Stroud is twenty five miles from Bristol and on a quiet Saturday when the population of Bristol seems to have vanished elsewhere for the Easter break, you can be there in under half an hour. It has an award winning Farmers Market which is so successful that it now sets up its stalls every Saturday morning.
Stroud has a long and interesting history; it is an old market town, on which five valleys converge, sitting at the Western edge of the Cotswolds. You can read a good synopsis of its history as a cloth and mill town, and its current reputation as a centre for artists and alternative living here on Wikipedia. There’s more about the producers who have stalls at the Stroud market here.
I first came here a long time ago when Days mill was still working – so that tells you how old I am – I have an old blanket that I bought as a student which has been draped on either bed or sofa ever since, which came from the millshop; it’s getting a bit holey now but I am very attached to it, my comfort blanket.
Yesterday the market was packed full with stalls and shoppers; the town sparkled in the warm sunshine and it was pretty much perfect.
I was delighted to find a forager, Rupert Burdock, advertising his guided walks, with a little stall full of samples of what ‘is about’ right now! Some wild herbs I knew like my old friend the wild garlic, but he had alexanders, watermint, flowering dead nettles, and many more. He also had two bowls of morels that had been brought to him to sell by someone else. I have never seen fresh morels and got very over-excited and chattered away, about the different sorts of morels and what trees they liked to grow under.
A small crowd gathered and the forager demonstrated to a small boy how to eat fresh nettles. We watched wide-eyed as he carefully folded the nettle leaf inside-out into a small package and then popped it in his mouth and solemnly chewed away. Firewalking has nothing on nettle munching for excitement!
I really wanted to stay and go on the foray later, hopefully another time. Instead I just went into consumer mode;
I bought a big chunk of one of my favourite hard cheeses, Single Gloucester, some of the first early English asparagus, a few precious morels, and a bag of Stroud Foragers Pesto, together with two fine Tuscan sausage handraised pies, a dozen small pullets eggs, purple sprouting broccoli, some lavender bodycream from a lovely lady called Herbylicious, and would have carried on and on I suspect. Lots of plant stalls, jewelry and crafts, fine woolens, bread stalls, lovely second hand book shops. There are some fantastic craft shops in Stroud too, with artworks and craftworks by local artists and makers, lots of cafés and places to sit and hang out; we were treated to tapas and baklava at Nine by the friends we had gone to visit.
On our way back, with my fungi treasure, we stopped at this great shop with its fabulous collection of Victorian bottles and clockwork trains.
When we got back to the car Brian rushed off to take a picture of this very important piece of Railway history – The Great Western Railway Transfer Shed!
For supper we had steamed asparagus with a little butter and lemon juice and a scrunch of black pepper and sea salt, morels on toast with a little garlic and parsley, and two handsome pies. Who needs more than this when there are farmers’ markets like these and you can go home and dine on the finest produce that England has to offer?