Shaftesbury shoppers are being encouraged to ‘keep calm and carry on’, with news that the town’s two Thursday markets will go ahead as planned.
Shaftesbury High Street felt subdued today. There seemed to be fewer shoppers on the town’s streets and one notable closure – the popular Oxfam bookshop was in darkness. Volunteers and staff didn’t open for browsing because of coronavirus concerns.
Shaftesbury Town Council’s business manager Brie Logan hopes that the town centre will be buzzing again on Thursday as the indoor and outdoor markets will be trading unabated. The sale inside the Town Hall has been a fixture of Shaftesbury life for 45 years. The former WI sale became independent and started trading as the Shaftesbury Country Market 23 years ago.
“We are passionate about having locally produced food and we want to try and keep normal life continuing for as long as we can,” said chairman Shirley Asbury. “We’ll still have our usual range of baked goods, sweet and savoury, including cakes, pies and pasties. There will be eggs, jams, preserves, marmalades and honey. We will have meat this week including pork, lamb and sausages.”
The market produce is all locally sourced. “Most of it is from within three or four miles of Shaftesbury. The meat comes from South Dorset, but it is a very small producer who sends it in once a month,” said Shirley.
Shirley says the traders are facing some challenges, like most locals. “If there is a limited supply of cooking things in supermarkets, when there is no flour on the shelf in Tesco, we can’t make cakes either. That’s going to be a limiting factor for us until supermarkets get their chain of supply sorted out again,” she said.
The organisers have made some changes because of the threat of coronavirus. There won’t be any arts and craft items inside the Guildhall, the downstairs part of the Town Hall, this Thursday. That’s so the stallholders are not so tightly packed. “The idea is that we have plenty of room to move about within the market and not to be too close to one another. We don’t want social isolation, but we do want social distancing.” The teas and coffees won’t be served this week either.
The indoor market will be operating from 9.30am until 11.30am. The outdoor street market is also going ahead. Alfred reached three of the six expected stallholders on the phone today and each one confirmed their attendance, including cheesemongers Crook and Churn and Long Crichel Bakery.
“We pick the day before. A lot of our vegetables are still in the fields. We could pick them fresh. We have a lot of vegetables in season,” said Liz Collins. She operates the organic vegetable farm Kenson’s at Sutton Mandeville, with her husband Hugh. “We will be there on Thursday. There are very few occasions when we haven’t made it through to the Shaftesbury market since 2001. We’ve even made it in the snow, and fantastic local people have walked up to town and supported us,” she added.
Like Shirley, Liz says she will be adhering to the latest government advice. “We make sure that when we are cutting the vegetables, we are wearing gloves, and that we are serving people safely. That’s an important part of it.”