Thursday, 12 November 2009

Shops Ahoy!

When you are on holiday in the Yorkshire Dales in November and it rains constantly, there's really only one thing to do. Go shopping! Well - after you've spent so many hours sitting in the holiday cottage reading that you have a numb bum.

Why is it that whatever shops you have on your own doorstep, everything seems better when you go somewhere else? C would say this is just typical Rosie greed and that I am never satisfied. He may have a point. The grass always seems quite green across the fence. But I think it's about novelty as much as about dissatisfaction. You take for granted what you have at home, so the prospect of different experiences is always stimulating. Living in Edinbugh, we do not lack for shops. Within 5 minutes walk, there are the chic shops and boutiques of Bruntsfield and Morningside, or in the other direction, the food shops of Marchmont - independent butchers, fishmonger, middle-eastern grocers, designer flower shops, delis etc . Within 20 minutes walk there are all the city centre shops. So no, I don't lack for shops at home. You would think I would go on holiday to get away from shops (yeah, right!). It's so pleasant browsing in all the little independent shops you get in small towns, all of them no more than a minute or two's walk from each other. I am a sucker for market towns. Even when there's no market on, there's a bustling, self-sufficient quality about a small market town. When we are on holiday in England, we always check out the market days for towns in the area. In the Dales, and Cumbria, there are weekly markets still in even small villages. I'm not talking about Farmer's Markets, just old fashioned markets, selling everything from sweets, meat, fruit and veg, to all the tat you get on market stalls - cheap clothes and shoes, mass-produced pottery and household goods. And there always has to be  a stall selling CDs for a local musician. It's usually a country musician even in deepest middle england, their unlikely twang wailing out across the market from tinny speakers.

Anyway, here's a quick rundown of the nice shops I saw on my hols - or at least the ones I remembered to take photos of.

This is Reeth Market. A grand total of 5 stalls selling veg, meat, cheese, shoes and sheepskin products. A wet, cold day, and a village with a population of 750 but people queueing up to buy! Not bad. (And yes, it was as dull and miserable as the photo suggests).

As behoves sheep farming country, this is the stall selling sheepskin goods - rugs, gloves and slippers. I suspect they're imported from china rather than having ever graced sheep in local fields, but they look the part.

And here's the wonderfully named Elijah Allen and Son in Hawes, in Wensleydale. A family run business, founded in 1860. How can you resist a shop that claims to sell 'provisions'! It's half-way between a corner shop and a deli. Presumably this sort of shop can only survive because the nearest Tesco is at least 25 miles away.

Elijah Allen's window display of local flours, jams, beer and the red-labelled bottles of Hendersons Spicy Yorkshire Relish. It's the sort of shop that sells about 100 varieties of jam. In fact, jam was a bit of a theme in our holiday shopping. The result of 'farm diversification' schemes I suspect.

Here's the window of the sweet shop in Hawes. Tempting .....

And while I'm on the sweet shop theme, I spotted this shop in Masham.

And no, I didn't buy anything!

On a very rainy day, we were just tootling about, trying to find some blue sky, along the back roads of Wensleydale, when we spotted a sign to 'Stalling Busk only'. C can never resist a sign that goes to somewhere 'only', so we crawled up into the misty, low cloud, to the very end of the road, and discovered a hamlet of about 4 houses, and Raydale Preserves. The shop was deserted, relying entirely on the honesty of punters popping round to the 'Jam Kitchen' to pay for their purchases. Mind you, I don't suppose there will be that many opportunistic jam thieves roaming the back roads of Wensleydale. Probably a wonderful spot to visit in the summer. They have put together a really interesting little local history display and a set of leaflets for walks starting from Stalling Busk - clearly a labour of love.  There is the promise of coffee and cake in high season ......

I bought a jar of 'Fiery Farmer' chilli jam. I think I was hoping it would warm me up.

This is the pretty little Garden House Pottery- a tiny shop off the market square in Reeth - selling really good quality local crafts, ceramics and award winning damson cheese made by the owners, Ray and Jan Davies.

I bought a beautiful creamware colander. When I will actually have reason to use a ceramic colander, I really don't know, but it made me feel very 'Homes and Gardens'. I imagine it appearing on a table, bearing grapes for a cheese course or something. In that imaginary life where I host elegant dinner parties. I got some Damson Cheese as well. I was seduced by the rather lovely 'packaging' - a creamware bowl. It might yet end up someone's Christmas present, so I haven't opened the box to take a photo. But look at their website. It's classy stuff.

Ray Davies, the owner and ceramicist.

A blogland discovery - Milkchurn Cottage in Hawes, which I'd discovered on-line via Karen, the owner's blog and sought out (you can see her sitting at the back of the shop). A really eclectic, personal collection of crafts and housewares, many made locally. Like going into someone's frontroom. There's a fire crackling in the grate.

As a contrast - we saw this wonderfully old-fashioned shop in Ripon. 'Ladies World'. Presumably boasting everything for the Ripon Lady (d'un certain age I suspect): "Quality Footwear and Leather Goods; Cane Furniture and Basketware; Coffee Lounge". What else do you need?

Haul for the week: a vintage mixing bowl from 'RE' in Corbridge, to replace the one I inherited from my mother, which got broken on the move up to Edinburgh; a ceramic colander and some damson cheese; a wooden christmas decoration and a bar of soap from Hawes; 5 jars of jam and 3 jars of chutney. Excellent. All completely unnecessary purchases, for which I have no cupboard space, but I do like to support local traders (well that's my story!).


  1. Hello Rosie,
    I know exactly what you mean about experiencing a breathless delight at the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales! I feel like this every time I step outside the front door. Yes I do really, it happened today too on our way to Richmond from Hawes.

    Do you know it's quite exciting to see someone elses photos of Wensleydale and Swaledale, and the joy of seeing the little shops down my very own high street!!!

    I'm glad you had a lovely if wet and misty holiday here in the Dales. Karen at Milkchurn Cottage told me you'd been in for a visit.

    Keep up the good work with the blog, very enjoyable.

    Love Fi x

  2. Rosie, thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving the really useful comment. Just the sort of info/advice I was after.

    Love this post...if you see someone's trawling through your archives it'll be me!

    For some reason I can't enter my type pad details and have been trying to post a comment for 30 mins. Hope I eventually get through!!

  3. Thank you Fi and 'Rattling On'. You are officially my first comments from people I don't already know! That feels like an importantmilestone for a novice blogger.

    Fi - I hope my love of the Dales - particularly Wensleydale and Swaledale comes through. Even though I don't live there, and experience now tells me, I never could, I do feel a sense of pride and ownership about the area. You are very lucky to have made a life there. God's Own Country after all (as we Yorkshire folk like to say!). I love your blog by the way. Have been 'lurking' on it for a while.

    Rattling On - If you aren't lucky enough to live in the Yorkshire Dales, then the Peak District is almost as good! (I suspect you may disagree with me about that). I hope you get a lovely new sewing machine.

  4. Came here via Rattling On. Love your Dales posts, an area I'm quite familiar with as I live on the north east coast. (Our address used to be Yorkshire then changed to Teesside and Cleveland and we now seem to be lacking any county identity. Shame, really).

  5. Thanks for your comment 'cupcakes'. You must be near Staithes - another of my favourite places. Or Seahouses, home of the best fish and chips I have ever eaten. Lucky you!