Kimpton is a lovely village, with a real sense of community, and we always enjoy going to the May festival. When we were there this year, I bought delicious chilli and cake from the “cafe” inside the Dacre Rooms, in the centre of the village. I met Mitch and Sandra who explained that they are now running a monthly farmers’ market held in the rooms, so I went back last week to find out more.
There is an interesting story behind the Dacre Rooms. In 1879 Lady Dacre donated the hall to the village to be used as a social club, with the aim of keeping the village men out of the pubs! In more recent years, the hall has not been used as often and was becoming expensive to keep. About nine months ago, a group of villagers surveyed residents and agreed to find new ways to use the hall, and bring in funds. The result has been lots of events and bookings, including some interesting foodie uses.
Held on Fridays, the farmers’ market is small, but perfectly formed. You can buy excellent bread, pork and beef, seasonal vegetables and fruit, Kimpton apple juice, cakes, preserves and cheeses. The market has proved so popular that Mitch and Sandra now open at 9 to sell coffee and cake, and continue through to lunch at 12-2. On the day I went they were selling home-made Whitwell watercress soup, cheese and chive scones and delicious rolls wrapped in parchment. Tables outside were full with sociable villagers. Afternoon tea is served from 2, and the cakes were amazing; I recommend the mocha cake. Tea and the market continue until 430, and on a sunny day villagers come for hours, and it is not unusual for cyclists and walkers to find the hall, and join in too.
I was impressed by the quality of produce on sale. Award-winning Parkside Farm Shop are known for their beef and pork, which Phil and Charlie raise on the farm. Phil is justifiably proud of their animals, and he keeps rare breeds including Dexter cattle and Saddleback pigs, all grass-fed, that large farms just cannot do. Charlie makes the pies and pasties. They were selling a useful selection of vegetables and fruit at great prices. I picked up a huge cauliflower and a bunch of rhubarb, grown by Phil’s Dad Mark.
Lino sells a great range of hams and cheese, including popular Cornish Yarg, and has also hosted an Italian evening in the halls, which sold out.
I chatted to Jo of Jo’s Loaves, and bought a delicious malted grain loaf to take home. Jo explained that she makes all the bread herself using a long-fermentation method and is a member of the real bread campaign. One customer told me that although he makes his own, he always buys Jo’s bread when the market is on, as it is “the best in the world”. Jo also bakes white baguettes, white and brown sourdoughs, focaccia and volkonbrot seeded, all at very reasonable prices.
I bought carrot and orange marmalade from PJs pantry on the next stall, and it was perfect with Jo’s bread. Mrs Baker’s stall sells lovely biscuits and cakes, made with her own chicken’s eggs; you might know her from the Harpenden farmers’ market.
I had a cup of tea with Jackie who is on the management committee for the Dacre Rooms to find out how the past few months have gone. Jackie explained that the markets have proved very popular with the villagers, and the regular foodie evenings (including Spanish dinner, fish and chips and a casserole night) have sold out. The good news is that as the end of the first year approaches, the hall has been able to generate enough money for maintenance and should be able to continue; as Jackie said “it has been released from its death sentence”.
It is well worth making this market a regular in your calendar, as they change the focus each month. As we come in to the bumper harvest months, I am sure there will be lots of delicious fresh food to discover.
Usually the second Friday in the month, the next few dates are 8th July, 12 August and 9th September.