Due to an over-enthusiastic bout of pruning involving her right index finger Mrs B was left on the ‘Claud’ bench for the September ‘Frome Flea’. With Arthur stepping into the breach she went off in search of things pre-loved, artisan and covetable (quirky?). Here are her ‘best bits’ for you
One of the many things that make Frome such a wonderful place to live is the burgeoning ‘market’ scene in town. The well-established ‘Artisan market’ attracts buyers and sellers from all over the South West. Hordes congregate on Catherine Hill’s cobbles once a month, our independent shop keepers fling open their doors, crowds throng. It’s a wonderful thing. On the basis that you can never have too much of a good thing the ‘Frome Flea Market’ joined the party last year. And on the basis that good things come in threes, rather like buses, the ‘Frome Super-Market’ has put its toe firmly into the Frome. Come on in folks, the water’s lovely… and we don’t mean the rain.
The end result of all this ‘marketeering’ is that Frome now has three markets for the price of one, local independent shops are opening on a Sunday to take advantage of the fancy footfall, and Frome itself has become a ‘go-to’ destination for foodies, artisans, creative types and families in search of a fun day out.
So I dust off my trusty ‘lady reporter’ bag, grab a notepad and my Canon, drop off a final pistachio cake at Claud and plunge into the heart of the flea. The market car park can barely contain itself. Stalls are overflowing with curios, baskets bulge with china and crockery, rails heave with frocks and hats and knick knacks. The beauty of it all is that not a single piece of anything isn’t either vintage or hand made or up-cycled. I make a bee-line for Martin Taylor Joinery. A fellow H-van pioneer, Martin is handing his skills on to his sons, Henry and Arthur, who are also members of ‘Team Claud’ when not crafting beautiful things in wood. The circularity here is pleasing like symmetry. Henry is holding the fort with Martin today. Commissions can be taken. Stuff can be crafted.Heading ‘over the water’ to the Westway more treats lie in store, the ‘Parson’s Nose’ are busy cooking vats of plump sausages, artisan cheeses line up to be admired, a local potter has his wares artfully displayed, gourds are piled high on organic fruit and veg stalls and the sound of lazy Sunday morning jazz comes from somewhere on Bath Street. Turns out that Lolita Noir’s burlesque girls are planning a ‘Crimson Cabaret’ in aid of local charity, Local Action for Cancer, at the Rook Lane Chapel on 15thSeptember. A leaflet is handed my way by a corseted lovely as I stop to soak up the final bars of ‘Summertime’. The car free high street is transformed into a people-friendly space as I head for the foot of Catherine Hill. The weather is nudging towards ‘indian summer’. Frome is pulling out all the stops.
I am soon criss-crossing the cobbles, meandering from stall to stall, picking up leaflets for the Merlin theatre’s fantastic Autumn season as I go. Then I spot a stall after my own heart – having spent late summer chilling in a yoga retreat in the Spanish ‘Alpujarras’ I’m still basking in the glow of healthy eating and daily exercise. The breakfasts at Kaliyoga were incredible – bowls of fresh fruit topped with gojii berries, bee pollen, coconut and raw chocolate nibs and drizzled with honey. How to possibly recreate this at home? Look no further than ‘Elements for Life’, a stall positively bursting with superfoods. They have a website, you can order online – my body continues to be a temple – and the raw chocolate bars are totally ‘Scrummy Yummy’. They also come with a gold star. Sorted.
On I go, past a giant Westcombe Cheddar – and the unmissable ‘Shop Assembly’ – before catching up with our intrepid Lady Mayor, Pippa Goldfinger, who’s promoting a ‘Tea Dance’, to be held the afternoon of 10th November. All proceeds to hand picked mayoral charities, needless to say. Bag your tickets from the ‘Cheeser’ (also politely known as ‘The Cheese and Grain’, Frome’s answer to the O2 arena) or catch Pippa in person at the ‘Rook Lane Retro Market’ on Saturday 22nd September, ten thirty til four and Rook Lane Chapel, Bath Street. Heading on up I spy our friends at ‘I dress myself’ selling prints and taking orders for their silk screen printed tees. They also dress Claud the Butler rather wonderfully. And then i spot jars of such deliciousness that I am stopped in my tracks. Rachel Baker is ‘with her hands’ and makes conserves of such delicacy and subtlety that I am seduced by the names alone. I plump for a ruby red jar of ‘raspberry and attar of roses’ and add it to my swag of superfoods.
I finally reach the top of the hill where Little Red Café are serving Mozzo coffee to weary passers by. From the outside tables there is also a ringside seat of ‘Deadly is the Female’s’ no-holds-barred window display, ‘Look daddy’, calls a small boy, ‘those ladies are moving.’ Lolita Noir and the Crimson Cabaret – Frome salutes you. And from these heady heights the only way is, um, downhill. Past Sun Street Chapel and billowing window boxes to the Jensen Button Bridge, over the River Frome and back into ‘Flea Market’ heaven. Just in time to bag myself some serious bargains and take a long look at Claud from a distance, queues snaking round the block, our pop-up café full of people ‘grooving on the butler’ – and I remind myself how wonderful it is to be a part of all this.