Gluttons Guide to Shaftesbury Festival
I am always up for a food and drink festival. In fact, we have several planned throughout the summer period and will be featuring them all on this website. Today’s post covers our home town festival, which by all accounts, given our previous history, we behaved in a very restrained manner.
Shaftesbury Festival has been occurring since 2011, however this was our first attendance, unsure what to expect, but knowing what we are like (children in a sweety shop springs to mind) I put a tight padlock on the purse, parked at the bottom of Gold Hill and walked up to the town. We heard the music from where we had parked a long time before we reached the top of the hill. Despite it only being 10.30am the frivolities were already in full swing and the atmosphere was one of celebrations and smiles.
Luckily the weather was dry with peeking sunshine and warm breezes, perfect really, not too hot and not too cold, as Goldilocks would say, just right.
A big advocate of buying locally and seasonally, these events are perfect for supporting local producers and tasting the best produce in the area. We have met a number of wonderful vendors and I am sure we will meet them again, as they, and we, do the food rounds.
With 8000 years of farming and a great deal of open, rolling green fields still dedicated to this activity, Dorset produces some fine meats, both farmed and wild. Meeting the sea, it’s extensive coastline also provides an abundance of seafood with fresh daily and sustainable catches. The pleasure of a festival of this nature is to meet the people who do this for a living, their enthusiasm is contagious and their knowledge unquestionable, I guarantee, you won’t get that level of service in a supermarket.
Aside from the food stalls and the cornucopia of choice from huge savoury pies, to artisan chocolate boxes and Parisian macaron, there were a number of small local artists. Including our lovely landlord Emma with her Dorset Uglies which are, by all accounts, an utterly individual collection, if ever there were one. We were lucky enough to get one of these ‘beauties’?!? as a wedding gift and he sits happily on our fireplace looking gormlessly out across the living room. I know Emma puts a lot of time and effort into her creations and no two critters are the same, she also takes commissions if you fancy something in particular. There is a great deal of talent on show at these festivals and I took photos of some particularly lovely pieces which caught my eye to share with you. I was asked by one lady to delete the photos I took of her watercolours, she explained that a friend of hers had her creations stolen in this manner, as some dim witted fopdoodle had taken photos of her artwork and was selling the prints on the internet, the cheek. I obviously obliged, as was her wish, so I can’t share her delightful pictures with you, but hey ho, her loss.
With stalls extending the full length of the high street and into the parade there was plenty to see. There was also maypole dancing in the Abbey grounds and live bands in Swan’s Yard together with a lady on stilts. However, when we saw aforementioned lady on stilts she just seemed to be leaning up against the wall chatting to the top of her friends head, I guess it was tea-break time. I am ashamed to say that we didn’t stop for the famous Gold Hill cheese race as we had a prior arrangement with friends. It does look bloody hard work though! having walked up that hill a number of times I can confirm that it is steep. Contemplating running up it with a full wheel of cheese has me worrying that it is heart attack territory! although I do note that they are relay teams so no one single person is expected to run from bottom to top carrying the cheese (25kg for gents, 10kg for ladies) I wonder if you get to keep it once at the top? I cannot imagine how long a wheel of cheese would take to eat, possibly not long with Es, who is a self-confessed cheese addict.
So we did the rounds. We watched a little of the cooking demonstration in the large outdoor kitchen set up for the occasion. I lusted over some new yoga pants but persuaded myself that I didn’t have the spare cash this month, however I keep looking at the photos longingly, maybe I’ll see them again at another show. We bought some macarons, a lemon curd pie, 4 savoury pies ranging from Steak and Kidney to Chicken and Ham, huge monsters they were, and delicious too I can confess. Es purchased approximately 1kg of fudge and proceeded to eat it all in one go, and, spoiled for choice, we eventually agreed on a hot, prepared to order, steak wrap for lunch. So I can report that the padlock didn’t stay on the purse for long, however we did only spend half of what we have spent previously so all is good.
Our next festival is the Spring Tide Food Festival at Burton Bradstock.