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Fair Game: Here comes Christmas...


By Louise Cummings


It’s time to sleigh that festive shopping list with a trip to the region’s finest Christmas fairs. Find original hand-made gifts galore, sure to impress even that cantankerous uncle with the resting Grinch face. . .

Ely Cathedral Christmas Gift & Food Fair

What could be more enchanting than browsing a vast array of tinsel-topped stalls from the region’s finest designer makers, within the majestic surroundings of Ely Cathedral? Now in its eighth year, the Gift & Food Fair is considered one of East Anglia’s biggest and best Christmas markets. Time to pour yourself a spicy mulled wine, pen your ‘nice list’, grab your tote and make a date for this delightful shopping soiree. Here’s four festive favourites to look out for, courtesy of the team at Ely Cathedral. . .

Festive Shopping

Whether looking for exquisite gifts for friends and family or something special to decorate your home, more than 100 handpicked traders are waiting to be discovered inside Ely’s magnificent medieval nave, providing endless shopping and eating experiences. This year we have once again extended the opening times so visitors can enjoy the experience at their leisure.

With over a third new stalls for 2019, there is plenty of sensational merchandise to catch your attention as you browse. We are particularly excited about Dittany Rose (funky jewellery), The Speculating Rook (interior accessories), Hunt and Feather (unusual gifts), Tom Foolery (fashion accessories), The Bookbinders (contemporary stationary) and Thread & Ink (textiles and prints).

Ely Cathedral Christmas Fair, PIC BY GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY(18795141)
Ely Cathedral Christmas Fair, PIC BY GEOFF ROBINSON PHOTOGRAPHY(18795141)

Festive Feasting

The Festive Food Hall provides a haven for lovers of fine fare and drink. Packed with gourmet and artisan suppliers from across the region including cheesemongers, distillers of gin, vodka and other winter warmers, specialist butchers and charcuteries, chocolatiers and purveyors of jam, pickles, spices and oils, there are plenty of tempting treats for your Christmas larder.

If you are daunted at the prospect of cake baking, you can buy a home-made, hand decorated Christmas cake cooked by supporters and volunteers of EACH (East Anglian Children’s Hospices). All money from the sale of these cakes will directly benefit this highly-regarded local charity.

Ely Cathedral Christmas Fair, The Speculating Rook (18795199)
Ely Cathedral Christmas Fair, The Speculating Rook (18795199)

Festive Fun

The Christmas Fair also provides an opportunity to meet up for festive fun with friends and family and take a nostalgic ride on the beautiful Victorian Carousel, located on the green, with the iconic Cathedral as its backdrop.

Those wanting to get into the seasonal spirit can enjoy a tipple from the Mulled Wine & Fizz Bar and there will be plenty of options to feed hungry shoppers including Verrechia Crepes, The Raclette Sisters, Norfolk Hog Roast and The Rural Coffee Project, serving their delicious artisan coffee, plus homemade cakes being served from a vintage Land Rover.

No Christmas fair would be complete without a furry friend for selfies (and patting) and this year we are delighted to welcome ‘Pamela’ the miniature Shetland pony. Pamela was rescued by the World Horse Welfare in 2014 and is already making a name for herself as a superstar of the equine world having been the smallest horse to ever attend Burleigh Horse Trials.

Ely Cathedral Christmas Fair, Katie Haydn Slater, of Wild Oak Workshops (18795190)
Ely Cathedral Christmas Fair, Katie Haydn Slater, of Wild Oak Workshops (18795190)

Festive Style

Unleash your creativity by coming to one of several free workshops and demonstrations. Learn how to create a gorgeous wreath using locally-harvested spruce and deliciously scented festive foragings. Katie Haydn-Slater, who runs Wild Oak Workshops, will be bringing her creative spirit to the fair for everyone to experience and enjoy.

For those wanting to perfect their present wrapping skills, Retail Stylist Kim Smart, will be demonstrating clever techniques and tricks to transform the simplest gift into something spectacular.

The Ely Cathedral Flower Guild will also be on hand to give their wealth of experience and expertise on how to create simple but effective seasonal floral displays for your Christmas table.

Visit the fair at Ely Cathedral, November 14-16. Advance booking essential. Call (01353) 660359, email visits@elycathedral.org or visit elycathedral.org

Presents Galore

Tipped as East Anglia’s ‘most glamorous gift fair’, Presents Galore is a three-day Christmas shopping extravaganza, set in the stunning surrounds of Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse. Boasting more than 100 boutique stalls, it features a treasure trove of unique gifts, from dotty dungarees for your cute niece and a tweed headband for that equestrian-loving cousin, through to designer tableware for your discerning great aunt and a stylish collar for your fashion-conscious Labradoodle. It’s an opportunity to wrap up all your Christmas shopping in one go, saving yourself the trauma of elbowing through frantic festive crowds come December 24.

