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See inside Blackthorpe Barn Country Christmas Shop, in Rougham near Bury St Edmunds, which boasts nearly 10,000 festive lines, as it opens for the season





With Hallowe’en still on the horizon, you could be forgiven for not wanting to think about Christmas just yet.

However, there’s no escape from the festive season at one of the region’s longest-running and best-loved Christmas shops, which opens its doors near Bury St Edmunds today.

The Country Christmas Shop at Blackthorpe Barn, on the Rougham Estate, is back in business, with its shelves and beams weighed down by thousands of decorations and trinkets (including an autumnal section complete with seasonal garlands, pumpkins and witches).

Ady White, who leads the creative vision for the estate, has been involved with the Country Christmas Shop for the past 28 years.

It is his full-time job, with planning for each year’s festive offering starting in January.

As soon as the Christmas period is over, Ady sits down and reflects on how the previous season went and works out what to buy next.

He attends trade shows from mid-January until early March and builds a picture in his head of what this year’s shop could offer.

“I keep an eye on trends but we do tend to stick to traditional and classy themes and decorations,” said Ady.

After placing orders from the 40-50 suppliers used by the shop – ‘unlike many outlets we don’t use just one or two suppliers as that can get a bit same-y’ – Ady walks around the shop site during the first half of the year, considering what to change and any potential additions.

The carpenters arrive in May, undertaking any works Ady has identified, before the first deliveries start to drop in June.

And once the deliveries start they do not stop, with the shop selling nearly 10,000 different festive lines this year.

“I have got this vision of how things will look and it’s so exciting to watch it take shape,” said Ady, describing how the barn’s historic features are utilised where possible, with baubles displayed in the cowshed’s drinking troughs, for example.

“There’s not a lot of plastic in this shop and a lot of items are made out of glass, wood metal and tin – although we do have shatterproof baubles made out of plastic,” said Ady.

Themes at this year’s shop include gingerbread, let it snow, candles, nutcracker and a ‘family room’ complete with festive dinosaurs and a handmade display volcano.

“My hope is that when adults come into the shop it reminds them of going into a sweetshop when they were young,” said Ady, whose background is in graphic design.

“I remember the sweetshops of my childhood in the 70s, going in and seeing glass jars of sweets lined up on shelves and enjoying the experience of looking around and deciding what to buy.

“That’s the experience I want for adults coming here. And people do come back week after week, always seeing something they didn’t notice before. That’s exactly what I want – I want people to enjoy it here.”

And for Ady, the shop is truly a labour of love with each October’s opening reflecting 10 months of hard work behind the scenes.

“I just love it. And as long as I can keep my creative juices flowing I don’t see that changing,” he added.

The Christmas shop is open daily 9.30am-5pm until December 22.