Tuck into a real community effort
IF you want to see a real community working together for the good of the town, look no further than Moretonhampstead.
Most of the people who live and work in the area come together every year to put on a spectacular food festival which is rapidly growing in stature and reputation.
Last year the action-packed day attracted around 7,000 visitors and many local producers and top chefs.
Now in its fifth year – it promises to be even bigger and better than ever, and organisers Bob Small, Fiona Gofton, Alastair Wimberley and Gabrielle Jackson could not be more pleased.
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"Some years ago, Moretonhampstead residents concerned about sustainability and viability of moorland communities decided we should do something to encourage visitors to our town and give businesses a boost," said Mr Small.
"All moorland communities have to work hard if they are to develop in the right way and provide people who work there employment and interest.
"We started the food festival as a community project – run by the community for the wider community, non-profit making – with any surplus income going to the charity Farms for City Children.
"Farming is what we are all about here, sheep and beef cattle mainly, but tourism provides essential income to maintain facilities we do have. Anyway, the four of us, all interested in promoting local food, have continued to work together to build on and improve the event and the Food Fest is now in its fifth successful year.
"The whole town turns out stewarding, selling tickets, providing information, directing traffic, putting up stalls, welcoming visitors, and the festival now has a growing reputation for friendliness, helpfulness, efficient organisation and innovation. There is a brilliant atmosphere always. There is a fantastic community here."
This year's festival, which takes place on March 9, has many new things on offer like a drop-in bread-making day, aimed at families and children.
There will also be a mammoth Charity Kitchen Jumble sale, a film competition, an arts trail, nearly 100 stalls and, of course, cooking demonstrations.
"Michelin-starred chef, Michael Caines, a long-term friend and supporter of the event, will officially open the event as well as demonstrating, using our beef theme, this year," Mr Small added. "He will be cooking his beef dish with shallots and mushrooms, and also a steak and ale pie.
"This year, concerned as a community about many things, we felt it was time to debate those concerns. To this end, we are putting on an evening of questions and answers called Food, Farming and Community in our Parish Hall on Friday, March 8. It will also raise money for the charity."
To celebrate Moreton's long connection with cattle, The White Hart Hotel is making a special Drovers Pie with local beef and Hunters Beer, their chef Matthew King will be doing a demonstration of how to make it and the hotel will serve it too.
Historian Paul Cleave will also be giving a lively talk on the history of Moretonhampstead. Paul is specialist in the history of food and tourism in Devon, having completed a PhD on the subject at Exeter University.
As well as the stalls and cooking demonstrations there will also be lots of activities for children, from face-painting to dedicated entertainment.
This free event is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm. Details: www.moretonfestival.com
10am: Michael Caines
11.15am – 12noon: Romy Gill. Romy grew up in West Bengal and was introduced to recipes and styles of cooking from different regions of India.
Noon to 12.20pm: What a Falafel! Soul food from Eastern Mediterranean but with a British twist.Rob Davies demonstrates how to prepare these delicious little vegetable patties and how he is using a newly available British product to make them.
1pm to 2pm: Lloyd Maunder Butchers. Dave Carter and sidekick Robin from Lloyd Maunder, long established Devon Family Butchers, will be entertaining the crowds with their deft knife skills and meat cutting displays all served up with a dollop of humour.
They will explain how cheaper cuts can be turned into different, tasty dishes which the audience will be able to try.
2.30pm to 3pm: Dr Paul Cleave. Dr leave, historian from Exeter University, talks about historic Moretonhampstead, early tourism, the drovers who drove their cattle through the town and the food enjoyed in here in 19th century including Devon Dough Cake.