From TV personalities Gregg Wallace and Simon Rimmer, to the 700 people who flocked to Taste of the Outdoors on Wednesday, to the sell-out foraged foods menu at The Bell Inn on Thursday, the first New Forest Food & Drink Festival has proved to be a big hit.
Visitors had the choice of over 120 events covering 15 different themes during festival week (October 31 – November 6) including highlights such as a vegetarian banquet with celebrity chef Simon Rimmer, a Very English Afternoon Tea at the Montagu Arms, a six-course food journey at the 5* Chewton Glen Hotel, a fun quiz night raising over £1,000 and hundreds of other events celebrating the forest’s foraged food, game, beers, spirits and produce.
Pubs, B&B’s, hotels, restaurants, colleges, tea rooms, vineyards and village halls all showcased the unique food and drink on offer in this special part of the world.
Early estimates put visitor numbers at around the 3,600 mark in total and an additional income of £100,000 for the local economy during the week.
New Forest Destination Manager and Food Festival Chairman, Anthony Climpson, said: “After a year of planning it was fantastic to see that so many of the New Forest’s food community – whether they be chefs, farmers, distillers, producers or brewers – join together to ensure this first New Forest Food Festival Week was the success it deserved to be.
“The weather was very kind to us which meant that many of our visitors were really able to get out and explore this unique British environment, in between enjoying the diverse events we organised.”
Events such as the Artisan Bread-making For Fun course at Hordle’s Stepping Stones B&B sold out, with attendees giving the event five-star feedback, and more than 40 eager visitors flocked to Daisybank cottage at Brockenhurst, for demonstrations of chocolate and jam making with Chocolate by Miss Witt and Naked Jam.
“Our aim was to draw people into the forest at a time when things can be quieter, to really show them everything we have,” said Mr Climpson. “In many ways autumn is THE New Forest season, as the amazing food and drink that were produced and served during our festival showed.”
Two popular free events saw many of the Forest’s chefs and producers gathering in the same venue. A Taste of the Outdoors (Wednesday) was a living and learning event all about the Forest’s rich history and cultural heritage, at the Pony Sales Yard in Beaulieu Road. In the Show Ring, Head Agister, Jonathan Gerrelli, told visitors about the Forest’s animal culture and demonstrated various customs, while showing off some of the famous New Forest ponies and donkeys. Scrumptious street-food lunches, cooked by local forest chefs, were available to purchase on the day with visitors basking in the autumn sunshine and even picnicking on the grass.
The Producers’ Market and Chef Demos (Sunday) served as a festival finale – a day packed full of demonstrations from local chefs and showcases from amazing farmers, artisan producers and local craft talent, held at Brockenhurst College attracted 1,300 visitors.
For more information on restaurants, chefs and produce in The New Forest, visit www.thenewforest.co.uk/food
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