Food lovers will be in seventh heaven this October as one of North East England’s most picturesque country estates again flings open its doors for what promises to be the biggest and best celebration of local cuisine and crafts in the events five year history.
The Wallington Food and Craft Festival is back for a sixth helping on October 15-16 with a record-breaking 65 producers joining forces with former North East chef of the year David Kennedy and BBC MasterChef favourite Stacey Stewart to dish up a culinary and crafty extravaganza.
The event which had its first outing in October 2006 at the National Trust estate on the banks of the River Wansbeck at Cambo in the heart of Northumberland, has quickly established itself as a highlight of the autumn festival calendar.
Last year 20,000 peopled flocked to Wallington, enticed into the countryside not just by the early autumn sunshine but by the plethora of top quality food and craft producers who had gathered from across the North East and Cumbria.
But organisers the National Trust, Taste North East and Made in Cumbria, hope to beat that this year as the public’s appetite for top quality local food and crafts shows no signs of being sated.
From the finest organic meats to gourmet jams and pickles, mouth-watering homemade puddings, regional cheeses, locally grown fruit and vegetables, traditional confectionary, artisan breads and savoury snacks, visitors are promised plenty of choice.
Among the local food names setting out their stalls will be the award-winning Moorhouse Farm Shop – attending for the first time – Morpeth-based Yellow Fields cold pressed rapeseed oil, the Northumberland Cheese Company, Heatherslaw Bakery, Deer n Dexter venison and beef, Cumberland Mustard and Mr Vikki’s Indian fusion pickles.
Wallington Farm Shop which has a permanent base outside the pay barrier will also have a stand championing meat from the estate’s tenant farmers alongside other local foods.
David Kennedy and Stacey Stewart will be cooking up a storm in the state of the art mobile kitchen, and there will be a children’s food trail, other gastronomic activities and the chance to meet alpacas Minimus, Ochre and Pearson courtesy of Barnacre Alpacas from Mitford near Morpeth.
Diners in Wallington’s Clocktower Café will also have the opportunity to sample a selection of Georgian dishes as the property turns the clock back 250 years to honour one of its unsung heroines.
Mary Smith was the housekeeper to Sir Walter Calverley-Blackett in the latter half of the 18th century. Her name might have been forgotten but for the fact she wrote and published her own cookbook in 1772 which was to go on and take the London market by storm.
Called The Complete House-Keeper and Professed Cook Calculated for the Greater Ease and Assistance of Ladies, House-Keepers, Cooks etc, etc, Wallington still owns a well-thumbed copy which is to be given a rare public outing for the weekend.
Some lucky visitors may also get to meet Mary herself as she will be taking up residence in the kitchen of the Palladian mansion she once called home.
But it will be the craftspeople and food and drink producers who will be taking centre stage.
Julie Tucker, Wallington’s events manager, says: “There is more reason to come to this year’s event than ever before. We have more stallholders, lots of exciting activities and entertainment and, of course, the opportunity to meet Wallington’s own Domestic Goddess, Mary Smith, and experience a selection of the flavours and dishes our Georgian forbears would have enjoyed.
“As a whole the event magnifies just how much the North has become a fantastic food, drink and craft hotspot. The area has such a lot to offer and there is such diversity.”
Over the last five years it has played a pivotal role in helping prove that when it comes to quality cuisine the North really does have it all.
- * Wallington Food and Craft Festival, Cambo, Northumberland, will take place on October 15-16 from 10am-5pm both days. Admission charges to the garden and grounds have been reduced for the weekend to just £2 for adults, children go free. Normal admission charges apply to visit the house. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wallington
* Three of Mary Smith’s recipes have been reproduced in the Wallington Food and Craft Festival Cookbook, which also features a host of other dishes championing local produce from some of the region’s best known chefs. The cookbook produced in association with Taste North East and Made in Cumbria costs £2 and is available from the Wallington gift shop or by sending a cheque for £2.50 to Taste North East, Ground Floor, Beaufront Park, Anick Road, Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 4TU.