On top of the extraordinary shopping opportunity, Presents Galore is a great day out, with an array of culinary options to be enjoyed with your nearest and dearest. Why not treat yourselves to a Christmas Tea, featuring a quintessential afternoon tea with a seasonal twist (a glass of Coates and Seely English Sparkling Wine)? The afternoon tea package, plus weekend admission to Presents Galore, is just £25 per person. Swap cakes for a hearty meal, by ordering the roast lunch package, which is £20 for adults and £10 for children, including weekend tickets.

Presents Galore (18796260)
Presents Galore (18796260)

And you can feel all warm inside knowing that Presents Galore raises vital funds for charity. Previously Macmillan Cancer Support was the main beneficiary, but from 2019, funds generated from the event will go to two of racing’s foremost charities; Racing Welfare and Palace House, Newmarket. Racing Welfare, who now organise the fair, support all people who work in racing, including stud, stable and racecourse staff, alongside those working in associated professions - from their recruitment right through to retirement. The charity provide advice and guidance services and arrange a number of community engagement events across the country.

Palace House, of which Her Majesty the Queen is Patron, is home to a number of attractions including the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art. Located in the remaining elements of Charles II’s sporting palace and stables, it spans five acres in the heart of Newmarket.

Presents Galore opens with the ultimate late-night shopping event on the Friday evening, and continues throughout the weekend, delivering the atmosphere, sights and aromas of Christmas (we can almost smell the cinnamon and cloves!). So whether you’re after candles or cashmere, toys or toiletries, jewellery or decorative jugs, books or bronzes, Presents Galore is just the ticket!

Visit Presents Galore, at the Millennium Grandstand, Rowley Mile Racecourse, Newmarket, November 22-24. There’s lots of free parking. Find out more and pre-book at presentsgalore.org

Blackthorpe Barn Best of British Crafts Weekends

Welcome to an eclectic mix of pure creativity, housed beneath the oak beams of a stunning medieval barn. Nestled within Rougham Estate’s mature woodlands, just outside Bury St Edmunds, historic Blackthorpe Barn will be packed to the rafters with unique talent as it plays host to its renowned British Crafts Weekends, which begin November 9 and continue for five weekends.

Blackthorpe Barn Crafts, sculpture by Matt Brown (18794935)
Blackthorpe Barn Crafts, sculpture by Matt Brown (18794935)
Blackthorpe Barn, an overview by Tom Soper (18794975)
Blackthorpe Barn, an overview by Tom Soper (18794975)

This year, designer makers will be displaying an inspiring assortment of sculpture and ceramics, wooden, metal and glass creations, traditional and textile jewellery, leather pieces, feltware, homeware, furniture, garden accessories, fashion, artworks, health and beauty indulgences, and tasty food items.

Many exhibitors change each weekend, so visitors can return to find new crafts to explore.

There’ll also be craft-led workshops, plus Rougham Estate Christmas Trees are available from November 22. Make sure you pop into the popular Country Christmas Shop to stock up on dazzling new baubles to dress your Norway Spruce in spectacular style!

Blackthorpe Barn is three miles east of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, off the A14 at junction 45. Find out more at blackthorpebarn.com.

Rural Magpie Jewellery Fairs

They say the best presents come in small packages; if that’s the case, you’re bound to find a true gem at one of Rural Magpie’s jewellery fairs, featuring the region’s finest artisan designer makers.

The first takes place in Great Chesterford on November 2, with a further showcase at Great Dunmow on November 23. It’s a unique opportunity to meet the jewellers, who have handcrafted exquisite pieces, from dainty earrings to bold pendants, statement rings to fancy feather brooches. Among the exhibitors will be award-winning artist Paul Spurgeon, of Cornerstone Creations, twice voted UK Jewellery Designer of the Year; Nicky Wade, of Gemmeus, who specialises in historical jewellery, giving a fascinating insight into the treasure chests of our ancestors, from Roman and Saxon to Tudor jewellery design and Art Deco; and Karen Faulkner-Dunkley, whose contemporary creations exude timeless elegance.

Look out also for handcrafted pieces by Sandra Kerns, set with stunning semi-precious stones; Sasha Garrett’s vibrant masterpieces made from Fordite (using layers of paint built up in old car factories) and Surfite (utilising paint from surfboards); and Jackie Lucas, of Cloudberry Designs, whose Scandi-inspired work reflects a love of nature and clean, simple lines.

With more than 28 jewellery stands, taking in preloved, antique and vintage jewellery, you’re bound to come away with some serious seasonal sparkle. Go on, treat yourself!

Visit Rural Magpie’s shows at The Chesterfords Community Centre, Newmarket Road, Great Chesterford, CB10 1NS, November 2, and Foakes Hall, Stortford Road, Great Dunmow, CM6 1DG,November 23. Find out more at ruralmagpie.co.uk

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre, aerial view (18795036)
Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre, aerial view (18795036)

Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre, The Apex (18795071)
Bury St Edmunds Christmas Fayre, The Apex (18795071)

Soak up the magic of Christmas at this award-winning fair, which begins with a children’s opening parade and features fireworks, a cookery theatre, farmers and makers markets, funfair and lots of activities for excited tots. Now in its 18th year, and boasting more than 300 stalls, which stretch out around the historic Georgian town centre, it’s a sight to behold, particularly as night falls and the pretty lights illuminate the way. There’ll be tasty treats on sale in the Cathedral grounds (make mine a mince pie!), heavenly music courtesy of church choirs, schoolchildren and bands, plus dance groups and street entertainers.

