Friday market, a hidden treasure

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Every Friday morning from March to December and from 10am until 11:30am, Rye Community Centre on Conduit Hill TN31 7LE, holds a country market. Hidden away and not very well known except to long-time Ryers, it has been in business for over 40 years. Selling homemade baked goods, garden grown fruit and vegetables, plants and flowers and preserves and crafts, the high quality goods on sale are spread across the sides of the hall on long tables. Everything is produced in domestic kitchens and gardens and all food producers have to have a level 2 hygiene certificate.

It undoubtedly occupies a niche position in the local markets scene, with the Thursday Rope Walk market, the Wednesday Cinque Ports market and the other food and drink events that happen locally from time to time. It is a little treasure well worth visiting.

Run by market manager Patricia Ashton-Cobb, it is part of Country Markets Ltd, a co-operative social enterprise. which acts as the governing body. Before Covid lockdowns there were up to 500 of these co-operative market ventures across England and Wales, with a combined turnover of £10 million. There are now only about 150. Rye is a branch of East Sussex country markets, of which there are now only four left, as they too suffered following the lockdowns. Before that there were about ten.

Kenneth Bird and basket!

You can expect to see a large open hall, with tables of like-for-like producers along the sides: baked goods, fruit and veg and crafts and wonderful flowers and plants by the stage. The centre of the room has large round tables with bright yellow spotted cloths where coffee, tea and homemade biscuits are served. Money only passes from hand to hand after produce and coffee have been purchased, as on entry, a card is given to each customer for the producer to record what has been bought. It feels delightfully old-fashioned and works very well, one of the charms being the interaction with the sellers.

How did Trish get involved? It turns out her mother was a knitwear producer and Patricia ran a small holding. As her family grew up and moved away, she had excess fruit and vegetables, so she followed her mother into the co-operative.

The Rye market needs more producers, like Trish and the others, to help with demand and offer more choice for the customers. Want to know more? Each producer is self employed and everything is sold co-operatively, producers receiving payment at the end of each month and paying a small commission for the cost of the venue and any other overheads. Members do not have individual tables as all the goods are put on sale together, like-with-like. Go to the Country Markets website for more information or contact Trish at countrymarkets@gmail.com

Enough producers means that there should be more customers, but the market isn’t well-known, although its loyal customers queue for the 10am opening to get the best of the home made goodies. And it needs more advertising, which Rye News and the market are hoping to do, so keep looking at Rye News, or better still, go and visit it, to see what else can be discovered about this little gem in the centre of the town.

Image Credits: Gillian Roder .

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2 COMMENTS

  1. As well as offering all these wonderful items of produce, preserves and crafts for sale, this is an important social event each week, and customers enjoy meeting up and sharing tea/coffee and homemade cookies, cake, etc. it’s a real treat to have the fresh vegetables, fruit etc.

  2. This sounds such an excellent scheme – how I wish that our Hastings Old Town had something similar now that our Country Market has discontinued.

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