Host to many historic famous faces including Charles Dickens and JMW Turner in the past, Barnard Castle, or ‘Barney’ as it is affectionately known, has a deserved reputation as the hidden (although not so hidden anymore) gem of Teesdale, full to bursting with independent shops, eateries and galleries. At the heart of the town lies Horse Market – we sit down with Kenny Walker from Barney’s Chocolate Fayre to discover his favourite spots on the street.
How long have you been on Horse Market?
The chocolate shop itself has been on Horse Market since it was established, so over 30 years now. We’re the third owners and we’ve had it about six years, but it’s been part of Barney’s high street for a long time. We’re actually moving to larger premises soon – but still on Horse Market.
What made you decide to buy Chocolate Fayre?
It was entirely my wife’s fault! Sarah’s from Teesdale originally but hadn’t lived here for a long time until we got married and decided to move back and raise the kids here. She always said jokingly that if the chocolate shop ever went up for sale we were going to buy it… One day she walked in with an estate agent’s brochure and well, we bought the chocolate shop.
Who comes into your shop?
It’s a nice mix of local trade and visitors. We’re lucky in Barney because there’s a lot of local independent businesses and we all support each other. We also get a growing number of visitors year on year – often they’ll go home and place orders on our website too. One day we had an order from Truro in Cornwall and Thurso up near John O’Groats – you couldn’t get any further apart on the same day!
What’s your most popular item?
Our salted caramel. It’s very simple, just milk chocolate filled with salted caramel but it outsells everything.
‘The Witham has to be one of the jewels of Barney.’
A community arts centre, The Witham has been at the heart of Barnard Castle’s cultural life for over 150 years. It started out as a an educational institute, a dispensary, a library and a music hall, and is now a vibrant hub including a café, gallery and shop alongside its packed cultural calendar of events.
‘What I love most about The Witham is the comedy,’ says Kenny. ‘Funny Way To Be Comedy is the umbrella it’s under, and they’re bringing in massive comedians – we’re talking the likes of John Bishop, Chris Ramsey, and Alistair McGowan coming to this tiny place in the middle of nowhere.’
‘Star Flowers do amazing bouquets.’
For the last seven years, Francesca at Star Flowers has been supplying the locals of Barnard Castle with floral arrangements, a huge range of succulents, cacti and other houseplants, not to mention a quirky array of gift cards which you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. ‘If you’re looking for something a bit different and special, then this is a great spot,’ advises Kenny.
‘Chris Mouncey is a local artist who’s been in Teesdale for decades.’
Right next door to Chocolate Fayre is Mouncey Fine Art, run by artist Chris Mouncey. As well as Chris’ own art, you can also find a range of mixed media pieces from other local artists, including pottery, sculpture, paintings and drawings, many of them featuring local scenes and buildings. Find rugged yet beautiful ceramics from Margaret Curtis, charming farm animal-inspired paintings from Sue Moffitt, and original pewter art combined with enamels, semi-precious stones and glass from Maria Santos-Alcantara.
‘The Hayloft really is an Aladdin’s cave.’
Sprawling across several different rooms above a fruit and veg shop and café is The Hayloft Emporium. When the weather’s fine they display some of their stock on the pavement, but make sure you don’t overlook the unassuming entrance and miss out on hundreds of potential antique treasures. Head through the alleyway and up the stairs and, as Kenny says, you’ll find yourself in a veritable Aladdin’s cave of antique goodies, perfect if you love a rummage to find your next statement piece – at a bargain price.