It’s about a hundred years since Thomas Hardy finished playing with Dorset families and left them to live their lives in peace. Peace that is, until they embark on that most enjoyable of activities, the farmers market, where producers congregate to sell their wares directly to the public, thus avoiding either party having to pander to the whims of supermarkets. I am always more than happy to avoid supermarkets, and I remember what it was like when I discovered the monthly Bridport Farmers Market.
You don’t need to spend long in Bridport to notice that the old ladies of the town have yet to become accustomed to automobiles. As they go about their daily tasks they are prone to change direction at random, and occasionally one will totter into the road causing traffic to grind to a sudden halt. Others will manage to stay on the pavement but skittle innocent pedestrians into the road by spinning and bumping their way through the crowds like crazy wind-up toys.
Familiar faces (& voices):
Walking the short distance from the car park to the high street took us past the coach park and straight into the path of what appeared to be an entire coach load of elderly Welsh people exiting the bus station toilets. With a buzz of strongly accented jabbering, they spilled across our path like bees swarming from a hive that had been beaten with a stick.
Bridport is a small town and it did not take long to get to the Arts Centre, the venue for this monthly event. Somewhere within the busy scene the distinctive American accented voice of ‘pepper guru’ Michael Michaud could be heard, a voice I recognised from being a regular viewer of the River Cottage tv series. Nearby, other seen-on-tv faces in the form of The Dorset Cider Makers were manning their own stall, from where they were selling sausages and faggots in aid of The Dorset Air Ambulance.
The courtyard at the front of the Arts Centre was filled with stallholders all cooking samples and hot snacks, and the mix of cooking smells wafting through the air soon had me salivating like a pavlovian dog. Entering the dimly lit hall of the Arts Centre I was subjected to temporary blindness until my eyes acclimatised from the bright sunlight. The inside of the building on market day is the closest that everyone except David Attenborough will ever get to experiencing the innards of a termite mound. It is a dark world, seemingly inhabited by several million individuals and maintained at a temperature and humidity slightly above that of comfortable if endured for any length of time.
Once inside, I soon discovered that the best way to move around was to allow the flow of the masses to supply the propulsion while trying to control some degree of steering by twisting and pointing in the general desired direction. It is a bit like hot air ballooning inasmuch as you may see where you would like to end up, but even with skilled piloting the location or comfort of the landing cannot be guaranteed. Should this technique be inadequate, then the Pamplona method is sometimes more effective. With head down and preferably snorting steam from the nostrils it is definitely quicker and quite satisfying, but can lead people to think that one of the wind-up grannies may have strayed in from the street.
It may not be a large market, but a Saturday morning exploring the wares of Dorset folk is always enjoyable and usually sees me return home with a bag full of treasures such as venison, bread and other wondrous produce that Rachel thinks we don’t need.
Where is the best farmers market?
Perhaps it is just a farm shop. Add a comment about your favourite.