November 29th, 2018
This coming Sunday, it’s the Askham Hall Christmas Market and I’m taking a stall there for the first time. The Askham Hall Christmas Market comes hot on the heels of the Cumbria Life Christmas Fair a couple of weeks ago at Rheged and the Hunter Hall School Christmas Fayre last Friday which was great fun and the children sang beautifully. It’s a busy time for me just now, what with peeling, chopping and much bubbling in jam pans. Sixteen varieties of preserves in the range, nearly all of them will be on sale at the Christmas Market. The most popular just now is the Limited Edition Festive Fig and Plum Chutney, I think it’ll be sold out by mid-December. I make it in October and November so it has time to mature, no more batches are made after the end of November, ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’. Another favourite is Proper Piccalilli, the vibrant yellow colour, nine types of crunchy vegetables and fresh spicy pickle kick, makes this one a must for the cold cuts after Christmas feasts.
Askham Hall is a wonderful medieval building, part of the Lowther Estate, tucked into a cleft of the Lowther Valley, just at the bottom of Askham, before the road goes over the lovely bridge with Askham Church on the right. In recent years, Askham Hall has been the subject of a major restoration project and now has a top-class restaurant, Allium, luxurious bedrooms, enormous open fires in the drawing rooms, various party spaces in the huge Bank Barn or in the Medieval Hall. There’s a spa, a charming café in converted stables, and an inspirational garden where much of the produce for the restaurant and café is grown. Richard Swale, the Head Chef, apart from being highly talented in the kitchen, is an avid rare-breed poultry keeper. His collection of fine birds won’t find their way into the kitchen, but free-range chickens, rare-breed pigs, lamb and Shorthorn beef from the Lowther farms do feature on the menu.
Anyway, back to the Christmas Market! There are going to be over 50 stalls selling all manner of solutions for special Christmas presents, outside in the courtyard there will be much food and drink and live music from the Penrith Town Band. The stalls fill the Bank Barn and the Medieval Hall and spill out into the courtyard. There’s a rumour going around that Father Christmas might take a break from the frantic preparations in Lapland to make an appearance at the Christmas Market in a magical grotto.
Come along to the Christmas Market if you can, it’s open from 11am to 4pm on Sunday 2nd, there’s free parking and, perhaps before you come to the Fair, enjoy one of the many lovely walks around Askham to blow away any cobwebs.
Right now, I’m back to the jam pan, there’s a batch of Purely Pink Grapefruit marmalade coming along nicely.