Return to River Cottage

At the start of September, I returned to one of my favourite places: River Cottage.

This time round, my sister and I were there for the River Cottage 10th Anniversary Bash and Book Launch – Phew! What a long name, but what a fantastic day. This particular event at River Cottage HQ was to celebrate 10 brilliant years of River Cottage, and to launch the latest cook book that brings together all those years of hard work and culinary expertise.

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One of the greatest draws to this event had to have been the attendance of the fabulous man himself, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. After an hour or so of exploring the Cottage, nibbling on tasty treats and nursing an almost palpable excitement, he appeared.

It was fantastic to watch and listen as he introduced each member of the team who had also contributed to the production of the enormous River Cottage A-Z Guide. He spoke about the book, their hard work and continual efforts.

While we waited for our chance to speak to the team directly, we explored the grounds and tasted the treats. Everywhere we went, we were shown such beauty from the West Country.

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Admiring the freshly picked flowers.

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The Cottage cat, snoozing amidst the excitement.

I was ecstatic to see my jam-making idol again, Pam “The Jam” Corbin. And to meet the gentlemanly head chef, Gill Meller, was also a treat. It was a fantastic opportunity to pick up tips, share excitement and celebrate the years of River Cottage.

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Meeting my culinary idol, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

 

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My sister and I nabbing a quick selfie with Gill Meller.

We had so much delicious and freshly cooked foods to eat, of course. As we continued to explore the Cottage grounds, stations were set up in different corners and enticed you in with such heavenly smells. The chefs themselves stood and prepared a feast before your eyes!

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Divine foods.

Staying until the very last moments, we caught the tractor back up and out of River Cottage. With us in the tractor sat John, Pam and Hugh – I was so nervous with excitement I could barely remember how to form a serious sentence. Everyone was so lovely, so welcoming and I was very sad but content to watch the lights of River Cottage fade away.

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Taking with me my signed copies of their books, and renewed enthusiasm for exploring recipes, I knew I would absolutely be returning again next year.

 

xxx

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River Cottage Summer Fair

At this time one week ago, I was packing up a tiny tent in Charmouth, Dorset, with my sister and preparing to travel 200miles back home. It has taken me all this time to get over the post-holiday blues and write down here some of the best parts.

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The trek to Dorset began with too much luggage. A 60L rucksack bursting with clothes and food, a huge hold-all of tent gear and sleeping bags, an extra rucksack with a camping cooker and gas cannisters… add onto that what my sister was carrying and we were like two Buckaroos! When we reached Waterloo station we grabbed two free (but tiny) cans of Coke from a stall in the station centre and just made it in time for to catch our train.
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Unfortunately, we did not have seats for long. As we approached Salisbury the train divided. Georgia, I and about 50 other passengers were crammed together into three small carriages. Yaay for the smell of urine and sweat!

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However unpleasant it was to sit outside the toilets, we did befriend a cute 6 year old girl called Rosy with her father. Feeding her a bag of Magic Stars and playing hide and seek made the journey pass quickly!

Many hours later, we arrived in Axminster and took the bus to the Newlands Holiday Park in Charmouth. The views there are STUNNING.

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We found out very soon that our decision to pitch a tent beneath a tree was very bad. Do earwigs have nests? When the next morning came, we found a few dozen wriggling earwigs poking around our bags. Eek!

But nothing could have dampened down spirits. We were off to visit River Cottage HQ…

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This beautiful pocket of the Dorset countryside is even more beautiful than you can witness on the TV. The purifying taste of the air, the glorious heat of the sun, the sound of sheep and cows from the fields… gorgeous, beyond compare.

We took a tractor ride down to River Cottage, gratefully climbing into the open windowed tractor with outward facing benches.

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It brought us to the sounds of a banjo and the rumble of chatter. Large white tents were scattered across the festival field and were filled with representatives of businesses, farmers, individuals with interesting crafts and foods, stalls for fresh orchard cider, homebaked pastries, handpainted crockery – many exciting and fascinating people to meet. One of whom happened to Tim himself, who kindly signed the book I bought ( Nooo, of course I didn’t just buy the book to talk to him! That would be silly…).

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In the middle of the day we were delighted to have a foraging tour with John Wright. One if the highlights here being the finding of meadowsweet – as a studying pharmacist this coumarin containing plant was fascinating.

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Our lunch was purchased from a stall wafting the delicious aroma of slow roasting pork and apples. It was only after wolfing down the food that we discovered the winner of Masterchef 2014,  Ping Coombes, had cooked it.

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With full bellies and huge smiles my sister and I enrolled on a pickling masterclass -with Pam the Jam! Pam Corbin is an elegant, intelligent lady with a warm aura. She inspired me to learn more about preserves and to begin making jams myself. We made some delicous cucumber pickle and each kept our own, meaning three jars each.

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Our day came to an end, watching the sun set over River Cottage HQ whilst listening to the strange music of Tankus the Henge. There were so many fantastic opportunities, so much we took with us, we will absolutely return there next year.

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