Village sets out its stall for success

Locals celebrate the re-launch
Locals celebrate the re-launch
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A village produce market has proved a roaring success – and is now in line for a ‘rural Oscar’. Jill Turton reports from Hovingham.

In 2008, when the residents of Hovingham were asked what new developments they would like for the village, they voted overwhelmingly for a produce market.

There was one surprising dissenter, Sir Marcus Worsley, landowner, landlord and incumbent of the big house, Hovingham Hall at the heart of the village.

“I thought it was an absolutely dotty idea,” he said. It was the first anniversary of the market and he had been invited to cut the cake. But he jovially conceded: “I’ve been proved, I’m delighted to say, absolutely wrong.”

Hovingham Village Market is a runaway success which continues to grow. It’s an enviable community enterprise which on the first Saturday of each month, camps inside and outside the village hall.

In 2010, it was crowned Britain’s Greenest Market, and the following year, the Most Improved Market by the National Market Traders Federation. Now it’s in the running for the Countryside Alliance’s “Rural Oscars”’, an award which “celebrates the character, skills and traditions of the countryside”.

“We’ve won the Yorkshire regional award,” says Mark Woolley, chairman and founder member of the Hovingham Village Market, “and now we’re through to the finals.”

So, in a couple of weeks, a team from this picture postcard estate village will be heading to London and the House of Lords in the hope of bringing the national award back to Yorkshire’s Howardian Hills.

It all started with the Community Plan in 2008 when villagers made it known they would like a village market.

“I foolishly wrote on my form – ‘and if you need any help setting it up...’” says Mark Woolley ruefully. They did and he has, with great success.

From small beginnings the market now has some 40 local craft and produce stalls and a waiting list of 30 others wanting a pitch. The busy community cafe in the village hall is manned each month by a different village charity – the playgroup, the church, the village hall itself – all permitted to take whatever profit they make.

In a display of home baking that would shame the Great British Bake Off, it looks like the church coffers will get a substantial boost. On this particular frosty Saturday, they also look set to break all records for the trade in bacon butties and mugs of tea.

“Shop local” is the slogan on the market’s own jute shopping bag and indeed villagers are soon arriving on foot carrying dainty wicker baskets. Others come by car and one lady, not quite so local, said she caught the 9.30pm bus from Scarborough.

The range of stalls is impressive: pork and bacon, fruit and vegetables are all grown and produced at a nearby farm: The Wall at Coulton. Lamb and beef come from Manor Farm in Driffield. Thundercliffe’s fish van is doing nicely. The longest queues are for big fat sausage rolls, home made pork pies and glistening fruit tarts made by the White Cottage Bakery from Thornton Dale. You could do most of your weekly shop here.

“All the businesses come from within a 30-mile radius of Malton,”’ says Mark Woolley, “and we try to get as good a range as possible so we have a balance.” Woolley himself has his own stall of Country Cordials, selling what he calls “hedgerow cordials”: apple, sloe, elderberry, Yorkshire rhubarb and today, samples of Winter Warmer: mulled apple juice, ginger, orange and honey. Other stalls are selling oats, Yorkshire honey, hand-made chocolates and rapeseed oil, with free samples all round.

Orchards of Husthwaite have set out shiny bottles of Galtres Gold Cider, apple juice and pear juice from their community orchard in Husthwaite where the villagers have replanted 500 apple and pear trees in the village and are now reaping the harvest with their own village cider, juices and today sample tots of sloe gin.

And if Kardamakis Olive Oil doesn’t sound very Yorkshire, think again. Yiannis Kardamakis lives in Malton and imports his cold pressed olive oil from his family farm in Crete.

Indoors are mainly craft stalls with jewellery, scarves, Selina Scott socks and, in this well-bred village, cosy brushed cotton pyjamas “designed to withstand the rigours of the prep school laundry”.

The Hovingham Village Market is run exclusively by volunteers and is a genuine community enterprise: “‘We have 100 volunteers out of a population of 350,” explains Mark Woolley. “They all give whatever time they can, erecting stalls, doing the admin, helping in the cafe.” The cafe has raised £20,000, which has been ploughed back into village amenities.

It’s certainly food for thought for other villages that have lost their shops and lost their sense of community. With their Yorkshire Oscar on display at the market, the next challenge for Hovingham will be to bring home the big one on March 7.

Showing the rural spirit

The Countryside Alliance Awards started life in 2005.

The Alliance felt “doom and gloom” tales of rural decline did not reflect the spirit of rural people and their desire to protect our landscapes, heritage and communities.

The next Hovingham Village Market, on the first Saturday of each month, is a week today, March 3, 10.30am-2.30pm. www.village-markets.co.uk