One of life’s simple pleasures has to be a good local market. And arriving early in Petworth in West Sussex, along the road that skirts the imposing wall of Petworth House, I was heartened to see locals scurrying along with empty baskets. This was a good sign that Petworth Farmers Market was going to be well worth the visit.
Petworth Farmers Market
Petworth Farmers Market meets between 9.00 am – 1.00 pm every 4th Saturday of the month. Unsurprisingly perhaps, it lines Market Square and spreads gently down towards the town’s main car park. Like so many markets and enterprises, it’s just trying to regather its momentum as we come out of the pandemic and as markets go, I can confidently report, it’s an absolute delight!
The stallholders are from across Sussex and include everything you want. Fresh pastries, breads and cakes, jams, local cheese, game from the South Downs, fish – fresh off the boats at Selsey, farm eggs, plants, chocolate, locally brewed beer, a butcher, homemade marmalade, flowers and beautiful vintage fabrics. Happy days indeed.
Local at its best
Arriving early has its benefits because it gives you lots of opportunities to talk. And this is where the first real pleasure of a local market begins. At Selsey Willows Seafood stall I was tempted by a lobster and while I prevaricated, the stallholder told me how he had been a fisherman all his life as had his father before him. In fact, in his father’s day, they sailed out to sea with a first aid box that contained no more than a bottle of rum, a cigarette and a plaster. Then he showed me some photos of the sun rising across the sea sent by his son, who had just brought in the morning’s catch. There were dolphins swimming aside his boat and I couldn’t help but think that my lobster’s environmental footprint doesn’t get much more transparent than that.
Moving round, the lady at Country Artisan Interiors told me how she’d left a corporate job to pursue her great passion of sourcing and sewing vintage fabrics whilst the cheesemonger from Nut Knowle Farm told me about his work on the farm and the farm’s great cheesemaking legacy. I caught up with Lucy Marmalade who I last met in the summer at Danefold Market, and Mike from Noble and Stace where I enjoyed orange slices dipped in chocolate (for breakfast no less!).
Then I exchanged jokes with Simon over his hot sausage rolls before stopping to find out what the Sussex Pimp was all about.
In fact, it’s all about small pieces of wood traditionally used to start a fire but what a character the Sussex Pimp is.
Whilst I wandered around the stalls, I picked up snippets of local life. The stallholders clearly know and enjoy time spent with the locals. It’s good old-fashioned stuff that up until now I’ve seen more frequently in France than in Sussex. How is Great Aunt Flo? Are your bunions still causing you trouble as I think I’ve got something that could help and Yes, I’ve kept a couple of your favourite pies back especially for you. It is heartwarming and encouraging and suggests that we’re all relishing a renewed sense of community.
With a basket full of cold meats, cakes and preserves, I headed for coffee at the newly opened Hungry Guest Café in a secluded courtyard at the side of Newlands House Gallery in the car park. It’s easy to miss this fantastic little venue which I only knew about because I had arranged to meet someone there. After a coffee in the warm of the heated courtyard, there was just time for a quick “Pitts” stop in the bookshop to look for a couple of fantastically knowledgeable local authors who I’d been advised to check out.
Petworth is a town that keeps on giving and what I learnt over coffee is that there is much more to learn, and I will need to go back. By the time I left, Petworth Farmers Market was bustling with life and I left with a sense that time spent at a good market is always time well spent.