Sedgefield is a County Durham town with its heart in the country
PUBLISHED: 01:16 22 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:53 20 February 2013
Sedgefield has traditionally been a farming and market town, once known for saddlers, straw hats and shoemaking, a somewhat incongruous rural idyll surrounded by what was once the despoiled Durham coalfield. Linzi Barber pays a visit
Television viewers all over Britain will be familiar with the ancient town of Sedgefield, which became a favoured reporters location as former Prime Minister Tony Blairs constituency during his time at Number Ten.
As if politics was not enough, Sedgefield then shot to fame following the discovery of more than 100 Roman artefacts in surrounding fields, prompting a visit and excavation by Channel Fours Time Team.
The team worked in trenches over a 20-acre site, discovering an intact Roman pottery kiln and metal working hearths. It is unusual for a kiln to be discovered so far north and it is believed this was because of the high quality clay.
The High Street remains at the heart of this market town, with a traditional farmers market taking place on the second Sunday in
every month, showcasing the best regional produce.
Take a walk down the High Street any day and enjoy the rare sight of independent traders who are keeping the town alive and making a significant contribution to the charm and ambience.
A visit to Number Four is a must. This tea shop has become an institution in Sedgefield. Family run for the past 18 years, proprietor Linda Smith couldnt narrow down a favourite menu choice for me but she did tell me the homemade cake counter draws everyone, even those who claim to be on a diet when they walk through the door.
Linda and her family are establishing something of a dynasty in Sedgefield, also running the card shop Tickety Boo and the childrens clothing and toy shop Abbracciare. One of their other properties is shortly to open under lease as Annimated Closet, a ladies urban fashion store.
Luckily, if you have over indulged at Number Four, just a half mile walk from the High Street will bring you to Hardwick Park, once a private garden but today a public country park where you can enjoy clearly marked walks, open spaces, wildflower meadows and, if you
can bring yourself to save any crumbs, some good old fashioned duck feeding.
Sedgefield boasts the only racecourse in County Durham and, unusually, racing takes place all year round, apart from a short break in both July and October to allow the ground to recover. The whole family are welcome and the course has gained an envied reputation in racing circles for being one of the friendliest in the country.
Along with the year-round activities Sedgefield hosts two annual pleasure events that draw crowds from across the North East. Sedgefield show has been held every year in August for the past 158 years cancelled only during the foot and mouth outbreak. The show is a perfect example of a true local agricultural and horticultural show, offering something for everyone, whether two legged or four. Competitive classes offer children and adults a chance to demonstrate their skills with animals, machinery and craft. Trade stands tempt with their wares and the food hall is always a favourite spot for trying local delicacies.
Held in May every year, the Mediaeval Fayre features family entertainment including knight combat, falconry displays, Punch and Judy, stocks and traditional fairground rides.
In 2012 Sedgefield will celebrate the 700th anniversary of signing the market charter and many events are in the planning stages, including a childrens art workshop to produce a market cross sculpture, mini Olympics, a flower festival and a royal visit. A town crier will also be recruited at this years show to help spread the word.
For a small market town with such a strong community spirit that residents still believe should be called a village, there is so much to see and do. I recommend a visit soon to acquaint yourself or re discover Sedgefield, and do make time to visit Number Four for a piece of homemade cake.