As a great supporter of local food festivals, I am always delighted to share my enthusiasm with anyone who cares to listen. It now being ‘food festival season’, I am spoilt for choice. Last weekend I attended a small but perfectly formed festival in The Royal Forest of Dean, about twenty minutes drive from my home.
The Forest of Dean is one of the oldest English forests still in existence and has seen Kings, Princes and Lords ride in the chase under it’s great sprawling oaks. At the heart of the forest is The Speech House, the old Verderers court (click here for the history bit) and last weekend the grounds of this impressive, Carolingian building were packed with producers, musicians, visitors, artists and, of course, food and drink.
The Forest Showcase has been fortunate to enjoy splendid autumn sunshine over the past five years, however this year it just wasn’t meant to be. Despite the rain, and the organisers took extra measures to ensure everyone stayed as dry and mud free as possible, it was a very pleasant way to spend an autumnal Sunday morning. All my good intentions of not going over the top went by the wayside as I was presented with an Aladdin’s cave – in the form of the producers tent.
The marquee was packed, and the atmosphere was convivial.
French-style bread and patisserie sat beside honey producers, cheese makers, purveyors of delicious locally made jams and chutneys, artisan gin, cider and marshmallows, and some rather fabulous pies and pasties from Cinderhill Farm near St Briavels. There was ice-cream from Forest and Wye, cheese form one of the few PDO Gloucestershire cheese makers, Smart’s and the eponymous Madgett’s Farm with their excellent free-range chicken, duck and local game. I also discovered a new, extremely local country wine maker and sampled a wonderfully decadent Rose petal wine, the taste of which brought back memories of early summer. I indulged in Fuffle, is a fudge or is it a truffle? Whichever is the true answer, it was delicious. I was offered roasted hemp seeds which were surprisingly moreish, the most exquisite fruit cordials (which would have worked wonderfully in a gin cocktail), cheeses flavoured with honey and fig and cakes in all shapes and flavours.
Away from the marquees, there were cider makers, caterers, a craft market, art exhibitions and stalls from various local charities including The Dean Forest Beekeepers, Apple pressing demonstrations were popular and I happened upon a rather good fruit and veg stall where I stocked up on locally grown carrots and broccoli.
Throughout the day a variety of musicians entertained the crowds.
In the demonstration tent, visitors were wowed by cookery demonstrations by, among others, Yvette Farrell who runs the Forest of Dean’s premier cookery school, award winning Hart’s Barn Cookery School.
Very much a family festival, the parent and child cookery classes were filled all day, with healthy eating advisor & cookery teacher Glyn Owen at the helm producing delicious Mezze.
But, if you did miss this year’s event, do not despair….the organisers have a Christmas treat in store!
“We are very much looking forward to our new Xmas event which is at Beechenhurst Lodge on Sunday 28th November…..so those that didn’t make this one because of the weather have another chance to sample and buy the best produce from The Forest of Dean and see some amazing Christmas cookery demonstrations….”
It’s already in my diary, I just hope there’s mulled wine on offer!
Although I attended as a guest of the festival, all views are my own