AROUND 75,000 visitors packed the streets of Christchurch this weekend for the town's annual food festival.

Organisers, who told the Echo numbers had surpassed last year, have hailed the event a huge success, providing a welcome shot-in-the-arm for local hoteliers, pubs, restaurants and traders.

Festival chairman Sue Harmon-Smith, speaking from the event on Sunday, said: "There are loads of happy, smiling people enjoying the sunshine, the food, it is just amazing.

"We have new things this year, we have a veggie and vegan market at Saxon Square. We've also got the things that people love, that we bring back each year."

"The hotels are full, they've all been booked up months in advance. It is bringing in lots of holidaymakers, people are coming for the weekend.

"When the festival started 20 years ago that was the idea, to promote Christchurch out of main season.

"Often the weather at this time of year is really nice, it not hot, it is perfect, really good for strolling around and enjoying all the food.

"By the end of [Sunday] we think we will be looking at around 75,000, which is better than the 60,000 last year."

The festival included a host of food stalls, selling products – and offering free tasters.

Big names from local gastronomy, including Chewton Glen head chef Luke Matthews and James Golding, group chief director at The Pig Group, gave demonstrations throughout the weekend.

Festival ambassador Dean Edwards and the Captain's Club Hotel & Spa's Andrew Gault were also among those showing of their culinary skills, and giving some cooking tips, to those gathered.

One visitor, Louis Norris, made the journey from North Yorkshire.

He told the Echo: "I'm a bit of a foodie and this festival has a good reputation, this is actually the second time I've visited.

"This is such a nice part of the country as well, so it is good to come along, sample local Dorset and Hampshire produce, watch these stunning demonstrations, than take a trip the coast as well."

Danny Appleton, from Bournemouth, said: "It is always a great event, and the hot weather adds to the atmosphere. 

"Lovely local food, cider, great company. What more could you ask for?"

Meanwhile, festival chairman Sue said: "We've had all these amazing foods and these lovely smells are drifting up the High Street.

"There is also a real chilled vibe down on the quay, where everybody is sat around picnicking and just enjoying themselves.