As part of Wales Co-operative Centre and Social Business Wales‘ Social Christmas campaign (check out #SocialXmasWales on Twitter!) I’m visiting local independent events to help support social enterprises in the local community. A few days ago I showcased our visit to the Sparkles and Snowflakes Toddler Day at Techniquest, Cardiff’s charity-run science centre, and my next visit was to be a little different – a Christmas craft fair at Bryngarw Country Park.
Bryngarw Country Park is situated at the mouth of the Garw Valley in Bridgend county and is managed by Awen Cultural Trust. It spans 120 acres of parkland and contains Bryngarw House and gardens – which used to be a restaurant and hotel open to the public, but now is a private wedding venue, as well as a visitor center and tea rooms. The last time I drove through the country park is pretty memorable for me, it was on 25th July 2008 and I can distinctly remember it despite having an absolutely awful memory because it was my wedding day! My husband and I married and had our reception at Bryngarw House and had photos taken in the park, so I definitely have positive feelings about the whole area.
To get in the Christmas spirit Bryngarw Country Park was having a festive craft fair, with local small businesses showcasing their hand-crafted items as well as craft demonstrations. It also had a wooden reindeer trail which was slated to open on the 8th December to co-incide with the fair. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was wet. I mean really wet, even for Wales – a total washout. With heavy rain for the majority of the day, Bryngarw Country Park was forced to postpone the start of the Wooden Reindeer Trail so we didn’t get to experience that but it is on the 9th, 15th & 16th December too. It completely understandable, as even if you’re dressed perfectly for the weather, trails can be muddy and hazardous in the waterlogged Welsh winter and quite frankly, the weather was simply nasty. Luckily, the craft fair was still going ahead and with the promise of refreshments in the tea rooms afterwards, we headed out of Cardiff for a 30 minute drive west.
All I can say is conditions were dire, but the crafters who were enduring the wet, rain and cold were all in good spirits and luckily, under cover! There was a wide array of goods from hand knitted woolens, to a jewellery, Christmas decorations, cards, soaps and cosmetics, honey, cakes, ornaments and more – all hand-made by local crafts people. This was my fourth Christmas craft fair I’ve attended this year and I think it’s so important to get out there and support the local community and only one of the stalls was one I’d seen before! You’ll get unique, hand-made items, usually crafted ethically and naturally and you’ll also know that you’re supporting an independent small business. It’s small businesses that struggle to survive in a world filled with superstore giants, yet by supporting small businesses you can make a real difference to the local economy and community as well as to the environment, and preserve traditional techniques and skills.
Some of the people I was particularly impressed with included:
- Laura Thomas who makes woven textiles
- Dog’s Window Brewery who are an independent micro brewery making craft beers including one where 10% of profits go to Hope dog rescue
- Made by Steph who makes original jewellery using traditional techniques
- Lindyhop Crafts who had lots of lovely little gifts, ornaments and charms
- Pam Gladdish from The potters house who had amazing pottery
- Pink Elephant Crafts who made these beautiful wooden peg dolls and ornaments
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get the names of everyone, and there were plenty more interesting gifts there. The fact is a lot of the stallholders who attend small events like these don’t even have business cards or websites, so the only way you can really get to the heart of the community and see everything that’s on offer is to go to craft fairs like these, have a browse and chat to people. Christmas is an absolutely smashing time to be buying hand-made gifts, with lots of craft fairs and Christmas markets popping up, so it’s worth having a quick search in your area and seeing if there’s anywhere nearby.
We had hoped to spend some time walking around this beautiful park and to spend an hour in the children’s play park to complete the day but unfortunately the weather was simply not on our side and everything was a bit of a mudslide. On a slightly less rainy day I’m sure you could find plenty to do here to spend a morning or afternoon with the whole family. If you’re in the area on the 15th & 16th December you can come and do the wooden reindeer trail for just £3 per child (including posting a letter to Santa!), but I’ll be heading to Bedwellty House then for Breakfast with Santa, which we’re all really excited about!
The Wales Co-operative Centre / Social Business Wales Christmas Event page is being updated almost daily. For gift inspiration or places to go this festive period visit: www.wales.coop/social-