One cannot deny the relaxing feeling of leaving Canberra for a day out in the country.
Setting both feet firmly on the dusty ground in Murrumbateman, it is as if a weight has left my shoulders as I stroll over to the Murrumbateman Village Markets. Gone are the assessment worries, personal stress, and ‘I need more sleep’ mantra that I’d been muttering to anyone who asked how I was.
Located on the Murrumbateman Recreation Grounds, the market comes to life every second and fourth weekend of the month and it is certainly worth becoming a regular.
The markets are the epitome of community values, entirely run by volunteers for over ten years.
The last six have been under the watchful eye of Matt Townsend, whose job ranges from organising the stallholders to performing on stage.
“Murrumbateman is a nice place; it’s got nice people. I like the ethos of the markets … It’s about bringing the community together and getting an opportunity to get together. Come down, have a smile, and interact with each other,” Matt says with a grin.
Strolling beneath the wide oak trees, that sense of community feels deeply ingrained. Many stallholders have frequented the market for years and have more than a few stories to tell.
From 40 degree days to blistery winter storms, the stallholders are a dedicated bunch ensuring you’ll always find a friendly face on the opposite side of your local produce.
Frank is the proud face and farmer behind Verduci Market Gardens. Traveling a mighty six hours each fortnight from Victoria, he stacks brightly coloured fruit and veggies in an inviting ‘U’ formation, begging to be made into yummy pastas or cakes, or eaten straight off the shelf.
Sitting in the shade beside Frank is a table laden with sauces. The signage strapped to the table says ‘Reaper Crew’, promising a spicy hit to your next sandwich. Vivid reds and oranges contrast against the dark backdrop, so at odds with the greenery behind the gazebo.
A further meander brings me before Fresh Lily. Run by mother and daughter duo Lydia and Debra, this Canberra-based business has a stunning selection of handmade dresses and skirts for all ages, as well as the sweetest teddies looking for their forever homes.
As beautiful as the shade was, the sun holds a delicious bite to it that warms me from head to toe. In the sun, Sunnybanks Gallery sits beside a large log encompassing the area. Delicate, handmade jewellery is perched on various props, glittering in the sunlight. The owner flitters between customers and her neighbours Howes Metal Craft. All greet me with smiles and wholesome chatter.
Soon, enticing aromas from a candle shop (House of Sloane) draw me in, where glossy jars containing various scents line wooden shelves. To owner Kelly, this is a step on the way to the Yass Show.
Next door, on black tablecloths, lie jars and jars of honey. Karl, the face behind Boorowa Bees, is a local and a regular of the markets. He also runs his own markets in Boorowa, and so this is a weekly ritual for him. Karl has been attending the markets for 12 months, a figure he hopes will rise. For him, markets are a great way to reach potential customers whilst having a good chat.
By now, market goers are flocking the grass around me. Every other person has brought their dog, their leads as bright and colourful as the stalls they visit.
Children bounce on a castle in the sun as parents sit on chairs, baskets full of local produce at their feet.
Lively chatter bounces from gazebo to gazebo before the sound of a guitar fills the amphitheatre – Matt has returned to the stage.
The markets have now been split, half in sun and half in shade, allowing people to choose their preference. I feel a slight burn hit my shoulders and venture into the shade, stopping at a bright display of children’s hats. The stall’s owner Janell is as bright and bubbly as her shop name, Funky Frog Boutique. Inside, walls of handmade dresses and jackets create a further layer of shade. I watch as children point at familiar characters on the hats, faces lit with delight as they try on their newest accessories.
With the heat, the winding line that had accompanied the Murrumbateman Scout booth has collapsed to a few people. I quickly step behind a young couple, ready for a cup of chai (it is never too hot for chai).
Three young people sit behind the table, uniforms absent in place of weather appropriate outfits. Their sign says they are raising money for their next camp. As a former scout myself, I can’t help but relate to their cause.
One creamy cup of chai later and I’m walking back to my car.
Bidding the market adieu, I promise to return soon.
Photos by Elizabeth Kovacs