experience is something I have on my Christmas list. Having just spent a lot of time traipsing around the countryside during lockdown, I became acutely aware of how much there is for free to glean from the land. Near me I have a copse full of fragrant wild garlic, which makes the most incredible soups and pestos. To learn more about what’s out there, Jane Simmons (aka The Hitchin Forager) leads socially distanced walks seeking out seasonal wild food ingredients, discussing the properties of various hedgerow plants and how to use them in cooking, teas, jams and preserves. She can take groups of up to five. The perfect green Christmas gift!
If you know someone that wants to learn a new skill or get more crafty, then sewing is a good one! Studio At Number 30 offers private lessons to group classes, workshops and parties, beginners to advanced classes, couture to embroidery. Making shirts to skirts, cushions to kimonos. With these skills under your belt, next year’s Christmas will be entirely handmade by you!
Elsewhere in Hertfordshire...
PotterRae are a small pottery studio located in Walkern, just outside of Stevenage, run by Rae Hayman. Currently selling handcrafted pieces locally, they specialise in tuition, classes and bespoke pottery workshops. Vouchers are a great way of giving someone a creative present.
In Ashwell, The Little Shop of Pots has some wonderful ideas with their quirky plant pots, vases and the most epic looking camembert baker!
Handmade in Harpenden create beautiful fragrances, for candles and infusers, that bring nostalgia and happy memories to those who smell them. Dedicated to living a clean, sustainable way of life, they created the company to share their custom blended fragrances and plant based creations, while pledging to only source materials from the UK.
In St Albans, Aerende sell beautiful gifts for the home. All products are created in the UK by people facing social challenges, produced in low batches and designed to improve with age. The linen bedding looks to die for!
Cambridge has always been forward thinking in sustainability and there are some lovely gift ideas to be found there - we've listed just a few:
Sarora Knots is the home of handmade and eco friendly plant styling accessories in the form of hangers and pots. Each product is made of textile remnants; items of clothing disposed of as ‘waste’ that have been reused by spinning into yarn.
Gifts for the soul
For some blissful massage therapy, look no further than Emma Kenny Therapies. The three Cambridge therapists offer delicious treatments to soothe anyone in need, or anyone that just loves delicious treatments! They also offer workshops for people with an interest in aromatherapy, helping others to explore essential oils in a safe and mindful way.
If you know a frustrated chef who would relish the chance to learn something new, then Bibi’s Indian Cookery lessons are a perfect gift idea. Whether beginner or more advanced, or just have specific dishes in mind, Bibi is the person to go to. She holds a Bronze Cambridge Sustainable Food award as she endeavours to use locally sourced ingredients and promote sustainable food. She also runs Cooking parties for groups to create a feast!
Remember to leave a comment to give us your ideas for local businesses for us ALL to support during our Local Christmas Shop :)
Wishing you a very happy local and sustainable Christmas and the best of starts for 2021 - we all deserve it!
Kirsty & Tracey @unpckd