Normally, in the Thursday early hours you can hear the market traders’ vans arriving and from around 4:30am you hear the box steel framework of the stalls being unloaded, ringing as they hit the tarmac. Not a bad noise and one you get used to. After all if you live in central Rye you must live with, and expect, a degree of noise, it’s a busy place and thankfully, many visitors want to come here.
I started my weekly pilgrimage this morning, Thursday, January 23, re-usable carrier bag in hand, my mission to stock up on fruit and veg, bin bags, firelighters and probably a few ‘bits’ from the big white marquee.
The weather was cold but not freezing, no rain in sight (yet!) but there was something very different about today’s market, conspicuous by their absence were shoppers and traders.
Usually by 8am the majority of stall holders have set up, had their first cuppa and are all set to welcome new customers. Those who arrived today were way out numbered by the empty spaces, usually taken by fellow stall holders but for some reason, today the market was probably 75% less occupied than normal.
The white marquee on the entrance to the market, usually a mecca for hoards of students stocking up on essentials on their way to Rye College, was not there. They may well be on their annual break but this is the third week in a row that their pitch has been empty.
The fruit and veg stall, meat wagon, flower man and a few of the usual stalwarts were present and with queues beginning to form. But throughout the market there were huge gaps, no stalls, no customers – just a few lucky motorists who discovered the numerous empty parking bays which no doubt were a great relief to them.
Usually, by 10am the coaches will have arrived, plenty of them, full of visitors to Rye, mainly elderly folk coming to experience the market and spend what allocated time they have been given, visiting what they can, taking in the sights of the town, and spending their money. I didn’t see any tourist coaches today. There was nowhere to park as the area designated for them on the station car park has been dug up and was being resurfaced.
Granted, January is not an exciting month, Christmas overspend has probably kicked in, credit card bills need to be settled, self assessment tax returns need to be filed, and the latest spate of miserable weather certainly hasn’t filled us with awe and wonderment.
This aside, am I getting paranoid, or is the scale of the market diminishing because the traders can’t make it pay; or is it just a seasonal lull and, with better weather, new life will be breathed into it; is the re-surfacing of the station car park having a bigger impact than we thought or have the shoppers found somewhere else to buy their bits?
As a lay person, to me the station car park appeared to have one of the best road surfaces in the town, but there must have been a valid reason for digging it up and no doubt spending a small fortune resurfacing it. If only Network Rail had responsibility for all our local roads and maintained them to a similar standard, what bliss!
Rye Market is an important weekly event, and yes it causes problems on a Thursday as the car park is car-less for most of the day. But on the flip-side, its presence enables all of us to buy what we need on a weekly basis, and it attracts huge numbers of shoppers and tourists alike who spend their hard earned cash and add to the success of our local economy.
It will be interesting to see how many stallholder gaps there are next week. The traders won’t come if the shoppers are not there, and the shoppers won’t come if the traders don’t show up, so it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, but hopefully normal business will soon be resumed. So let’s see what transpires.
Image Credits: Nick Forman .