Jam and Jerusalem

WI MarketsBefore 1995 the WI and the WI Country Markets were the same. Then came the split; the WI is a charitable organization and the WI Country Markets are businesses. All the Country Markets’ products are home produced and bought direct from the local producer. All are free of artificial preservatives. I am a long standing fan of my two local branches in Lechlade and Faringdon and of these admirable ladies’ enterprises and their high quality products.

If you are afflicted by SAD (Seasonally Adjusted Depression), one of the best ways to banish the blues brought on by the long, grey English winter is to visit your weekly Country Market.  I visit mine in Faringdon, Oxfordshire. There you will be greeted by a bevy of ladies, all incredibly cheerful, upbeat and attractive in a very down to earth way.

The door to the old Cornmarket Exchang in Faringdon opens at 9:30 – 11:00 a.m. each Friday, and your gloom will soon be lifted by the spirit of these ladies who have made an effort to look their best and do their jobs in a way that leaves no doubt that here is the ‘backbone of the nation that helped win the war against all odds.’

Everything on sale comes from their own gardens, kitchens, or handicraft. Admittedly, during the winter, garden produce is modest, mostly cabbage and root vegetables: potatoes, carrots and parsnips. All this changes when spring and summer come along, and there is a vast array of home-grown vegetables, garden plants and herbs and freshly cut flowers. All year round these is a broad selection of home-baked cookies, cakes, and fruit or treacle pies. There is on sale locally produced honey and eggs from hens reared in the back garden, ducks, duck eggs, and goose eggs. Also home-made jellies, jams, Seville marmalade, and many varieties of chutney are always on offer. Home made fresh shepherd or cottage pies, fish pies, quiches, pizzas and chilli are sold at reasonable prices, and made from local, organic produce. You can order massive sprays of flowers for weddings or parties or birthday cakes in advance. Some husbands join in behind the counters.

The overwhelming impression of good will is made by the friendliness and optimism of the well, turned out local women. You wonder, ‘What do I have to worry about when these ladies are in charge?’ There is a tea and coffee corner where spouses linger and soak up the positive atmosphere. The ladies at the till must have been good at maths at school. They do al the sums in their heads (no computers here) and launch you with a smile into a blues-free weekend. These Country Markets are a must!

John Hopkins

Faringdon Country Market
The Corn Market Faringdon Oxfordshire
Weekly sale -Friday: 9:30 until 11:00

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