Alton Food Festival
Isle of Wight tomato stall
Green and Black Tigerella tomatoes
Two years ago Alton held its first Food Festival. Now an annual event, this was the third.
On arrival, I saw the streets lined with stalls, packed with people, but first I popped into Brock's Farm Shop.
Two years ago there was a good range of stalls, and that was true this time. This year the Alton Food Festival was held as a food festival cum farmers market.
At the first food festival I recall only one stall with drinks. Somewhat strange I thought considering the number of small breweries there are in and around Alton. This year there was several stalls.
On the Isle of Wight tomato stall I was very pleased to find black tomatoes – Black Tigerella. I also picked up Green Tigerella. The seeds I will save for growing next year.
The first festival had many stalls cooking meat. This year not, or maybe I arrived too late. Though there was many stalls selling meat.
As with the first festival, there was cookery demonstrations.
Only one stall selling fruit and vegetables. There should have been more.
I spotted some lovely large open flat mushrooms in a local fruit and vegetable shop, which I fancied for my tea. But when I looked later, I was too late, the shop had closed.
The journey down was the usual nightmare that one has come to expect from a third world train service. I cycled to the nearest station, only to see the train I should have been on pulling away from the station. I was wrong when I thought I'd only have half an hour to wait. It became an hour when the next train was cancelled due to shortage of train crew.
From Farnham onwards, pleasant open countryside, green, wooded, rolling hills. Alternate trains stop at Bentley, little more than a halt, from where a footpath leads off into a forest. Alton is surrounded by woods and opens fields with many public footpaths. From Alton runs the Watercress Line and you can often find steam locomotives at Alton Station.
I was shocked and appalled to find the festival was sponsored by Café Nero!
I was also disgusted to see a beer stall selling Pimm's. Why not a stall selling beers from the Hog's Back Brewery or a stall having on offer drinks from all the local breweries and vineyards, but not one selling Pimm's and other international brands.
Alton Food Festival forms part of Hampshire Food Festival, a celebration of local food and produce.
What's it to be for next year: sponsorship by McDonald's and Starbucks?
Alton still has many old coaching inns. Two years ago it was very hot and it was found necessary to do a tour of several of them. Feeling hungry, I was about to find a pub for something to eat and drink, when I looked in an Italian shop cum café cum restaurant called Bottega dei sapori.
What caught my eye was seeds on sale, traditional seed varieties imported from Italy. For such seeds it is usually necessary to travel down to Seedy Sunday Brighton, as I did this spring. Many of these seed varieties are now at risk of extinction.
Bottega dei sapori proved to be well worth visiting. All their foods, if not Italian, are sourced locally, the teas and coffees fair trade and organic. Whilst there I had mushroom ravioli with sage butter, the day's special. It was delicious, I have never tasted such good ravioli.
Before leaving Alton I wandered around the town, then took a walk along the water meadows. The River Wey rises on the edge of town and flows through the town.
Compared with two years ago, I was shocked by the number of High Street retailers who have muscled their way into what was hitherto a relatively unspoilt town.
Local residents have been asked to sign a green pledge, relatively easy to meet, which if replicated across the country would go some way to reducing our carbon footprint.
In the evening there was a free concert in the park. I did not stay as it was becoming quite cool.
On my way home, I walked a little way along the Basingstoke Canal, then walked across the heathland at Ash Ranges. I saw dark clouds approaching in the distance and ended the day getting soaking wet.
A pleasant day out and well worth visiting, but please next time stick to local produce.
For my Sunday lunch: pork chop (from Brock's Farm Shop), courgette (off one of the stalls) and freshly picked from my garden broad beans, runner beans and new potatoes (grown from seed potatoes from Seedy Sunday).