Petersfield has been bustling with independent traders for over 800 years and they are still flocking to set up in business in this former wool town.
The imposing equestrian statue of William III in The Square is a natural focal point for Petersfield’s regular markets and fairs. Yet radiating in all directions from this self-styled ‘avenger of liberty’ are bustling streets where behind elegant 18th century facades the tills ring to the sound of a multitude of independent businesses. Be sure to head for Lavant Street which leads to the train station, Heath Road en route to the town’s Festival Hall or the intriguingly named Dragon Street. And don’t miss the hidden ‘yards’, as well as Folly Market, the indoor shopping arcade tucked-away off College Street.
Diets come and go yet Heath Road’s family run healthy food café (thenaturalapothecary.co.uk) has a menu that fills their tables from breakfast, to lunch, through to afternoon tea.
“My daughter Olivia, who’s a nutritionist, is at the heart of the business and my wife Carmen and son-in-law James are the chefs,” explains Martin Harvey. “We focus on free-from dishes although as well as having gluten-free and vegan chocolate cake, you’ll also find a sweet carrot cake here too.
“Our daily special is always popular and varies from a crustless quiche to falafel scotch-eggs – our take on a traditional food but with a healthy twist.”
The Apothecary’s own range of superfoods found in their mouth-watering smoothies are also available to buy. And while Martin admits that they opened with some trepidation five years ago (the premises becoming vacant after Michelin-starred restaurant JSW relocated), he believes they’ve got the right ingredients.
“Petersfield is a very competitive market. According to Trip Advisor there are 60 places in which to eat, so standards need to be high. As well as having a strong brand, 100% quality is fundamental as is customer service – you have to have those three things to succeed.”
• Also make tracks for: The Bran Tub in Lavant Street, which specialises in allergy diets and wholefoods.
Designs on living
With Petersfield being her home town, Tara Wake knew there was a gap in the market for an interiors service and in 2011 opened the doors to her stylish Dragon Street showroom (tarawake.com), which is packed with the latest designs from top names like Andrew Martin, Voyage and Designers Guild, as well as contemporary lighting and home furnishings.
“For clients, I often have to work around an existing piece of furniture,” observes Tara, “Although a blank canvas can also be a challenge as you really need to get inside people’s heads to find out what they want.
“No two jobs are ever the same – it might involve anything from a window dressing to the designs for a whole house, including project managing a team of builders.”
This all comes naturally to Tara who’s refurbished no less than five of her own homes, saying: “I like to mix something old that has some soul with the sharpness of modern pieces. I’ve noticed that other people too are getting bolder and introducing splashes of colour within their interiors.”
And her future plans?
“I’ve already done some commercial work and it would be great to be able to theme a whole hotel.”
• My Petersfield: “People here are really friendly and I love both the history and the buildings.”
• Also make tracks for: Blendworth Furnishings in nearby Horndean, who have a curtain and loose cover making service.
A budding business
With its French wirework baskets, miniature topiary and assorted pots brimming with colour, Kristina Coulson’s Bakery Lane floristry business (theblacksmithsdaughter.co.uk), is quite the Tardis. “I’ve been here 16 years now and started with just eight buckets of flowers,” recalls Kristina. “Originally I only had the front area which is about the size of six telephone boxes, so when it came to making garlands I had to use the Lane outside.
“Those early customers have remained very loyal and a lot of our business continues to be word of mouth.”
It’s little surprise as regular buying trips to Holland, and blooms arriving from Covent Garden, means she remains bang on-trend.
“The vintage look remains popular and locally sourced herbs and roses are often combined in our handtied bouquets.”
With winter weddings increasingly popular and festive homes to decorate, Kristina and her team of four expect to be kept busy during the coming weeks. She wouldn’t have it any other way however saying: “You never get bored, it’s the flowers’ impermanence which is their beauty and Petersfield is a fantastic place in which to be based because it still has that market town feel.”
• My Petersfield: “I go to Julie’s Tea Rooms next door for lunch, and in the evening there’s Fez and The Old Drum.”
• Also make tracks for: Secret Garden flowers on Station Road who stock a range of fresh flowers for bouquets.
Shoots of success
“After teaching for 21 years, having a shop was something I’d always wanted,” says Ali Walters, whose dream (willowofpetersfield.co.uk) became a reality in 2012 after she found a characterful two-story building in the heart of the High Street.
“Petersfield is very strong on independents and has become a real destination. I stock women’s clothing which is simple but has a twist. The quality of the garment and the fabric is really important to me – we all love the touch and feel of things and that’s one of the reasons I chose to have an actual shop, rather than sell online.”
While Ali’s rails carry familiar brands, to stand apart she also sells the less widely available Mama b, known for its quirky silhouettes, and linen collections from GR Nature. Pewter jewellery by Irish design house Reaction or Tutti & Co’s contemporary look, providing a finishing touch.
“We also have gorgeous handbags from Nat & Nin, a French company who uses Italian leathers – we’re proud to be one of just a few stockists in the UK.”
Whether it’s one-to-one style advice or a shopping evening with friends, Ali gets top marks for her fresh take on fashion.
• My Petersfield: “La Piazzetta just off The Square is really friendly, and Annie Jones is great for a drink and fabulous tapas.
• Also make tracks for: Vintage and Vogue on Chapel Street for one off retro pieces
Thanks for Hampshire Life for the copy.