I’m really excited that this food and drink festival, practically on my doorstep, has become an annual fixture on the calendar. It usually takes place on the late May bank holiday weekend.
There are loads of stalls selling artisan and locally-produced food and drink, as well as live musicians, dragon boat racing in the St Mary’s Island basins, and funfair stalls and rides. It’ll only take an hour to wander around, but it’s more about soaking up the ambience of a relaxed community vibe, relaxing in the sun with nice food and looking forward to impending long summer days.
For me it’s undoubtedly become a precursor to summer.
Last year I had a fantastic time at the festival and was really looking forward to this year’s. It helps that the sun has been gloriously shining for the last two years, giving off a golden, lazy haze which embellishes the blissful memories.
With free parking close by, the festival can get busy but I’ve never seen it so packed that you can’t get close to the stalls. And lots of people adds to the buzzing atmosphere.
Stalls cover a vast range of food and drink for every taste; from gourmet burgers and chips to Greek, Thai, Mexican, artisan cheeses and cakes, beers, ciders and locally-produced gin. I saw loads of vegan and veggie options, and enough to cater to various dietary requirements. Plus lots more in between. Some of it seemed quite expensive for what you’re getting, but there’s plenty on offer. It pays to wander around and take your pick, then head for the big grass seating area near the bandstand to sit, eat, drink and take it all in. Ahhhh…
Afterwards, you could follow the tinkly funfair music and hop on the carousel and swing-boats or, like me, head to the harbour on the other side of the little bridge. There, each year, one of the large historic boats is open to the public, with some bric-a-brac for sale. You can even have a tour of the boat and go down into the engine room.
Don’t forget to catch the dragon boat racing: forty foot long, elaborately decorated, Chinese war canoes with a dragon’s head and tail attached with sixteen paddlers and a drummer. Although it’s become quite a prestigious event and they’re racing to be ultimate victors, it’s all for a good cause with proceeds going to charity.
And once you’ve tired of the festival, take the opportunity to visit one of the nice local pubs or gin distillery and delicatessen. Or wander around St Mary’s Island for some truly breathtaking river views.