Thursday, 6 September 2012

Exeter Green Fair and The Real Food Store

Usually eco-friendly shopping in South-East Devon means a trip to Totnes, the regional alternative capital, where independent shops and vegetarian food abound and three-quarters of the town recently signed a petition against Costa Coffee opening a café (they were over-ruled by the Conservative-run South Hams District Council; so much for David Cameron’s much-vaunted policy of ‘localism’).

Exeter, Devon’s county town, is rather more mainstream, with the very modern Princesshay shopping centre attracting the biggest crowds. Away from the city centre, however, Exeter has more character. Disembark the train at St Thomas station, rather than the mainline St Davids or the aptly-named Central, and you’re only a few minutes’ walk from the quayside, where many of the former cellars are occupied by local craftspeople, and the human-powered Butts Ferry can take you across the river. The atmospherically-lit Coffee Cellar sells fantastic chocolate brownies and now features communal knitting.

Walking up Fore Street towards the city centre you pass the Exeter Peace Shop and McCoys Arcade, which features a bead shop and, last Saturday, a number of craft stalls (Clare bought some hand-dyed roving, which will feature in a future blog entry). As the hill levels off you come to Exeter Cathedral. The cathedral green has welcomed many fairs and festivals, including the Devon Wildlife Trust Festival every third year, and on Saturday it played host to the topic of this blog entry: the Exeter Green Fair.

This year’s Green Fair featured petitions (including several against the badger cull), politics, refurbished garden tools (we bought a Dutch hoe), a sand pit with compost, potatoes, and toy tractors, and lots of food. The Exeter Green Party were out in force, and were very friendly (although they could do with some recruitment tips; in several minutes of conversation they didn’t ask whether we were members). Scattered around the stalls were little tents supplied by Occupy Exeter, who were also giving away protest badges, including one saying “badges are an ineffective way of communicating messages”. One stall featured Palestinian produce, and we bought a large bottle of Zaytoun olive oil.

The real discovery of the day was The Real Food Store. Clare enjoyed a feta and courgette muffin from their stall while we were at the fair, and in the afternoon we visited their shop, on Paris Street on the opposite site of Princesshay. Their wide range of organic produce included the wax-coated Hawkridge vintage Cheddar (similar in appearance to the incredible Godminster vintage Cheddar, but with a tangier flavour), ground almonds, pasta, and a large selection of vegetables and other produce from all our favourite organic farms. Upstairs is a café which we’re looking forward to visiting on our next trip.

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