When: 18th May 2014, 10am – 4pm
Where: Alresford, Hampshire
£: Free. The only charge is the car park in Alresford or the Park and Ride in Ropley, where visitors can start their day by hopping on the Watercress Line steam train to the festival.
What is it?
Visit Alresford, the UK’s ‘Capital of Watercress’ on Sunday 18th May 2014 as the town plays host to the annual Watercress Festival. There will be a variety of family attractions and plenty of mouth-watering watercress treats ranging from watercress ice cream and cakes to watercress beer and soup.
The day will include the World Watercress Eating Championships, local artisan produce, live music, street and children’s entertainment, and rides on the famous Watercress Line steam train.
The day kicks off at 10am with live music. At 10.30am Broad Street is brought to a standstill when the first watercress of the season arrives, freshly cut from a nearby watercress farm and brought into Alresford on a traditional horse and cart. The newly crowned Watercress King and Queen ride on the cart and hand out the crop to visitors, followed by a procession of morris dancers, musicians and school children, which parades through the town.
The World Watercress Eating Championships will take place at 3pm. Cookery demonstrations by local chefs, Andy MacKenzie of Lainston House, James Durrant, Chef Proprietor of the Plough Inn Longparish and Robert Quehan, Head Chef of the Holiday Inn in Winchester, will also take place throughout the day. There will be a further demonstration by acclaimed food writer and author, Lucas Hollweg. These experts will show how versatile an ingredient watercress is, through a range of mouth-watering watercress recipes specifically developed for the festival.
Lucas Hollweg and local MP, Steve Brine, a keen supporter of the watercress industry, will be judging the Watercress Food Awards. Open to all festival stall holders, eateries and food producers in Alresford, the awards reward those who have developed something special for the festival featuring watercress.
The principal sponsor of the festival, the Watercress Alliance, will have experts on hand to talk about the history, health benefits and the growing and harvesting of this ancient crop. If you’d rather ‘go down on the farm’ and see for yourself how watercress is grown, you can sign up for a tour of Pinglestone Farm, which is within easy walking distance of Alresford. Places are limited and you can book in advance by contacting Jess Mason on 01264 732009.
For the children there’s the chance to investigate the 40 or more insect species which live in or by the watercress beds by pond dipping in the critter pool on the Watercress Alliance stand. Children can also learn the old art of bunching watercress using traditional farm trolleys.
The Watercress Festival marks the start of National Watercress Week which runs from 18th May to 24th May 2014.