Oliver Cromwell may have banned the celebration of Christmas but thank goodness the Brits have a real passion for tradition.
The tradition of Christmas Markets has more recently been embraced in the UK and here we can solve our present buying dilemmas almost painlessly as a selection of inspired and unusual gifts, from the essential to the unexpected are laid before us amidst a good dollop of seasonal cheer.
Each year Picton Castle near Haverfordwest is transformed into a magical Christmas shopper’s paradise, as over 50 stalls packed full of gorgeous gifts line the lavishly decorated corridors and staterooms of its 13th Century Castle.
Picton is proud not just to be a distinctively British Christmas Market, but a very local one. Most of its stallholders are businesses, food producers and craft makers from Pembrokeshire, each one carefully selected to give the best shopping choices. From beautifully handmade bird boxes and crafted candles, to tasty cheeses, funky jewellery, glassware, art and ceramics, home made cosmetics, teas and jams, these craftspeople are very much a part of what makes the Picton Christmas Fair so special.
One of these stallholders, first seen at Picton’s summer Country Fair and attending the Christmas Fair for the first time, are two ladies from Dale who combine their exciting and eclectic collection of original work and will be trading for the first time under the name of ‘Seegreen’.
Marion Walker and Sharman Gainfort met 5 years ago through “Off the Wall”, an annual show in Dale which runs during the first two weeks of August. “Laughter is the most important element of showing together…” says Marion “…we both enjoy meeting people and have a lot of fun selling each other’s work.”
Living in Dale, it comes as no surprise that the sea and landscape of Pembrokeshire is a huge inspiration for their work and this is evident in their jaunty and colourful displays of pottery, paintings and children’s clothes in unusual fabrics.
Cwtch Body & Sole Body Scrubs are another local company who will also be at the Fair.
Sherrill Evans started buying sea salt to make her body scrubs but she soon questioned why she was buying it when she lived so close to the sea. After seeing, feeling and tasting the quality of the salt that could be achieved, she then questioned why she was only using it in body scrubs – and so the idea of Pembrokeshire Sea Salt was borne.
The process of making the salt begins by collecting lots of seawater which is filtered through superfine fibres to ensure it is free from debris such as sand or seaweed. The evaporation process then begins by heating and over a period of many hours and days the process continues until the clear, crisp, salt flakes and crystals form.
Until recently, Pembrokeshire Sea Salt was only approved for cosmetic use, but having met exacting food safety standards, it launched as a food product this summer.
Just a very small ‘taste’ of the wonderfully creative and imaginative talent that can be found at Picton’s Victorian Christmas Fairs. And, with its wealth of history, Picton Castle provides the perfect setting for the traditional Victorian Christmas decorations adorning its wonderful staterooms, providing a warm atmosphere and the perfect backdrop for the visitor to soak up the sights and sounds as they wander around the market which spreads into the Courtyard and surrounding buildings. With the aroma of roasting chestnuts and seasonal fayre infusing the air, enjoyed with a generous sprinkling of festive music, this event would even get Mr Cromwell into the Christmas spirit.
For more information and to plan your visit to the castle: www.pictoncastle.co.uk