Make a space in your diaries for the second and last Sunday of every month, because this is a market, if you live anywhere near Somerset West, that deserves your patronage. Not just because it supports exceptional, local food, or because it is a positively sumptuous venue and a wonderful space in which to spend a Sunday morning, but also because this is a food market that is happening.
Hathersage is easy to find for those of us who don’t live in Somerset West. It’s straight up Gordon Road (simply turn left off Main Road) on a wine farm snuggled up against the foothills of the Schapenberg in the Helderberg Valley, on the banks of the Lourens River. Forget using Google maps to find the farm, as it isn’t there (yet), as our sorry Garmin-less selves discovered this weekend.
Hathersage House, available to hire for weddings and conferences, lies in amongst fruit orchards, its backside a wonderful, big garden, in the middle of which rest a couple of huge trees just begging to be sat under. These serve as the picnic zone and given the heat of Sunday, were understandably inundated by the time we arrived, late as usual.
Inside the house, and in the shade of trees along the banks of the river, are strewn a myriad food and craft stalls that are enough to make you drool. The setting is just beautiful and works to such an extent that you find yourself making sure your purse is to hand even before you’ve seen the wares, purely because the aesthetics of the place transport you into that fuzzy, got-to-have-this zone. The event organisers have outdone themselves with the choice of venue.
Hathersage House is also fairly new to the market. Originally called the Market Place, this local community-driven food market has been here only since late last year, and celebrated its first birthday in January this year, if my sources are correct, where they held a festive fair a month before Christmas that seems to have firmly entrenched the Market Place on the social calendar of most of Somerset West. There is ample parking under trees, but just two hours after opening time and we found ourselves in the nether regions of the fruit orchards, traipsing in on foot (we only just missed the tractor ride).
It’s hard to believe that all this ‘country’ lifestyle lies within a suburb of a town, within short radius of a major city like Cape Town. A short drive, and you’re transported. That’s the amazing thing about living in the shadow of mountains surrounded by wine farms – within moments you can feel as though you’ve travelled miles. Landing on a farm like Hathersage has its advantages.
Within a short while we’d got the gist of the place. I’d chatted to traders, assessed that the food was worth travelling there for, and arranged us under a tree at the river’s edge, which hardly anyone else had had the wherewithall to find. Well, it was that, or sit on rather muddy grass under the trees with all and sundry. And with two young boys to entertain, throwing rocks and damming up the wall of the river pool was far more exciting than trying to climb trees over the heads of unsuspecting market patrons.
Hathersage market describes itself as: a community-driven exhibition of the best local goods on offer from authentically slow, gourmet food and freshly picked produce to a range of carefully crafted, gorgeous gifts, flora, music and great wine! Bring a picnic blanket and join us for an outing of browsing, lunching and shopping for great products.
Outside Hathersage House, under the trees, colourful skirts, dresses and woven bags caught my eye (although these come all the way from Madagascar, so ‘local’ they are not), nestled in amongst an antique style stall known as dega vu, and other boutique clothing on racks, just asking to be fingered, held up against one’s chest and tried on. Lamps made from reycled plastic in a myriad exciting shapes and sizes by Jerry McWire were in amongst other stalls known simply as tuku and milou, MayBru Clothing, Eco Punk and plenty of jewellery. Inside the house itself was heaving with people and food traders. Against the window and the first to catch my eye, Coco Bella is a collection of artfully arranged cup cakes and other sweet succulents that is without a doubt the star of the show when it comes to pleasing the eye.
Bread, cheese, olives, wine, sushi, crépes, a delicious array of home-made salads from Salad Lover (you can also sample her wares at the Earth Fair market in Cape Town), chutneys and just about anything else you can think of that spells ‘picnic’ with ease. I stop to chat to Peter of Maya honey.
This is the real thing, something lacking from supermarket shelves of late, as honey has become as scarce as the bees who make it. I sample and then buy the choice of eucalyptus, the other is wild flower, as Peter explains that he gathers the honey himself, strains it himself and does not heat his honey at all – a man after my own heart. A lot of the honey you buy on supermarket shelves is irradiated and mixed with honey imported from China, some of which is believed to be adulterated with other ingredients that definitely don’t belong in honey, some of them toxic.
I avail myself of a delicious onion and cheese loaf of farm bread, a few rolls, goats gouda from Foxenburg estate (close to Wellington), a tub of the most delicious salad – a mixture of couscous, mint, peas, feta and nuts, and another lentil salad that had as many alluring ingredients. I added to the mix a bottle of Hathersage white label wine (you can’t come all the way to an estate and not sample the product, and the special edition white blend is a bordeaux mix of Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon) and headed down to the bank of the river. By now the only sane place to be was under a tree, as the heat of the day reached its zenith.
As if by previously-decreed command, traders begin bursting out of the doors of Hathersage House just after two o’clock, and visitors begin making their way off the estate. The heat was still such that we gratefully accepted a tractor ride down to our car. What a glorious way to spend a Sunday with friends.
When & Where?
Hathersage Market – second and last Sunday of the month
Hathersage Farm, Gordon Road, Somerset West
GPS location S 34 grade 04.907′ E 18 grade 51.922′