It’s going to bring joy to the world!

Bury St Edmunds Fayre takes place November 21-24. Full details at burystedmundschristmasfayre.co.uk

Mill Road Winter Fair

Fudge at Mill Road Winter Fair (18795889)
Fudge at Mill Road Winter Fair (18795889)

Mill Road Winter Fair (18796084)
Mill Road Winter Fair (18796084)

This is one of the most feel-good festivals in Cambridge, all the more remarkable by the fact it is organised by a group of passionate local volunteers. See Mill Road come to life, with a colourful parade, live music, Morris dancing, and fabulous street entertainment. Savour the delights of the food fair, pick up original gifts at the festive craft and market stalls and pop into Romsey Mill to marvel at original art. Many of the shops, restaurants and businesses along Mill Road will stage their own events, and there’ll be buskers performing at various points, creating the perfect soundtrack to this very merry day.

Mill Road Winter Fair takes place Saturday, December 7. Visit millroadwinterfair.org for more information

Etsy Made Local – Cambridge Made Christmas Fair

Kiss goodbye to your savings; we’ve been to this fabulous fair in previous years and left with our purses light and our shopping bags decidedly heavy, laden with hand-crafted goodies, ranging from Scandi tea towels to cosy knitted mitts. This year’s line-up features the crème de la crème; 45 inspirational East Anglian designer-makers, hand-picked by the Cambridge Made team from a long list of applicants. Browse stalls selling quirky jewellery, on-trend homeware, natural skincare, upcycled treasures, limited-edition prints, eye-catching cards, wall art and ceramics, then treat yourself to a well-earned cuppa in the independent on-site café. It’s the perfect antidote to a predictable, mass-produced High Street Christmas. Ready, steady, shop!

Visit the fair at St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church, Cambridge, November 28-30

Love Local Ely

Love Local Ely (18795837)
Love Local Ely (18795837)

Love Local Ely (18795807)
Love Local Ely (18795807)

Well, this sounds like the dream Christmas shopping evening, with unique products from more than 40 local independents to behold, live music, scrumptious street food (delicious waffles, decadent burgers) and seasonal tipples on offer. The brainchild of Abi Garland, of homecrafts company Love Lane, Love Local Ely takes place at The Maltings, with stalls split over two floors, featuring indies such as Love Lane, Small and Green and amazing artists - Bright Light of Day - plus clothing, food, beauty, floral displays, and eco products. Tickets cost £4 in advance, from Jensen's Ely or online, and include a drink and a gorgeous Love Local gift.

Love Local takes place at The Maltings, Ely, December 5. More at lovelane2014.co.uk

Histon Handmade

Histon Handmade jewellery (18795488)
Histon Handmade jewellery (18795488)

Histon Handmade (18795627)
Histon Handmade (18795627)

With a carefully curated cast of exceptional local designer/makers on the roster, it’s no wonder Histon Handmade has been known to attract in excess of 1,000 visitors. Conveniently located at St Andrew’s Centre, Histon (so no need to trek into the city if you live in the villages), the contemporary design and craft fair will include jewellery from founder Claire Howieson, prints and cards from David Mitchell and Alison Hullyer, ceramics by Daniela Stief and Amanda MacPhail, glass by Jutta Robinson and Katie Lynn (AKA Molten Wonky), collage from Emma Bennett, books from children’s illustrator Nicola Killen, mosaics and glass from Terry Chance, metal clocks by Rebecca Stark, fibre art from Zenia (AKA The Lady Moth), and some tasty treats from Bitesize Bakehouse. Phew. That’s not even the comprehensive list. Better get this date in your diary, pronto. It’s going to be amazing.

Histon Handmade takes place at St Andrew’s Centre, Histon, Saturday, November 30. More at histonhandmade.com

Christmas Shopping dates . . .

Bury Lane Farm Shop is holding a Taste of Christmas event on November 14, when there’ll be a chance to tantalise your tastebuds with festive flavours, including cheeses, chutneys, turkey and sausages, from top suppliers. Shoppers will receive 10 per cent discount on items from the Christmas shop such as fairy lights and artificial trees. Let’s deck the halls!

The event runs 10am to 7pm at Bury Lane Farm Shop, A10, Melbourn. Visit burylanefarmshop.co.uk

Homemade @ The Barn invites you to a civilized festive soiree, for a glass of wine and canapes in a Grade II listed barn, to nourish you whilst you shop ‘til you drop. There’ll be homemade, vintage and retro gifts in abundance courtesy of Wombat Creations, Lily Ellen Vintage, Stow Crafts, Retro Beginnings and Hetty’s Chalk Room. Sounds perfect.

The Christmas shopping event takes place November 6, 6pm-9pm, at The Barn, Old North Road, Bassingbourn. Visit homemadeatthebarn.co.uk



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