Few things give a deeper sense of wellbeing than mooching round a traditional food market with the early summer sun warm on your back and a bag of eagerly purchased goodies slung over your shoulder.
Dorset is lucky in that it has an embarrassment of festivals celebrating every kind of food – from chillis to fish and everything in between – taking place throughout the summer months.
One of the most popular is the Christchurch Food and Wine Festival, which attracts in excess of 70,000 people and will this year see more that 120 traders selling their tasty wares.
It takes place on May 10 and 11 and chef Lesley Waters, the festival’s patron, is looking forward to a fabulous event.
“It’s a wonderful festival, a really fun event, because the whole town gets involved and there is something for everyone to enjoy,” she said.
“Year after year it attracts locals as well as people from outside the area, so you can see the organisers are doing something right.”
Christchurch Food and Wine Festival, which is now in its 15th year, was the idea of Mary Reader, then at Christchurch Chamber of Trade and Commerce, who wanted to promote Christchurch as a place to visit with lots of excellent eateries.
The festival built on this and developed into a community event involving the whole town. Food producers flocked and the festival also worked to educate people in healthy eating through its Education Trust, which focuses on the local schools.
It is now widely recognized as one of the UK’s top food festivals and has attracted an impressive list of celebrity chefs, including Anton Edelman, James Martin, Gary Rhodes, Jean-Christophe Novelli, Paul Rankin, Brian Turner and Nick Nairn.
The traders range from well-known local food and drink producers to more exotic stalls bringing global goodies to town.
And unlike a lot of festival and markets where you seem to end up spending extortionate amounts of cash for not much produce, Christchurch Festival is renowned for selling top-notch nosh for reasonable prices.
“We have people here who really know their onions and who won’t rip you off,” said Lesley.
“They are not there just to make money, but are there because they are passionate about what they sell and I really admire that. I go to loads of food festivals every year and I really mean it when I say Christchurch is one of my favourites.”
New attractions at this year’s festival are the Taste Trail and Real Ale Trail. The Taste Trail, which you can join by buying a £5 ticket, will take you to many of Christchurch’s independent food retailers or eateries where you can try before you buy and receive a discount on your purchases. The card will last throughout May.
The £5 Real Ale Trail will be valid on May 10 and 11 and allow you generous tasters of a wide variety of beers from local pubs.
“Going to Christchurch is like going to my second home, I know so many wonderful people there,” said Lesley. “Basically, it is the best British food festival there is, with something to offer for everyone.”
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What's on offer at Christchurch Food Festival this year
There is lots to look forward to at Christchurch Food and Wine Festival, with something for all ages to enjoy.
There will be more than 100 food and drink stalls in the High Street and Alley Market, where you can browse, taste and buy all manner of tasty treats.
There will also be a separate Italian market in Church Street and an Artisan Market selling specialist foods.
The Demonstration Marquee in Wick Lane carpark is always a popular destination. Chefs showing their skills this year include Lesley Waters and BBC Saturday Kitchen regular and star of BBC2’s The Incredible Spice Men, Cyrus Todiwala, as well as several local chefs.
Another popular place is the Festival Kids’ Kitchen at the Priory School in Wick Lane and the Kings Arms Hotel. It runs on both days over the festival and there is something for everyone aged between three and 14.
Tickets are £5 per child, except for Lesley Waters tickets which are £10 for a parent-and-child joint ticket. All ingredients are provided, just bring an apron.
Tickets can be booked on the Regent Centre Website or at the box office, High Street, Christchurch, BH23 1AS.