Market forces in Oxford's North Parade

Organisers meet in the Rose and Crown

Sophie Grigson

First published in Features The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by

There was a time when North Parade, which runs between Banbury and Woodstock Road, was a bustling little street, due in part to its post office and electrical repair shop, which have both closed down. In his book The Erosion of Oxford, written in 1977, James Stevens Curl described it as ‘one of the most interesting little streets in Oxford’ but over the years even the butcher, grocer, and fishmonger that provided it with local colour have given way to restaurants and takeaway food shops.

Now it is often described as a rather quiet, dead little street that only comes to life momentarily at midday for lunchtime sandwich sales.

Thanks to the enthusiasm of councillor James Fry who has fought tirelessly to turn an electoral pledge into reality and inject new life into the street, North Parade will now have its own farmers’ market.

Councillor Fry said it all began earlier this year when he was canvassing in Park Town. “People asked if I’d do something to breathe life back into this attractive little street. Many suggested North Parade would make an ideal market site if the street were closed.”

Such closures can prove expensive, but Mr Fry soon discovered that if the venture was set up as a charity operating for the good of the community, charges would be waived. Off-street parking could have proved a problem too, but University premises such as Kellogg College are going to solve this problem as the market will be open on a Saturday, when the college car park is not required.

“Obviously it is important the traders do not compete with the food vendors in North Parade by serving hot food. This has been agreed as it’s important the market benefits everyone, including local traders. “The Rose and Crown pub halfway up the street has suggested it serve a pig roast outside the pub, which would attract loads of extra visitors, especially now that the weather is turning cold,” added Mr Fry.

Caroline Casey, who will run the market, says the success of the West Oxford Community and Farmers’ Market on Botley Road – which she started in May – has led Mr Fry to invite her to work with a group of retailers in North Parade. He asked if she could provide a similar market for their street. Caroline was delighted. She said: “The group is enthusiastic about embracing local food producers to provide a vibrant and interesting market on a regular basis. The market will operate on the last Saturday of every month, opening from 9am to 1pm, which means it will not clash with Wolvercote’s Farmers’ Market which opens every Sunday morning.”

Susanna Pressel, councillor for Jericho and Osney Ward, is expecting this new market to be a great success. She adds: “People want to buy fresh local food, especially if it is within walking distance of where they live, or a short bus ride away. “I’ll certainly be there to join in the fun.”

Lufti and Ruby Radwan of Willowbrook Farm, Hampton Gay, will be among the traders when the market opens. They will sell hen, duck and goose eggs from their lovely organic farm in the Cherwell Valley which provides their poultry with permanent access to fresh pasture. This enterprising couple are in the process of building a cob house on their farm and hold regular cob-house building workshops, which they are always delighted to discuss with members of the public looking to learn earthen building skills. The market should help them meet people wanting to know more about this enterprise and learn how they set up their organic farm.

Riverford Organic fruit and vegetables will also attend. Riverford has been producing award-winning organic fruit and vegetables for more than 25 years, and has a co-op of farms around the country. The team grow crops for taste, not looks, and its produce is Soil Association-approved. Riverford Organic’s vegetable vibrant box scheme covers North Parade and Summertown so it’s worth talking to Sophie Rogers and Nigel Brooke.

Oxford Cheese will be there too, also Nicholas Green with his fish and if you enjoy baked goodies, Eat Cake will certainly tantalise your taste buds. Caroline is excited to think that she has been instrumental in bringing two new farmers’ markets to Oxford. If you are a food producer and would like to attend one of the markets, email her on Caroline_casey@hotmail.co.uk

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