Christmas market hailed a success as Shropshire villagers set out their stalls

With Covid disrupting everyday life since March, and now threatening a much reduced Christmas, one village has found the perfect way to kick-start some festive cheer.

Alison Stone with two-year-old Oscar, four-year-old Fraser, Samantha Woolland and Angus the dog
Alison Stone with two-year-old Oscar, four-year-old Fraser, Samantha Woolland and Angus the dog

For those out and about in Bayston Hill on Saturday they would have noticed something a bit different about the usual residential streets, with a 'Walking Christmas Market' seeing driveways, garages and gardens transformed into festive stalls.

Instead of holding the usual type of Christmas craft market in a community centre or village hall, organiser Shanade Wheelden instead arranged for people to set up outside their own homes.

It meant the residents could take a socially-distanced walk with family across the village to visit any one of the 30 stalls.

On a crisp December morning with tents on driveways, tinsel adorning tables, there was a definite festive feel as people took their chance to get out and about and see their neighbours and fellow villagers – in some cases for the first time in months.

Louise Hanks only moved to the village recently but she was out and about checking out what was on offer.

Organiser Shenade Wheelden and trader Sharon Salt at the walking Christmas market

As she browsed Sharon Magrath's stall on Glebe Road, she said: "I just think it is an amazing idea. It has been great, it is the first day that it has felt like Christmas."

Sharon, 57, had set up her stall selling health and beauty products on her driveway, and for her it was one of the first opportunities to get her business out there.

She set up 'Pure Serenity by Sharon' in February but the pandemic meant it was almost immediately shut down.

It is not the first challenge she has faced, having been one of the 'Atlantic Ladies' who conquered the ocean in 2018.

She said: "It is brilliant, it is such a lovely idea. There are people going around and it is just uplifting, we have been very lucky with the weather but it has been lovely."

She added: "I started in February and was just starting to get people interested and we went into lockdown so that was it really, so today has been a lovely opportunity to see some people."

Nicola Hughes, Donna Wright, seven-year-old Elodie Wright and eight-year-old Elsa Berry

Organiser Ms Wheelden, 31, and an NHS worker, said she had seen the idea in other towns and thought it would be perfect given the impact of Covid.

She said: "I noticed Market Drayton where I am from had tried to do a similar thing but obviously it is three or four times the size of Bayston Hill. I saw there was a lot of talent here so I put it on Facebook and we were inundated.

"The idea is people are on their walk around the village, they can socially distance.

"It has gone really well, usually there would not be this many people walking down the street at this time of day."

Karen and Neil Coffey

She added: "It has been a hard year for everyone and even if it brings a bit of Christmas joy then that's what we wanted."

Karen and Neil Coffey had transformed her sister's garage into a pop-up stall selling a variety of animals – festive and otherwise – that she hand-makes using needle felting.

With some fabric backdrops the stall looked a festive picture and they were delighted to be part of the occasion.

Karen, 45, said: "I think it has been amazing, it is really good."

Neil, 48, added: "It has been popular. I think there have been more people coming past than you would see if it was in the village hall."

Karen's sister, Jo Chislett, 43, said: "Everyone has been so chatty and friendly. In the current climate when people are not going out and seeing each other it is just really nice."

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