Living the good life on the Kent coast

Francesca Baur grew up on one of the first organic farms in Kent. Ripple Farm Organics  was created by her parents, Chris & Maggie Baur, in the Stour Valley, between Canterbury and Ashford, and still thrives today under the new management of Martin & Sarah Mackey.

Ripple Organics

Francesca’s career took her to London for sixteen years but she’s now back in Kent living in the market town of Faversham with her partner and three children, working as a part time lecturer in textiles whilst developing the Fable and Base textile brand from her studio in Whitstable.

She writes about her life on the Kent coast and her ambitions to live a sustainable life.

My childhood was like something out of the Good Life, eating homegrown food and wearing Cloth Kits clothes and has been a strong influence on all areas of my life today.

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Although I grew up in the area I never visited Faversham – my family would gravitate to Canterbury and Whitstable, so moving here has been full of new discoveries. It was a bit of a culture shock after living in Hackney in East London but I’ve never regretted choosing Faversham as a location to settle and bring up my family.

We are really fortunate to be close to the beautiful ‘Garden of England’ countryside and the Kent coast and walking ZOG our dog gives me lots of opportunities to explore new areas.

Zog the dog

A favourite walk is leaving Faversham town walking out to the seawall close to Oare, an area of marshland and mud flats and brackish water dykes, popular with bird watchers. I also like walking through the small village of Graveney and picking up the Saxon Shore Way that traces the coast of South-East England as it was in Roman times.

Located close to fertile land, productive farms and good transport links, it’s no surprise that Faversham has been a place to trade goods for hundreds of years and it is still a thriving market town. As well as our weekly market (on a Tuesday, Friday and Saturday), we also have the Best Of Faversham Market on the first Saturday of each month and an antiques and vintage market full of treasures; from vintage textiles to furniture ready for a new life.

On Saturdays I usually head to the market to buy locally sourced food and try to combine with a circuit of the excellent charity shops in the town (Shelter is my favourite). I’ve often found interesting patterns, shapes and colours on vintage ceramics, textiles and books in these shops that all feed into my designs.

My clothes tend to be charity shop finds mixed with some key pieces that I will buy new. I like timeless clothes that are made to last. I’ve also started to make more of my clothes and am developing kits and workshops so that people can design and print their own unique textiles and make clothes from them. My daughter Laila is helping in the development and we recently spent a great day in my studio testing out her ideas.

Laila

Whenever I go into Faversham I can’t resist calling in to my favourite new eatery, the Yard, that serves delicious homemade food. I love their breakfasts and I’m particularly fond of the homemade beans.They have a regular book share event too.

My style of cooking tends to be quite rustic, influenced by eating from the farm as a child. I remember arriving home from school to see the butcher chopping the pig on the kitchen table and heading to the chest freezer to see the pork joint with the pig’s name on and I still like to know where my food has come from!

I like to cook with raw ingredients and buy as much of my fresh food locally from the market in town, Macknade, a food hall on the edge of the town (that is also something of a Faversham institution), and from local farms. I have built a reputation for serving up a wholesome home made soup and bread, which definitely has been inherited from life on the farm. Most lunch times we’d sit around the table with a homemade soup feeding anyone who happened to walk through the door.

Whitstable has been a huge part of my life since the 1980’s when I used to head over to to the Old Assembly rooms (now the Horsebridge) to see bands, and the Neptune pub, right in the beach, has been a favourite for years too.

I’ve seen many changes in the town but it’s great to be back and I really enjoy having a studio there. There are so many great places to eat in Whitstable but two places I’ve enjoyed eating at in the last month are No15 on Harbour Street which combines great food with great service and I’m also loving the recently refurbished Umbrella Café  which offers a unique creative environment to grab a coffee or lunch.

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My family are lucky to have a beach hut and when the weather permits we barbecue fish bought from Whitstable Harbour and eat it with fresh salads from Faversham. If we don’t fancy cooking we pop into the Beach Café in Beach Walk for lunch or the kids will head off there for an ice cream.

Growing up I’d seen the ‘slow movement’ in food production go mainstream and was keen to see the same happen in the textile industry and had always wanted to set up a sustainable textile company. In 2014 Fable & Base was born thanks to a Kickstarter crowd funding campaign, funding from Kent Low Carbon Trust and an Eco Innovation grant.

I’m intuitive in the way I work and look for narratives that I can translate into the cloth by looking closely at my everyday surroundings and am lucky to have a rich source of inspiration close by. My latest range has been informed by plants I’ve found whilst walking in the Kent countryside and I have recently taken on an allotment where I am developing a natural dye garden. This  will allow me to develop my experiments with naturally grown pigment and enable me to develop colours from plants I find whilst walking.
Green fabrics

Now I have set up the studio in Whitstable, my aim is to continue to develop a self-sufficient micro business that is carbon neutral, ecologically sound and that produces unique hand printed textiles alongside running silkscreen printing workshops.

It’s been an exciting journey so far and I’m looking forward to the next instalment of my life on the Kent coast.

Francesca has been shortlisted for Creative Business of the Year in the Kent Creative Awards. See her new collection of designs, inspired by local walks at Stairwell Gallery34, the High Street, Sittingbourne opening on 2nd April 2016.

Choose from a range of silk screen printing workshops with Francesca at her Whitstable studio or commission her to produce unique textiles for your home.www.fableandbase.co.uk

Sustainable times 3

 

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