Shipbourne Farmers’ Market
The village of Shipbourne, tucked neatly between Tonbridge and Plaxtol, has a population of fewer than 500. Still, there’s no tumbleweed to be found. Particularly on a Thursday morning, when, over the road from the common, and at the foot and in the nave of the Victorian church of St. Giles, is the weekly farmers’ market.
Set up by Kent Farmers’ Market Association, here you’ll find a dozen or so stallholders, 9-11am every Thursday. There’s Edward, with his hazelnuts and cobnuts (cobs being the Kentish variety of hazelnut, don’t you know) from three miles down the road (side note: I find his cold-pressed cobnut oil, which has a smoke point of 270°C, as the fat of choice for pan frying).
There’s Alain’s French Pastries – his macarons superior to many I’ve had in Paris. There’s chocolatier Ira, and her reformed Belgian chocolate made with locally foraged ingredients like mint or strawberry – quite remarkable when you’re more used to pretend versions of the same thing.
Some stallholders rotate quite a bit (Dulce’s Patisserie turns up every third Thursday of each month, for example), and there are as many fresh meat and veg stalls as there are more out-of-the-ordinary exhibitors – Boughton Alpaca’s alpaca wool hats and scarfs, and WellyBix’s gluten-free dog treats being a case in point. As with most markets, they don’t take card payment, but the people behind the bar at the Chaser Inn next door seem content to provide cashback. Which sums up the whole experience quite nicely, actually – everyone here’s happy to please.
By Hugh Thomas, Kent editor