PUBLISHED: 09:59 15 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:53 20 February 2013
Cornering the market- Home produced, home-grown or hand crafted- that's the motto behind the incredibly successful country markets, which have grown out of the traditional WI markets. Jo Malone discovers they are top spots for local produce.
Cornering the market
Home produced, home-grown or hand crafted thats the motto behind the incredibly successful country markets, which have grown out of the traditional WI markets. Selling everything from quirky cards to plants from award-winning gardeners, Jo Malone discovers they are top spots to shop for local produce.
Pictures: Matthew Usher
Whether its the cheesy bites at Holt, the blackberry jam at Wymondham, the crafts at Drayton or the excellent cakes at Loddon, each country market is known for its top quality goods.
Whats more, you dont need to be a member of the Womens Institute
or, for that matter, even a woman to get involved. The WI markets became country markets a few years ago when it was felt making a profit didnt sit well with the ethos of the Womens Institute.
Now producers become shareholders for a one off-fee of five pence and the markets work as co-operatives so everyone helps to sell everyone elses produce. New producers are welcome, explains Jean Withers, one of the market advisers.
Come to a market and ask, she says, adding that the market manager will be able to offer advice and explain if there are any regulations they would need to meet. Those producing cookery, for instance, have to have a current food hygiene certificate.
It is very straightforward, she says, adding that producers quickly find a niche, perhaps specialising in sugar craft cakes to order, Christmas decorations, knitwear or garden produce.
Producers may also run a stall at various events, such as Wayland Show or special days at Gressenhall Rural Life Museum, and customers can order specialist country market parcels. These can be ordered locally for people pretty much anywhere in the country, with the country market in that area making up a parcel with a mixture of items and delivering them to the lucky recipient. Understandably, these are particularly popular at Christmas, and the giver can choose a theme for the parcel; so a student at university will receive something different from Grandma or Dad.
Norfolk has several country markets promoting traditional skills, ranging from stalls in Reepham, Downham Market and Diss to the large market at Holt.
Find out more at www.country-markets.co.uk or contact markets adviser Veronica Pell at Norfolk Country
Markets Ltd, 45 All Saints Green, Norwich, NR1 3LY.
For a taste of whats on offer around the area and our tips for the not-to-be-missed buy at each:
Aylsham Town Hall
A very popular indoor venue, visitors arriving on the Bure Valley Railway typically make their way here to buy sausage rolls and scones, fairy cakes and pies, preserves such as jams, lemon curds and marmalade, or plants many produced by an award-winning gardener. With plenty of space to sit, many locals treat it as a Friday morning caf too.
Dont miss: The bacon sandwiches and very good cup of tea.
Fakenham Corn Hall Market Place
Fakenham Farmers Market
Fourth Saturday each month 8.30am-1pm
One of the original WI markets in the county, this has been running for about 35 years. Another outdoor venue, this is a very sociable market with a good number of producers and many others involved in the selling and helping. With plants, crafts, bakery and preserves, theres a good mixture and items are always ready to enjoy, so this years chutneys will have matured and be on the stall soon.
Dont miss: The various chutneys.
Harleston King Georges Hall
Enjoy a cup of tea and home-made biscuit for 50p and browse this busy, indoor market. Produce ranges from free-range eggs to a considerable amount of baking, embroidery, baby clothes, knitwear, cards, dried flower arrangements and other crafts. Arrive early for a good choice of home-made cakes, or copy the regulars and put in an order.
Dont miss: The spectacular celebration cakes.
Kings Lynn Tuesday Market Place
Arrive early for the pick of the cakes and pies at this outdoor market, which can often be almost sold out within an hour. Established for well over 25 years, its very well supported and producers bring a good range of sweet and savoury baking, preserves and plants, plus an assortment of crafts.
Dont miss: The Victoria sponge cakes.
Sheringham St Johns Hall
First and third Thursday 10am-11.30am
Its not every week and is only open for a short time, but typically extremely well stocked. Expect plants, fruit, vegetables, honey, eggs, a good range of crafts, masses of baking and a considerable amount of rather special preserves, from spicy Jamaican to lavender marmalade.
Dont miss: The special cakes, which can be made and iced to order.
Watton Christian Community Centre
Knitwear and other knitted items, hand-made cards, reversible fabric bags, kaftans and wooden pieces are among the wide range of crafts here, and theres typically even more variety as Christmas nears. Running since 1972, it also offers cakes, pies, plants and other typical market fare.
Dont miss: The glass engraving, which can be personalised to order.