Farmers markets were once struggling co-operatives. However, the surge in demand for fresh and local produce has meant that these once small affairs have since transformed into vibrant and bustling shopping delights. Elissa Hill details a sprinkling of stalls that are guaranteed to get groups’ taste buds tingling.
Many markets are still community co-operatives, but this is their strength – they are staunchly proud of what their 'own' are producing and this in turn helps these small local businesses to thrive. Groups could easily spend a good few hours sampling and socialising during a day out to a Farmers Market. What a brilliant way to support the producers by dropping off a coach load of fresh food enthusiasts. Combine with some local sightseeing for a great British day out at some of the best Farmers Markets the UK has to offer.
THE MARKETS OF THE NORTH
Visitors to Lancashire and Yorkshire are spoilt for choice when it comes to Farmers Markets. Wyre Council boasts three of the best farmers markets in Lancashire, Thornton, Great Eccleston and Poulton. For the market dates and addresses check out www.wyrefarmersmarkets.co.uk. Chorley, also in Lancashire, hosts an excellent Farmers Market on Fazakerley Street, which is held on the second Saturday of every month from 0900hrs to 1600hrs. Whilst in Lancashire, why not base yourselves in the beautiful yet lesser-known Forest of Bowland - an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is definitely worth exploring. In the North, cross over into Yorkshire and visit either Kirklees Markets, with two vibrant farmers markets in Cleckheaton and Holmfirth, which is also home to The Last of the Summer Wine exhibition. This is definitely worth a visit. Tickets are £2.50 per adult and coach parties are welcome – simply contact in advance via the website – www.lastofthesummerwine-holmfirth.co.uk.
Another Northern town that has placed itself firmly on the UK's market map is Bury. Thought not a small Farmers Market, many stallholders are local. Bury Market has won UK’s Best Market for four years running; meaning visiting groups will not be disappointed. The comprehensive website (www.burymarkets.com) has information for coach parties, including coach tour incentives. They even have a restroom for the driver. Over in Barnsley, there is a thriving market with over 300 stalls. Established over 700 years, Barnsley certainly knows its business. Venturing further north, head over the border to Edinburgh, where you can visit the city's award-winning market set in the shadows of the City Castle. The market is held every Saturday between 0900hrs and 1400hrs, and houses around 55 specialist producers and cooking demonstrations.
Edinburgh Farmers Market is now in it's 15th year. Visit the website for more information on celebrity demonstrations and special events, www.edinburghfarmersmarket.co.uk. Additional itinerary ideas include the Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Botanical Gardens and The Scotch Whisky Experience.
Birmingham is a great day out for groups; alongside pure unadulterated shopping, there is plenty to keep groups occupied. Moseley is a lovely farmers market located just outside Birmingham, so why not organise a shopping trip of two halves? A sedate Farmers Market experience in the morning and then into the city for a different kind of shopping experience altogether in the afternoon. Petit market fare is sold on the Village Green every fourth Saturday of the month from 0900hrs until 1400hrs. With over 60 stalls available, there is plenty of choice. They even have raw milk on offer.
The quaint Cotswold town of Stroud has a multi-award winning Farmers Market held every Saturday from 0900hrs until 1400hrs. Held on the picturesque market place, it is one of the biggest of its kind in the UK. Popular with TV folk - Blue Peter, Rick Stein, The Hairy Bikers and Secrets of the Cotswolds - have all featured it in their programme, so it's bound to be worth a visit. Take a look at the website for more details, www.fresh-n-local.co.uk/trader/stroud. Nearby is Woodchester Mansion and Gardens, which is open from April until November (www.woodchestermansion.org.uk), telephone 01453 861541 for group prices. Another Cotswold favourite is Stow-On-The-Wold.
This picture postcard town holds its Farmers Market on the Market Square every second Thursday of each month and trades from 0900hrs until 1300hrs.
Hampshire is very organised when it comes to its Farmers Markets. They have an excellent website (www.hampshirefarmersmarkets.co.uk), which details all the available locations. Winchester is a particular highlight, with around 90 stalls to browse. Winchester Market takes place on Middle Brook Street on the second and last Sunday of every month. Winchester is a popular coach tour destination, where groups can visit such English Heritage sites as Wolvesey Castle, which lies in ruins. The castle is open between April and November and entry is free. Also nearby is the Jane Austen House Museum, which is where the acclaimed author spent the last eight years of her life. There is a concession for group bookings, but they must be booked in advance via firstname.lastname@example.org. Travel from Hampshire into Kent - Canterbury to be precise - where you’ll find The Goods Shed Farmers Market located within its very own permanent building, which makes it a suitable shopping experience whatever the weather. The Goods Shed Farmers Market is open Tuesday to Saturday between 0900hrs and 1900hrs and Sunday between 1000hrs and 1600hrs, and has a wonderful restaurant attached. Amongst the offering are Charcuterie, wine and beer specialists and a well-stocked vegan restaurant. After your group has exhausted the market, why not embark on a tour of Canterbury Cathedral, with an afternoon of relaxation on the River Stour with Canterbury River Tours (www.canterburyrivertours.co.uk) who offer a historic insight into Canterbury's past. Tours operate from March to October. Group prices are £7.50 per adult, with concessions available. Romford Market is held on the second Sunday of every month on South Street. Once you have explored every avenue, head into the Essex countryside for some further sightseeing or into London to tour the attractions.
Sunny St Ives in Cambridgeshire has recently been awarded UK Farmers Market of the Year by FARMA. Held on the first and third Saturday of each month, it opens between 0830hrs and 1400hrs and is based at the Sheep Market. Musical entertains while you shop and if you’re lucky, you may catch a cheeky cider tasting session. St Ives edges the bank of the River Ouse, so after an hour or two shopping, why not take your group on a cream tea cruise with St Ives Electric Riverboat Company, who will transport you upstream to the beautiful Houghton Mill with it's gloriously tranquil tea rooms. There are two boats available, both taking a maximum of 12 people. Prices start from £55 per boat and cream teas cost extra. Call 07906256308 for more details.
There’s no need to travel the continent for the full Christmas Market experience. The UK appears to be catching up with its European friends when it comes to this wonderful festive experience, with many continental markets coming to us. Lincoln has a wonderful Yuletide Fair, seeing its cobbled hill and castle grounds packed with crafts and delicious Christmas edibles. Glasgow has a huge continental market, along with ice rink and carol singers, with many other cities putting on stunning displays. Seek out the smaller town's Christmas celebrations, where there are some special hidden gems. Grassington in North Yorkshire travels back in time the last three Saturdays before Christmas for a Dickensian Christmas Market. The streets are adorned with old-fashioned lights and stallholders in Victorian dress. Visitors can enjoy music and street dancers, as well as buying their Christmas presents.
LOOK OUT FOR GTW’S ‘FESTIVE FOOD AND EVENTS’ FEATURE WITHIN ITS UPCOMING JULY EDITION