More than 140 independent food and drink producers will be at this weekend's Ludlow Food Festival, the country’s longest established event of its kind.
The festival, which began on a small scale as a way of promoting the town’s food heritage and image, has grown in stature and now attracts a nationwide following to the picturesque Marches.
The castle and the castle square provides the focus for this vibrant celebration of local produce, but the whole of Ludlow is effectively the backdrop for three days’ of gastronomic indulgence, the festival giving the town’s restaurants a showcase for dining experiences pitched at every level, from fine dining to spit roasts.
The principal of the festival, now in its 16th year, has always been to promote the natural larder of Ludlow and its environs and the products at the festival range from goat meat and mutton to vodka and perry.
Last year, 21,000 food-lovers passed through the gates and organisers are braced for brisk business again. The festival starts on Friday (September 10) and runs until Sunday, September 12.
A series of food and drink related trails ensures visitors see as much of Ludlow as possible, safe in the knowledge that they are never more than a few seconds away from something to nibble or knock back.
There’s nothing like a quick pudding tasting to revive flagging spirits.
The festival has a popular Sausage Trail (with prizes for the people’s top banger and the experts’ choice) to which has been added competitions such as Pork Pie of the Marches, the Festival Loaf and the Real Ale Trail.
Ticket prices put to shame those charged at some food festivals. Adults are £7 and children are £1.50. A family ticket for two adults and up to four children under 16 is £16. Two-day and three-day adult tickets are £12 and £18 respectively.
The first day’s activities are dominated by leading chefs and has been dubbed Michelin Friday. There will be demonstrations by Ludlow’s Will Holland, head chef at La Becasse, who gained his first star last year, as well as Alan Murchison, owner of La Becasse and the Michelin-starred l’Ortolan in Berkshire, and Chris Bradley, of Ludlow’s Michelin-starred Mr Underhill’s.
They will be joined on stage by Gary Jones, the two-star executive head chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons.
A team of top chefs, including Marco Pierre White and Mark Hix, will also be in the town to judge the first-ever British Street Food Awards.
Festival chairman Phil Maile said: “We are always looking to bring something new to our event which was the first of its kind in the country.
"We believe the Street Awards will add a new dimension to our ever-evolving festival. They will provide a showcase for something which has, over recent years, become a part of British life – the mobile street vendor.”
Foodie workshops include The Slow Breakfast, Charcuterie and Bread, Chocolate Heaven and The Wonderful World of Wild Food, led by Sheila Spence, chairwoman of Marches Fungi, who is an expert on foraged foods.
*More details at www.foodfestival.co.uk