With our warm, wet climate, sunny summers (usually) and rich farming heritage, we are surrounded here in West Dorset and East Devon by fantastic food and drink producers, and one of my favourite things to do on a Saturday morning is to head into Bridport and have a mooch around the market. Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days in Bridport, and it takes over most of the town centre, with South Street full of flea market style antique and curio stalls. This is a complete mixture – you never know what you’re going to find, and much of it is at very competitive prices. There is everything from trays full of doorknobs to Polish painted wooden ware, lots of ceramics, books, collectibles and just about anything – it is pure luck as to what’s there on the day.
There are often buskers or street entertainers, and with the odd seagull wheeling overhead it has a real holiday atmosphere, even if you’re a local.
East Street and West Street are a mixture of food producers, growers, craftsmen, clothes, fabrics etc, and some of our local vegetable growers, cheese makers, charcutiers etc are represented, many with ready-to-eat options. Alasdair from Spice & Rice is always there – he’s a regular at Axminster too, and his freshly made curries bring people from far and wide, either to take away or eat there & then. There is also Bayside Bakery, with their irresistible brownies, and Bothen Hill Organics with their organic veg grown just on the edge of town. The Turkish man sells fantastic olives, stuffed vine leaves, baklava, and all things Greek/Turkish, and is very generous with his tasters! The honey-roasted cashews are addictive, though, so be warned. There are also a couple of chilli and spice sellers, who will advise you on what you need, and just how much you could handle! Around the corner in the WI Hall is Bridport Country Market, a makers co-op selling all homemade and home cooked food, and also a range of crafts.
Bridport has fantastic food shopping anyway, with several excellent butchers (I love Rawles, with sawdust on the floor and every cut of meat you could possibly imagine), two or three artisan bakers, independent cheese shops and delis, and very good greengrocers (Bridget’s Market always has a very tempting display out the front). If you are bored of cooking and lacking inspiration, a wander round Bridport will probably solve your problem.
As well as the street market, Bridport has gone for markets in a big way. Once a month is the Vintage Market. This is held in the Antiques quarter on the last Sunday of each month, and has a cornucopia of stalls selling everything antique, vintage or just plain old!
Lots of other towns have markets; Axminster has a brilliant little market on a Wednesday, with a very well-stocked greengrocer (where else in East Devon would you find pandan leaves and fresh samphire?), also Colyton Butchers, Leaker’s bakery, a couple of great pie sellers and Jenny’s wonderful selection of cottage garden plants, amongst others.
Charmouth’s Monday Market is a bit less artisan sourdough and a bit more hot doughnuts, if you get what I mean, but it has a very wide selection of clothes, tools, books, etc, and a Thai lady selling amazing takeaway Thai food. There is also a great plant man, and it’s a good market for bargain hunting. Randomly, it also has a giant chippy-style catering truck where you can get a full-on, sit-down roast dinner, which I’ve never seen before!
The markets are a really good way to meet the producers, try some new foods, pick up a good, fresh street-food takeaway or just browse. Prices, especially for fresh ingredients, can be a fraction of the shops, and you will get a good range as the producers specialise in just that thing. Be warned – parking can sometimes be an absolute nightmare in Bridport, so if you can, I’d take advantage of the excellent Jurassic Coaster bus service that runs all along the coast, and leave the car behind. Just make sure you plan for lots of bags on the way home!