Tickets for a week of events celebrating Eden’s food and farming heritage are already being snapped up after they were declared open for booking last week.
Topping the bill at this year’s Eden Food and Farming Festival is the chance to dine with the festival’s VIP Gordon Ramsay, in the form of his doppelganger, talented lookalike Martin Jordan. A celebrity sheep sweep with TV shepherdess Katy Cropper and the chance to be among the first to try Eden’s new community wine are also expected to prove popular.
There are a dozen tempting outings on offer, with more events still to be announced. Farm tours, talks and visits to producers and growers are all on the menu free of charge, promising a fun-filled first week of the school holidays.
“It’s fantastic to see people taking up places on the events, almost as soon as they opened for booking online,” said Richard Utting, from Penrith Partnership, who chairs the festival committee. “Places are limited on most of the activities, so I’d advise people to book early. Last year, most of the events were full several weeks ahead of the festival.”
Dinner with Gordon at Foundry 34 Restaurant in Penrith kicks off the festival on Friday 17 July, whetting appetites for Penrith on a Plate food festival and fun day on the Saturday. It’s off to Alston on Sunday to meet the farmers and animals behind the ‘If Pigs Could Fly’ Facebook page, which has become a social media hit, with followers worldwide tuning in to watch the daily video updates.
A food journey back in time awaits on Monday as Eden’s renowned food historian Ivan Day gives a talk at Lowther Castle. He’ll explore local food through the eyes of the viscount Sir John Lowther, with 17th Century fayre on offer in the café.
Tuesday’s a busy day for the festival, with four events to choose from. Vista Veg are opening their polytunnel site to the public, from where the co-operative team runs Eden’s veg bag scheme. Just down the road in Shap, Katy Cropper’s in action with her sheepdogs in the afternoon. There’s also a chance to see how a dedicated group of growers have transformed a disused railway shed into a community polytunnel at Appleby Heritage Centre. On Tuesday evening, it’s over to Maulds Meaburn to tuck into Cumbria’s delicious produce at a pop-up restaurant by Lee Cooper from the Crown and Mitre Inn at Bampton.
Askham Hall are offering a tour of their edible gardens on Wednesday, where they grow produce for use in the kitchens, and visitors can then follow the animal trails at the estate. Over at High Cup Wines near Murton, they’ll be launching their new community rosé wine. It’s been made from grapes harvested last autumn by almost twenty growers in the Eden Valley.
Thursday 23 July brings an event not to be missed for anyone thinking of growing their own food, with a visit to an established vegetable garden with polytunnels and orchard at Glassonby. Experienced grower Peter Clarke will be on hand to give advice and show the range of produce that grows in Eden’s climate. For anyone more interested in meat, a guided walk around Deer ‘n Dexter’s farm offers a chance to meet the deer and miniature Dexter cattle that give this Eden producer its name.
Penrith Show rounds off festival week with a day-long celebration of farming and family fun on Saturday 25 July.
“We’re very grateful to all the individuals and organisations holding events for us as part of the festival,” Richard said. “Thanks to their generosity in volunteering their time, we’re able to provide virtually all our events free of charge. They are offering a superb insight into the way food and beverages are produced in Eden, whether on a commercial scale or by people in their own homes. There’s no substitute for hearing first hand from the producers and others involved in farming.”
Richard extended an extra thank-you to Penrith and Eden District Freegle group, who have arranged for some of their Visiting Edible Gardens (VEG) events to run during festival week, as part of their 'Grow Your Own' campaign to help Eden residents grow more food.
“We’re still firming up details for a few other events, including a fun cookery class for children, so keep an eye on our website,” Richard said. Places on events can be booked online at www.edenfoodfestival.org or by calling 017683 51699.
The festival is organised by Penrith Partnership and funded by Eden District Council, Penrith Business Improvement District (BID), Pride in Penrith Lottery and Newton Rigg College, and is also supported by DiscoverPenrith.co.uk.