A sense of excitement is mounting this weekend around leafy Cranleigh in Surrey in anticipation of what has become a hugely popular annual event… This Sunday, the talented and inspiring McNiven family will be holding their magical Have A Heart Christmas sale, which sends shivers of excitement through those in the know, as this is the place to find an array of the loveliest original handmade gifts, with all the money raised going to charity.
The altruistic and artistic McNivens (Peter was Head of Art at Cranleigh School until recently and Helen holds the same post at the prep school, so their creative credentials are impeccable) held their first Christmas Fair 22 years ago and since then this small but incredibly special event has gone from strength to strength, acquiring a devoted following both locally and further afield. A crowd of keen customers always gathers before the official opening time of 10am to ensure they are among the first in when the doors of the garage – looking suitably twinkly and festive, having undergone its seasonal transformation – are flung open to reveal an Aladdin’s cave of stylish handcrafted treasures.
Helen’s exquisite, characterful guardian angels, thoughtfully and brilliantly put together from pieces of driftwood gathered each year on family holidays, are highly sought after, with customers coming back year after year to add another to their collection, and there are many other delights in store for festive shoppers who fill their wicker baskets with smaller twiggy angels, lavender hearts, chic knitted accessories, hand-thrown ceramics and beautifully presented foods including Christmas puddings, scrumptious homemade preserves and a warming wassail bowl presided over by Peter, who doles out glasses of the hot spiced brew with an abundance of good cheer.
The money from the sale is divided between a number of very deserving causes both overseas and closer to home. Last year the magnificent McNivens raised an amazing total of over six thousand pounds, which was divided among around 60 charities, as well as emergency appeals including Syria and the disaster fund in the Philippines. Pleasingly, various items are linked to the relevant charities they support, so the wonderful wooden dog decorations (below) help guide dogs do their work, a fleet of driftwood boats funds the RNLI, lavender hearts go towards fighting heart disease and a Christmas pudding feeds an African family for a week… the more you buy, the more they raise and every penny goes to charity.
So If you happen to be in Surrey this weekend or have yet to discover its glorious rolling wooded countryside, why not head to the Have A Heart sale and pick up some perfect presents while exploring this beautiful part of Britain.
This year’s event takes place on Sunday 8 December from 10am to 4pm
Old Yew Tree Cottage Garage, Horseshoe Lane, Cranleigh, Surrey GU6 8QF (next to Cranleigh School)
Having grown up assisting at their parents’ Christmas sales throughout their childhood, Sophie and Harry McNiven have been inspired, along with some friends, to launch their own charity Sixty Three Toothbrushes which aims to improve the lives of orphaned children in Sri Lanka by giving financial, managerial and hands-on aid. Have a look at their website to read about their adventures so far and support this very worthwhile venture.