There’s a delightful cafe and craft shop in Connemara that claims to be ‘possibly the most interesting coffee shop in the west’. I’m not sure about the eastern side of Ireland but at Snape Maltings there’s so much always going on it must challenge anywhere in the east of England.
None of your tinsel and glitter or poorly-made decorations, only high quality farm produce, craft foods and drink, plus an award-winning florist, are found there. To differentiate from the usual fortnightly farmers’ market there were decorations (not for sale) and carol singers. Crowds were dense, as all year round. The producers had offerings of more than usual festivity, however. Gins in abundant variety, mince pies, cakes and seasonal biscuits were all very tempting. So were cheeses and varieties of chocolates and fudge. Our aim was to collect pre-ordered mallard and pheasant roast and a bouquet of local flowers. Needless to say we added to that, with more game, some vegetables from the ever-reliable Sudbourne Farm and some High House russets plus a Baron Bigod local cheese.
The visitor centre at the Maltings had cards for sale, not to mention CDs and books for anyone in need of a last-minute gift. A bonus, as ever, was the site itself, with Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth sculptures and the reed bed, magnificent at high tide on a brilliant sunny day.
What to do afterwards? Easy: drive round to Aldeburgh for coffee and croissants and to complete the Christmas wine purchases after a glance along the beach. Unfortunately, but not unreasonably, the fishermen were asking high prices for their catch. We can wait.
With other objectives than to buy food and drink it would have been a perfect day for the walk along the Sailors’ Path from Snape to Aldeburgh. After the recent rain it could have been uncomfortably muddy, as we had found the walk towards Iken a week earlier. It is an aim for next summer, perhaps.
Whether the contents of the market or the location makes for its interest the Maltings is a place to visit time and again. The concert programme for the coming year will ensure we go as frequently as funds allow. In the middle of it all – almost – comes the annual Food and Drink Festival, with opportunities to learn about ways of cooking the produce we delight in purchasing.