Tooting never fails to amaze me. I was highly sceptical when I heard about Merton Abbey Mills, an arts and crafts ‘alternative market’ in Collier’s Wood. What particularly upset me was that I’d managed to live in the area for a year without knowing about it. The thing about Tooting and environs is that – lovely as it is, the main shops tend to fall into one of three categories:
1) Take-away joints that make KFC look healthy – Tooting boasts ‘the biggest Chicken Cottage in Europe’.
2) Pound shops, usually displaying most of their wares on the pavement directly outside the shop, and often half way into the adjoining road as well.
3) Incredible Kerala style Indian restaurants – which make it the best place to live in the world.
But an arts and crafts-y type area it is definitely not. However, I have visited Merton Abbey Mills and it is genuinely a proper arts and crafts market with a wide range of permanent shops including a pottery, a goldsmiths, a theatre and even a ‘rock shop’ which sells… er… rocks.
Well blow me down if there isn’t a farm within spitting distance as well! I am gobsmacked. Deen City Farm is nearby in Morden. They have a riding school, growing garden, a maze and even a rare breeds livestock section. On their homepage at the moment they have a notice about ‘Livestock for sale’. This could be the source of the much anticipated chickens! I am, needless to say, very excited about this. Must get down there soon and have a nose around.
Incidentally I found out about this using a rather clever little gizmo on the BBC Countryfile magazine website called Big Barn. You can type in your postcode, and it will return a map with all the nearby producers – farm shops, bakeries, delis, box schemes and even pick your own farms – close to you. Genius. The Countryfile podcasts are worth a listen as well.