Tavistock Goose Fair, or Goosey Fair as we know it locally, is one event I never fail to attend. This one-day event is held on the second Wednesday in October and for me, along with many other Devonians, Tavistock Goose Fair heralds the start of the Christmas season.
Tavistock Goose Fair is over 800 years old
Traditionally Tavistock Goose Fair was all about families coming into town and buying a goose which could be fattened up on kitchen scraps and slaughtered in time for Christmas. This ancient fair dates back to the 12th century and was a big day out for farmers' wives and daughters.
This historic tradition has died out in most other places but it is still an important date on Tavistock's social calendar. Although it has changed in some ways, the spirit of anticipation about Christmas still pervades.
Buy your Christmas Goose at auction!
Tavistock Goose Fair attracts hundreds of traders and showmen from all over the UK. Head over to the Tavistock Livestock Centre to see pens of livestock which are sold in a lively auction. Animals include cattle, sheep, ponies and plenty of fine white geese and hens. One year I even spotted a pen of llamas, but I don't think they were intended to be eaten at Christmas!
Side stalls and shows are set up all over town, in front of the market hall and all along the main street. Altogether there are over 270 stalls all raring to do business with the thousands of visitors who flock into town.
There also a funfair with roundabouts, a big wheel and sideshows on Bedford Square, outside the grey stone Town Hall with its crenellated roofline. Children will certainly enjoy this area after school and into the evening.
There are several mobile butchers' vans and hot food concessions as well as toffee apples and candy floss. Alternatively, you can dine well in one of the lovely cafés scattered around the town.
The usual shops in Tavistock are also open and welcoming. It's a great time to start your Christmas shopping with a nice piece of estate jewellery from John Baldwin's on Cornwall Street or some handcrafted silver items from Purple Penguin on Brook Street.
You can pick up some wonderful specialty cheeses at the famous Cheese Shop tucked away on Market Road and get some unusual crackers, cured hams and specialist pies from the old-fashioned Crebers Delicatessen which has been a family-operated store in Tavistock since 1881. Just browsing the wonderful foods in the bow-fronted shop window of this black-and-white timbered store on Brook Street is enough to have your mouth watering.
Gift shops, boutiques and shoe shops all have some tempting things on sale and the market is a great place to source Christmas cards with photographs of Dartmoor in winter, handmade gifts and other crafts. Framed photographs of this scenic area make great Christmas gifts for family and friends.
Park and ride for Tavistock Goose Fair
As Tavistock is a very compact town with narrow streets, parking becomes an issue during Goose Fair so it's advisable to use one of the Park and Ride schemes that are set up for the event. They are organised and run by the Tavistock Lions Club so all profits go towards a worthy local cause.
If you are travelling from Plymouth, use the Yelverton Aerodrome Park and Ride. Transport costs around £2 for adults with concessions for children under 16. From Callington, follow the signs to Lumburn Rise car park on Callington Road or use the temporary car park at Harford Bridge Holiday Park on Peter Tavy Road. Both these car parks charge £5 per car.
Are you one of the thousands who attend Tavistock Goose Fair each year? Feel free to add your own reminiscences or tips in the comments below.