Posted by: brigid benson | March 31, 2014

Postcard from: Conwy Seed Fair

Seed Fair and market, Conwy

Seed Fair and market, Conwy

Historic Conwy, a magnificent walled town around the base of an awesome castle, has been a favourite destination since childhood. On shiny summer days my family began adventure by train; we climbed Conwy castle’s towers, stomped circuits of the  medieval town walls and savoured lip smacking salty fish and chips beside fishing boats at the quayside. Yet only only recently did I attend the 700 year old Conwy Seed Fair.

A great day out!

A great day out!

The date of the historic Seed Fair, March 26 is determined by Royal Charter. Should March 26 fall on a Sunday, the fair moves to Monday, March 27. Conwy also hosts an historic Honey Fair on September 13, another date determined by Royal Charter.

The fairs are important social events; in busy streets friends catch up with news from valleys and villages beyond Conwy’s fortified walls.

Stallholders sell luxuries and essentials, from seed to peat stained bog oak

Stallholders sell luxuries and essentials, including peat stained bog oak

Doug Don is a green woodworker selling traditionally made ‘treen’ or wooden wares, including bowls turned on a pole lathe powered by legwork and hand carved utensils.

I have a teeny bit of a thing about handmade traditional wooden spoons and confessed this, sharing with Doug a picture on my phone of spoons I had admired recently. Doug identified them as cawl spoons; cawl is thin broth, the staple food of impoverished peasants.

Self confessed ‘spoon geek’ Doug explained that traditionally thin soups are eaten with deep spoons for practical purposes while shallow spoons are used for stodgier food.


Doug Don of Heartwood Treen with a  rustic butter knife made of sycamore wood

I am but an apprentice ‘spoon geek’; here are the cawl spoons I had previously admired and photographed.

Traditional cawl spoons alongside a stirring spoon

Traditional cawl spoons alongside a stirring spoon

All the fun of the Seed Fair…

Setting out the duck eggs...

Setting out the duck eggs…

Novel pricing!

Novel pricing!

Ahhh, seeds….


Magic beans? Memories of Jack and the beanstalk!

Walking to the quayside I passed this comment on the Conway versus Menai mussels debate in a seafood restaurant window:

Coming soon...mussels from the Menai Straits mudflats

Coming soon…mussels from the Menai Straits mudflats

Wild Conway mussels are hand raked into small wooden boats and delivered to the quayside shop below the castle.

Conway quayside

Conway quayside

This quayside cluster of stone carved mussels is irresistibly tactile.

Silky and warm, Graeme Mitcheson's extraordinary mussel sculpture

Silky and warm, Graeme Mitcheson’s extraordinary stone carving


Stone carver Graeme Mitcheson describes his work on his website:

‘I try to create tactile, eye catching artworks that engage the viewer on a number of levels. The influences running through my work are quite varied though much inspiration has been taken from the natural world. Other influences have been the paintings of Henri Rousseau and the sculpture and lettering of Eric Gill as I appreciate many of the values of traditional stonework but try to incorporate them into my work in a more contemporary way. For the public realm, each sculpture is individually influenced by the environment and the people around where it is to be permanently sited.’

Beside the boats and mussels, tragic reminders of Conwy’s fishing history.

An inspirational man

An inspirational man

'They left Conwy...'

‘Left Conwy’ never to return…

Walking back through the fair, two sights made an impression. The first an impromptu ukulele lesson. The second, a wonderfully bizarre Welsh tea cosy!

A ukelele lesson!

The ukelele lesson

A proper Welsh brew!

A proper Welsh brew!



  1. I love the bookseller’s pricing! Big Fatties! Is your book available in the US? It looks so pretty

    • Hi, thanks for the kind comment – they are indeed beautiful and award winning fat books of inspiration yet sadly not available in the US – perhaps Amazon would post them?

  2. Darn. Well, maybe I can have a friend get a copy for me next visit. It looks like a “must have.”

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