‘WELCOME to Hexham, England’s favourite market town.’

This was the proud boast of the Tyne Valley town during the noughties after gaining national recognition for the fantastic home-made produce, from food to clothing, sold by stallholders at the popular regular markets.

Fast forward a decade and the glory days of years gone by seem a distant memory.

While the fortnightly farmers’ market in Hexham’s Market Square did bring visitors in, it didn’t seem to attract the numbers it enjoyed at the height of its popularity

It was a similar story at the weekly market on a Tuesday, with trade not as bustling as it once was.

So imagine the exasperated expressions from local folk when there was barely any room to move in the market place on Wednesday, September 12.

Looking resplendent with matching red stalls, the market was full of producers from across the county and beyond, in some instances, as Northumberland County Council (NCC) commissioned a special ‘Produced in Northumberland’ market to welcome HRH the Prince of Wales to the town as part of his two-day visit to the county.

The Produced in Northumberland scheme was started to promote independent traders, and more than 80 members have signed up.

The extra volume of bodies around the stalls during Prince Charles’ visit led to many Hexham Courant readers wondering why the market was not always that busy. There were even some calls for NCC to roll out its “Produced” market monthly.

The council has just agreed an updated markets strategy, which sets out plans to create a diverse, vibrant market experience that has a positive economic, social and cultural impact.

While NCC does not manage Hexham Farmers’ Market, it is keen to work with market organisers and Produced in Northumberland businesses to meet these aims.

NCC cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism. Coun. Cath Homer, said: “The special market arranged for the Royal Visit to Hexham was a fantastic opportunity to showcase producers and market traders from across Northumberland, and it gained regional and national press and media coverage.

“Northumberland is proud to be home to a fantastic variety of businesses that make, serve and sell a diverse range of high quality foods and beverages that are produced within the county and the council is putting a strong focus on promoting these businesses. Promoting “Produced” through local markets, food fairs and other events across the county is an important aspect of our ongoing work.”

Among the stallholders who had the privilege to meet Prince Charles was Tarset-based wool weaver Lizzie Sharman, who runs Miss Sharman’s Woollens. She was a regular at the fortnightly Hexham Farmers’ Market and was happy with it the way it was.

“I had a great time meeting Prince Charles and it was great to be part of the market, and it was great to see a variety of local produce being showcased,” she said.

“I love doing the farmers’ market every fortnight and, personally, I think it is great as it is. There wasn’t much difference to what was on offer at the market during the Royal Visit to what you get on a regular basis at Hexham.

“The farmers’ market seems to be well supported, but if people saw something they liked at the “Produced” market that they would like to see at Hexham, they only need to mention it to someone.”