diamond geezer

 Thursday, May 24, 2018


In the wilds of Leicestershire, a horseshoe's throw from Rutland, lies the market town of Melton Mowbray. It's a proper agricultural town, with a long history of fox-slaughtering, but what it's best known for is cheese and pies.

It's the kind of place where you might meet a horsebox or a potato merchant's lorry amongst the usual traffic. I only spotted one man in a Barbour jacket.

It has the third oldest market in England, which is still held twice a week in the Market Square. I came on the wrong day and got four bric-a-brac stalls and a dustcart.

The Butter Cross in the Market Square is the single point where the lands of the Belvoir, Cottesmore and Quorn hunts coincide. If you're ever here on New Year's morning, expect to see numerous horses, hounds and red-jacketed riders ready for the off.

Every Tuesday, in a series of sheds on the edge of the town centre, Melton Mowbray holds England's largest livestock market. I was a day late, so all I got was the belated whiff of manure. There are separate sheds for calves, stores and cull cows. I loved the road markings outside.

This is my favourite ever quote on a blue plaque, courtesy of Monty Python star Graham Chapman. The plaque used to be on the front of his old school, but has since been relocated to a random building in the town centre, which is indeed a bit silly.

The town has an excellent museum housed in the former Carnegie Library. It's particularly good at highlighting issues relating to rural life, rather than simply showing you a lot of old ploughs. The sport of fox-slaughtering gets its own gallery, naturally, but is balanced out by a case of activists and saboteurs. Cheese and pies also make a strong showing.

If it's a proper Stilton you want, as produced relatively locally, the place to go is the Melton Cheeseboard. The shop doesn't look much from outside, but a wide variety of blue-veined stinkers are on offer within.

But really, it's all about the pies. Several butchers in town make their own, because the Melton Mowbray name is EU-protected, and production geographically limited. The most famous sellers, and overall winners of the 2017 British Pie Awards, are Dickinson & Morris of Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe.

Just look at this selection of pies, topped off with a) apple, b) cranberry, c) hot gooseberry chutney or d) Stilton cheese. Your arteries might not survive too many of them, but the smell wafting out of the kitchen at the rear was properly alluring.

I plumped for a wrapped individual pie, biting excitedly through the crust to revel in the grey chopped pork within, and regretting it was gone so soon. How the local youth have the gall to pop into Greggs on the Market Square I'll never know.

» Visit Melton Mowbray
» Melton Mowbray Heritage Trail
» Melton Mowbray Food and Drink Guide

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