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Shopping: Festive spirit? Find it at Ely Markets

SPONSORED FEATURE: If you’re struggling to get into the festive groove, Ely Markets is the place to go. Along with stalls selling everything you need for a cosy at-home Christmas - from food, drink and decorations to one-of-a-kind gifts, all of them local - it also delivers a much-needed dose of seasonal spirit, as Alice Ryan reports

Walk through Ely’s market square this month - lined with stalls and strung with Christmas lights, the magnificent cathedral as backdrop - and your festive spirits are guaranteed to lift. With all our area’s big gift fairs either cancelled or moved online because of Covid, Ely’s line-up of December markets feels like an early Christmas present: from the regular-fixture Craft, Food & Vintage Market on Saturdays to Vegan and Craft & Gift Pop-ups and special Christmas Mini Markets, it’s a chance to buy everything you need for the festivities, from groceries to gifts, while shopping small and supporting local, too. Plus, held in the open air and spaciously laid out, with careful social distancing measures in place, the market is a safe place to both browse and buy.

I say all this with confidence as I’m a regular customer. The Saturday market, with its lovely blend of food, flower, craft and vintage stalls, is one of my favourite haunts: first stop is Silver Oak, to charge the keep cup with a flat white, then it’s time to tick off the grocery list and, more often than not, pick up something lovely for the house/a present/a present-to-self.

The food and drink offering is always first class, spanning local fruit, veg, meat, fish, cheese and eggs through to homemade cakes, bakes and breads, artisan jams, pickles and sauces. If you’re a cake person, Sophie’s Cakes & Afternoon Teas is a must for a slice of light-yet-buttery sponge, and Powerplant, the regular vegan stall, is a winner for take-home savouries, from brekkie pots to daily-special dinners, while Chilli Freaks is the stall to visit for seriously moreish sauces.

On the craft and gift side of the square, special mentions must go to Oriolo, the jewellery stall which sells antique and preloved pieces alongside fab contemporary silver; Blended Monkey, which sells gorgeous handmade pottery; Buster & Lou, my go-to for dog collars and animal-lover gifts; Care Soap, with its delicious handmade body, face and hair-wash bars; Made in Provence, for we-could-be-in-France specialities; and Cow on the Ice, with its irresistible mix of printed textiles, stationery and MUTA toys.

To make finding the perfect present even easier this year, the Ely Markets team is publishing a series of gift guides on its website, plus they’re running a ‘gift finder’ service: simply drop them an email, explaining who you’re shopping for, and they’ll recommend a stall and/or put you in touch with the right trader. And, if you’re unable to visit the market in person, many of the traders now offer home delivery - see Ely Markets’ website for details and follow its social media channels for updates.

In short: if you need some help sorting your Christmas shopping - or are simply in need of festive cheer - Ely Markets is hard to beat.

See elymarkets.co.uk and follow @elymarkets

Diary Dates

Here’s what’s on at Ely Markets this month:

Special Christmas Craft, Food and Farmers’ Market: Wednesday, December 23, 8.30am-3.30pm - expect seasonal produce, gifts and crafts

Vegan Christmas Pop-Up: Sunday, December 13, 10am-4pm - street food, cakes and produce from local vegan producers, all within the usual Sunday Market

Craft & Gift Pop Ups: every Thursday in December, 8.30am-3.30pm - a change to discover wonderful gifts and crafts alongside the weekly Charter Market

Christmas Mini Markets: December 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 22, 8.30am-3.30pm - smaller markets featuring local produce and gifts


Saturday Craft, Food & Vintage Market: every Saturday, 8.30am-3.30pm

Farmers’s Market: Saturday, December 12 and Wednesday, December 23, alongside the main markets on those days, 8.30am-3.30pm

Sunday Market: every Sunday, 10am-4pm

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