THOUSANDS of people tackled the heat at this year’s Great Dorset Chilli Festival.

Now in its sixth year, the festival which took place at the Earl of Shaftesbury’s St Giles Park in Cranborne Chase over the weekend attracts chilli lovers from far and wide.

The two-day festival includes chilli farmers, chilli sauce makers, chilli plant growers and local chefs demonstrating their favourite chilli recipes.

But the main event as always is the chilli eating contest, which sees contestants grimace their way through a number of eye-watering rounds until the last man, or woman, is left standing.

This year's highlights also included the Dorset Chilli Cook-Off Championships, run by the UK Chilli Cook-off Association, in aid of the children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent.

Expert chilli growers and sauce makers shared their knowledge with visitors, and there was as a variety of ‘cooking with chilli demonstrations’ from some of Dorset's top chefs.

This year's special guests included Yayu Slocock who runs A Taste of Rasa Sayang cookery school in Wimborne.

Teruko Chagrin of White Pepper Chef Academy & Cookery School in Lytchett Matravers and Mark Hartstone from La Fosse at Cranbourne were also showing off their skills at the festival.

Festival organiser Miles Halton said: “It has been another absolutely fantastic year.

"Once again we were really lucky with the weather which always adds to the event but as always we just get some really fantastic crowds of people who are really passionate about chilli.

"This is now our sixth year and the festival just seems to keep getting bigger and better.

"We've had thousands of people attend over the weekend - some have even travelled as far as South Yorkshire for the event."

When asked why the festival was so popular Mr Halton said it was down to the atmosphere.

"It's not overly commercial and a lot of our traders are really passionate about what they sell and are always happy to share their knowledge with our visitors who are also really into their chillies."

But it wasn't just chillies on offer during the weekend there was also plenty of other locally-produced foods as well as a number of Dorset beers and ciders.