Watton Farmers’ Market closes after 12 years

Traders and organisers of Watton Farmers' Market were 'sad' after stalls were put up for the final time at the weekend.

The traditional monthly attraction, organised by a team of volunteers from the Wayland Partnership, had been running for 12 years on the High Street but finished on Saturday.

In its heyday the market had 18 stalls, but ended up with four.

Jan Godfrey, chairman of the Wayland Trust, said: 'In the past month two of our traders said they could not sustain it any longer. It left us with two regular and two seasonal stalls. We all felt that wasn't sustainable. You don't attract the custom with that small number of stalls.

'We have been going for 12 years and for 10 of those years we have had a good market, but the recession has made a big impact.'

She added the traders and customers were loyal to the monthly market, which only sourced produce from a 30-mile radius.

'It is always sad when something ends but I think we would all look back and say it was good. We have all loved it and our stallholders have always told us we ran the best market,' Mrs Godfrey said.

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She added the partnership would take a break and review the situation when the economy improves.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said: 'We are all familiar with the challenge facing market towns across Norfolk. Market towns have reinvented themselves to remain part of country life and today we have to adapt to the pressures of squeezed family finances and the internet. Watton High Street has experienced the same pressures as the rest of Norfolk.'

He said there needed to be some 'joined up thinking' so town centres could become 'the hub of the rural life' once more.

Mr Freeman added he was confident that Watton Farmers' Market would be revived following initiatives between the town council, Breckland Council and the Wayland Partnership.

Barbara Spieglei, 68, from Ashill, who regularly shopped at Watton Farmers' Market, said: 'It is very sad that people don't support local enterprise.

'When this is no longer here people will be saying why don't we have a Saturday market.

'It is so easy to go into a supermarket and buy stuff at half the price but there is no comparison. It is a huge mistake for this to be closed.'

She added there would be a knock-on effect for Watton businesses, who benefited from farmers' market customers.

Rory Watson, owner if Swanton Road Farm, near Swanton Morley, had sold eggs at Watton Farmers' Market since it was originally set up. But despite his love of the market he was not selling enough to cover his costs.

Mr Watson said: 'Watton used to be great – we used to have queues of people buying our eggs. Markets are dying because people don't use them. The farmers' markets are monthly but most people shop weekly. I will miss the interaction with the customers.'

He added the success of this type of market depended on the people who live in the area.

It is not all doom and gloom for farmers' markets in other parts of Norfolk, which are 'thriving' and adapting to the tough economic climate.

Despite only starting in October, the organisers of Swaffham Farmers' Market believe it will become a success.

Run by Kent-based City and Country Farmers' Markets, this particular market takes place on the first and third Sundays of each month and is currently the only market the company runs outside of the M25.

Chris Elder, a shareholder in the business, said: 'It is not doing too badly. People do need to realise that you cannot rely on the supermarkets. We think Swaffham stands a good chance of becoming a hit in the area, but people need to support it.'