I have been waiting for today for almost a year! Way back in the soggy summer of 2012 Bignor Park near Pulborough, West Sussex hosted a wildflower and craft event called the Floral Fringe Fair. Sadly I missed it and was delighted when I spotted that another event was to be held this year but at Knepp Castle, Horsham, West Sussex. I very quickly “Liked” their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/floralfringefair) and I have been following their progress for the past 10 or 11 months. I must say it has been interesting to see an event like this ‘grow’, as the organiser Jean Jackman has been very good at posting updates and comments on the page which I think made their “Likers” feel part of the event from the start. It certainly felt that way for me, and today was day one of the 2-day event for 2013 and the Gods were smiling because the sun shone its brightest all day.
Although I live very close to Knepp Castle I didn’t actually realise what it was. I had always thought that the lone ruined piece of wall standing on a small mound visible from the A24 was ‘it’, but no, it is a country house designed by architect John Nash and built in 1802.
And how spectacular it looks, all draped in lilac Wisteria! On entering the show area the first thing that confronted us was a fabulous powder blue VW Camper van. This fantastic split screen vehicle from around 1967 has been lovingly restored and upgraded inside to include modern conveniences such as CD/Radio with iPod connection and a DVD player. It is one of a small fleet of similar VW campervans available for hire from Vanilla Splits (www.vanillasplits.com) who also hire out other types of vintage car from their sister company, Vanilla Classics (www.vanillaclassics.com) including a 1959 Austin Healey Frogeye Sprite, a 1957 Austin Healey 100/6 and a 1962 E-Type Jaguar.
The Floral Fringe Fair had attracted an eclectic mix of stall holders all focussed around the theme of vintage and wildlife conservation. A chat with the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species has led to me finding out all about the problems facing our native Stag Beetles. I now want to build a safe haven in our garden to encourage these amazing, but quite scary looking creatures to colonise. Even if they don’t come, I am sure that something else will be more than happy to make it’s home in the rotting wood stumpery which is supposed to make an ideal habitat.
Fabulous Stag Beetle sculpture
The array of plantsmen/nurseries was equally matched by the enormous variety of food stalls. It seemed that you could get everything from lovely artisan breads of The Hungry Guest (www.thehungryguest.com) and the yummy ciabatta rolls and loaves made by Farretti (www.facebook.com/farretticiabatta); to locally made Olive and Rapeseed oils to handmade chocolates from Wimblehurst Chocolate (www.facebook.com/wimblehurst-chocolates). The best thing about all of these traders is that they are all local (up to about 40 mile radius anyway) to Horsham, we are lucky to have so many great artisan makers local to us and their products are fabulous.
Some of the great artisan foods available at the Floral Fringe Fair
Food played quite an important part at the fair with a delightful pop-up vintage tea room and a beer tent selling local ales and ciders to compliment the vendors such as WhamBam selling bhaji’s and pakora’s and the local farm whose name I can’t remember selling their own sausages and burgers.
Whambam spicy bhaji’s and the Pop-Up Vintage Tearoom complete with re-enactors
It was a real treat to sit on the grass looking out across the lake towards the Polo field eating delicious freshly made food, and listening to a lively 7-piece group of young musicians playing foot tapping folk music.
Foot tapping folk music
Although I can’t resist this next photo… obviously some people feel that polite requests and notices don’t apply to them…. (spotted picnicking by the lake)
Amongst the food stalls, plantsmen and conservation groups could be found a variety of stands selling vintage goodies and bric-a-brac and traditional craftsmen demonstrating their skills and selling their wares.
Vintage caravans (this one is called Pippa and is available to hire from www.lucyjaynecaravans.com) and vintage style bric-a-brac and curios
Foraging experts – The Truffle and Mushroom Hunter and some of their finds (www.truffleandmushroomhunter.wordpress.com)
Cable reels transformed into garden furniture and a romantic Shepherds Hut from Roundhill Shepherd Huts (www.roundhillshepherdhuts.co.uk)
Beautiful woven willow screen for the garden and madcap 2-storey viewing platform
Hand weaving a beehive demonstrated by the Natural Beekeeping Trust (www.naturalbeekeepingtrust.org)
No event like this would be complete without it’s display of vintage vehicles and the FFF was no exception. Those lucky enough to own a vintage vehicle could claim a reduced entry price to the event if they parked it in the special bays for the rest of us to gawp at!
Gorgeous Triumph Dolomite Roadster coupe from 1940
Great Brit’s – Triumph Spitfire, Austen Healey Frogeye Sprites and the E-Type Jaguar.
While photographing these cars the lady accompanying the owner of the E-Type was obviously a bit nervous of leaving it unattended and I overheard the following exchange: Her – “…are you sure?” Him – “It’ll be fine, don’t worry. It’ll just get ADMIRED!”
Never a truer word spoken!
It was a real treat to wander among the displays and stands, chat to stall holders and other visitors without any pressure or commercialisation. I had a marvellous day at the 2013 Floral Fringe Fair and I am hoping that next year there will be another one.