3rd June 2014
The Countryside events weekend at Dalegate Market, Burnham Deepdale, called ‘Deepdale Outdoor & Wildlife Festival’ was in itself spectacular, despite poor weather conditions, heavy showers between sunny interludes; as many as 3000 visitors attended the weekend.
The main promotion was about the ‘outdoor and wildlife’ festival. The thrust being about sustainability within the countryside together with living and working in the local environment. Many stalls were staffed by passionate lovers of the countryside, its gifts and usefulness.
Chainsaw sculptures were an eye-catching addition to the gathering with two companies showing off their talents, the father and son Kelly’s were joined by lady carver Carrie Yuen. Both companies showing fantastic art created from windfall timber.
The owls were certainly something really special with about eight different types on show, some so tame that members of the public were allowed, for a small donation. To don the ‘hawksmans glove’ and hold an owl for the purposes of photography; a great experience.
Other stalls showed the art of fence making from reeds, plant produce, ale making, bee keeping, and so much more. There was of course the inevitable climbing tower and other youthful activities plus the promotion of scouting and guiding – including the celebration of the Big Brownie 100th Birthday.
The Dalegate shopping centre together with Deepdale Backpackers are the brainchild of Jason Borthwick; this oasis-style of shopping and holiday making experience are of his making. Jason recalls when not so long ago the last business in Burnham Deepdale was under threat of closure, the now thriving garage and mini market was, if the developers had their way, to close, be knocked down and replaced with housing. This stirred Jason into action, rather than closing the premises they were up rated and rejuvenated.
More shops were built against all the odds. Planners said there was no call for out of town shopping and he had to fight every inch of the way, next came the Backpackers hostel together with its ‘Tourist Information Centre’ a concept Jason had explored himself whilst travelling in Australia, once again a fight with the authorities, who said it wasn’t viable. Since then the innovative Wigwam camping, the Bike hire, the festivals and much more.
Well let’s look at this ‘unviable’ oasis today. There are about 60 to70 full time, all year round jobs and over 20 separate companies trading. In the summer months the numbers go up to 80 or 90 jobs including seasonal work The last Christmas market saw over 90 stalls sold to traders and it wasn’t a fluke - all 90 have already been sold for Christmas 2014. Last year saw an estimated 12,000 visitors attend the market and more are expected this coming year. This is not a seasonal venue it’s all year round supporting local workers and local people.
Most of the shops here have been on site for years selling upmarket products at reasonable prices, if it didn’t pay, they wouldn’t stay. The product ranges are innovative, quality, unusual and generally the type that people travel to get. After all the village itself has a high proportion of second homes within its boundaries so the businesses are not reliant on them, clients travel for quality, service and value for money plus they keep coming back. What a different story this is to the floundering town high streets; of course parking is free and there is always plenty of it and the whole area looks fresh and new unlike some town centres. One thing, there is not a pound, charity or betting shop to be seen.
Jason still has his fights with the authorities, currently about A.A. signage and the 5-mile rule but I really believe he will overcome and win in the end. Where next has to be the question, he sees more development, more shops, more holiday makers, and I say good luck (shame he’s not running the country).