Tuesday, 13 September 2011

England - Dorset: A real English cheese festival

Dorset has a lot going for it; a stunning Jurassic coastline, historical monuments and medieval ruins, golden beaches, quaint traditional cottages and summer's packed full of events as Brits and Europeans seek a quiet break. This idyllic landscape setting is like reading Beatrix Potter - the familiar villages have grasped it's unique cultural heritage and repackaged it as events with rabbits perched on their hind legs peering in wishing to be part of the action!

Check the event calendar of the Daily Echo of Bournemouth and you'll find The Real Ale and Cider Festival, The Dorset Steamfair, Bournefree and The Dorset Cheese Festival, to name just a few. My Facebook status proved that even locals can be amazed at the different events in Dorset.

I booked the date with my parents and godson and drove down to Sturminster Newton first thing - left London at 8am, stopping at Stonehenge for a photo on the way, and we were there by 10.30am. While British weather cannot be guaranteed I've learnt in recent years that September is humid, moist, blustery with frequent outbreaks of intense sunshine - call it four seasons in one day!

Saturday 3rd September was no different, the umbrella was up and down but the atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming. Three huge tents housing local cheese companies, craft-makers, farmers, cake makers and ale & cider producers (see some reviews below). No lunch required - the samples are enough to feed you, though should you get hungry opt for a fresh farmers' burger, a traditional ploughmans, or homemade baguette.

Word of warning - watch the cider - it's strong! But worth it! 1pint = £2 perfect!

The kids can be kept busy with some fairground rides and activities - though the best must have been the hammer. Whack the spring and watch the ball cling the bell - all kids get an inflatable mallet! That's the kids sorted.

For mum - the craft stalls - local fabrics, wood crafts, reindeer rugs and a selection of different plants you'd be hard pushed to find at any garden store!

The entrance was a simple £4 per adult, children go free inclusive of a park and ride scheme to save the frustration of village parking.

Marnhull leathercraft martin little

Leather and animal coat goods including cowboy hats, belts, bags, reindeer rugs. These items are all well priced for their obvious high quality.

Belt-up Bags
A unique product for such event; these bags are made from used and damaged car seat belts. The high quality items can be bespoke made with choice of vibrant and neutral colours with extravagant linings. They also have a men's range, entitled Belt-him up. Prices for an average handmade bag are approximately £50.

Winterwood Boards
These handcrafted hardwood cheese and chopping boards really are gorgeous gems. In a huge range of sizes, shapes and finishes this stall was admirable. We purchased a very simple walnut cheese board for a favourable £15; the more luxourious ones start from an incredibly respectable £30. If you are nice to them you might just get a hand-chiseled mouse.

Godminster Vintage Cheese
Just 10 years old this cheese producer certainly has a very fragrant and tasty oak smoked organic cheeder. In fact it's nearly finished! A range of products that can be ordered online this was the star of the day!