Just down the road from here, there is a charming little village called Wickham. Centred around a bustling village square, the enchanting place is steeped in history and full of character.
Once a year, all of the local businesses come together to produce a wonderful occasion, the Taste of Wickham Festival – a celebration of all the fine foods and flavours available within the immediate vicinity. With such a delight on our doorstep, we obviously had to head down to see what it was all about.
The slick organisation of this event becomes clear before you even arrive, with clear signposting, enthusiastic volunteer marshals offering directions, ample free car parking and even a free park-and-ride service up to the village square. That people have chosen to give up their time (and their home comforts) on a fairly grey and blustery day to help bring this event to life just shows how much pride the inhabitants of Wickham take in their little corner of the Hampshire countryside.
Alighting from our minibus, we were immediately engulfed by a variety of enticing sights and smells and these were quickly followed by an array of free tasty samples available to try, from freshly cooked meats, luxury chocolates, artisan breads, cheeses and more.
The first item on our to-do list was to satisfy our lunch cravings and our party numbered four, including a vegetarian, a gluten-avoider, a sugar-fiend and an all-food-enthusiast – a tricky combination to please at the best of times! I think it’s safe to say that we all managed to find tasty delights to enjoy though. Personally, I (the awkward vegetarian), started with a veggie-burger topped with my choice of enhancements, while the others enjoyed a pulled-pork roll, Chilli with gluten free tortilla chips and a freshly baked sausage roll between them. No complaints from anyone at this stage, which is very unusual from this bunch – believe me! We ate accompanied by live music (regretfully I didn’t hear the talented chap’s name though) and then it was time to catch one of the five live cookery demonstrations happening across the day.
Debbie Towlson, a lecturer from Fareham College, explained how to create her Goat’s Cheese, Potato and Thyme Soda Bread, usually taught as part of the college’s Artisan Bread Course, before (in true Blue Peter-style) whipping out enough ‘here’s some I prepared earliers’ to ensure the entire audience was able to taste the results (with even more goat’s cheese and a yummy chutney). Some people even managed to go up for seconds and thirds, although that may just have been me…..
All of Wickham’s local businesses were open and joining in with the fun too and so our next port of call was Lilly’s Tea & Coffee House, where we sugared up with a selection of mini-cakes (including two gluten-free options) and hot beverages. The venue was absolutely crammed full of people eager to enjoy the array of food on offer, mostly made with locally-sourced ingredients, but the staff ensured everyone was squeezed in and well-looked after.
Then it was back to the fair proper to spend our remaining pennies on some take-home treats, including some traditional bread pudding from the local bakery and a jar of Shirrel Heath Pure Honey (look out for that in a recipe soon).
The local retailers were out in force and amongst the array of antiques and crafts on offer, we may have found the perfect bench seat for our porch – although some measuring will be required before that comes home with us.
There was plenty for the family to see and do too, with dance performances from local troupes, magic shows, kids’ crafts, two free bouncy castles and even free face-painting!
The weather held off for most of the day, staying dry and even a little bright at times, but even the odd bit of drizzle didn’t put a dampener on our day. The festival certainly gave me a Taste of Wickham – a taste that I will definitely be back to enjoy again.
To find out more about Wickham and to keep up to date with what’s happening in and around the village square, there is a dedicated website.
Did anyone else make it down to the Taste of Wickham Festival? What was your highlight?