As the biggest spending spree of the year swings into action, our country columnist John Sheard urges rural residents to put their money back into the countryside
I FEEL a groan coming on as I write this because it is Christmas shopping time again. Another year almost gone - and a pretty bad year at that for many country people, even though there were signs of recovery in some quarters after the horrors of foot and mouth.
Another year almost gone...
Now if I had my way, I would do all my gift shopping on the morning of Christmas Eve and finish up at lunchtime in the pub with close friends. But, wisely no doubt, the lady wife likes to plan ahead - so our first sortie to the shops in scheduled for Saturday.
However, this year there will be a new approach. No trips to the big shops in the city. For we have decided to target our spending in such a way as it gives maximum benefit to country business folk and their employees, who need all the support they can get to stay in business.
Many other people, hopefully, will be thinking the same way. This week, the NFU opened a national turkey hot line (0870 060 3436) so that anyone wanting to buy a British farm-bred turkey - rather than an import - can find out their nearest sales point (see News).
The various charities have been sending out their Christmas gift lists for several weeks now and one of the items of the family gift list will be a nut-feeder for wild birds to help them through the winter months (if, of course, we get a winter this year!).
We could buy that direct from the charity, and bodies like the British Trust for Ornithology
or the RSPB
deserve the support, but this means the cheque would go to either Norfolk or Bedfordshire.
These are both fine counties, and deserve their local support, but we would like to keep our Christmas cash in the Yorkshire Dales. So we have found a garden centre where you can buy a feeder in a way that a donation is made to one of the bird charities - but the cash goes into a local till.
This will go for our food, our Christmas cards, and some of the booze: a bottle of good port from the local wine merchant, perhaps something bubbly. As Yorkshire Dales sparkling wines are somewhat hard to come by, ours will probably be either from New Zealand or Australia - their farmers are having a tough time too.
The strange thing about all this is that, year after year since the kids left home, my wife and I have always vowed that, next year, we shall go away for Christmas. It has never happened - and I am beginning to doubt that it ever will. Home and Christmas are, to us, inseparable.
This year, that feeling has been given extra purpose because of this need to support local business. If you feel the same, and would like to buy a present that will benefit our part of Yorkshire for decades to come, the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust
has come up with a splendid idea.
For £10, they will dedicate to you - or a friend you wish to honour with an unusual gift - a tree planted in new Dales woodland. The recipient will also receive a Christmas card, a commemorative certificate, and details of the wood when planting is finished.
Now there's class for you: keep foresters in work, improve the environment, support an important local charity, and give someone something to visit for years to come. All for a tenner!
I'm placing my order now. Anyone who wants to join me should ring the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust gift line on 015242 51004.