Food and community are synonymous in my world. Where each alone is a moment in life, the coupling together of food and community provide you memories to last. So volunteering to work at the Ludlow Food Festival, UKs original (and one of the largest) slow & local food featured Food Festivals, was a memorable weekend of delicious moments for this rucksack foodie!
Ludlow, Shropshire England is a special place. It’s medieval castle with a strategic and beautiful hilltop location shadowing over the River Teme has been the hub for this Welsh March region since the 11th century. Retaining much of its medieval charm
and numerous Tudor examples of fine architecture, this busy tourist town somehow maintains sincerity in its old world charm without brazen missteps of commercialism. Where as medieval Ludlow ushered in political royalty, laden with treachery and
murderous plots of upheaval; modern day Ludlow’s royalty is of the epicurean kind with Michelin Star chefs, trend setting eateries, artisan bakers, craft butchers and sausage makers, locally produced cheeses, fresh seafood, a DAILY market square featuring over 25 stalls and not to mention Ludlow’s numerous historic pubs most of which are over 300 years old; It honestly is just a slice of British travel heaven.
I came to Ludlow under the suggestion of a dear friend who spent her formative years attending Ludlow College with weekend pints in the “Garden of Rest”. Her knowing of this foodies journey couldn’t help but mention Ludlow’s renowned Food Festival and my experiencing it. Notorious for being a “joiner” , I was elated to see the option for volunteering at this annual event and even more so when I was welcomed on by the committee. The Ludlow Food Festival was born in 1995, by a group of locals looking to promote the already abundant amount of specialty shops and
fabulous dining found in Ludlow. An original idea that was only a natural evolution considering the location of endless hillsides of orchards, rich agricultural soil, and beef and lamb as far as the eye can see. Ludlow has become a perfect epicurean utopia and kicked started the movement of food festivals for England (which there seem to be 100s of!) The event ran by a not-for-profit organization, generates over a £1million boost to the local economy each year with proceeds from the Festival supporting local charities as well as their own young food entrepreneur bursarys.
This years 3 day event was an amazing jam packed weekend featuring over 160 stalls of locally produced foods and beverages, master classes from world renowned chefs on subjects ranging from slow food topics of traditional breads and cheese education to Egyptian cooking and the history of Gin, Taste Workshops, and their famous Sausage & Ale Trails through the town. Most all off which were sold out even before the Festival opened. Around every stone alcove and medieval wall you could find coffee education, knife skill courses, food science activities, demonstration stages with full rotation
schedules of fabulous chef demos and food education and endless amounts of reasons to sample deliciousness. It was a foodie paradise! The taste options were endless; From giannormus sausage rolls, smoked salts and spices, fresh oysters, cakes and puddings only dreamt of, to locally brewed ales, ciders and even british cassis….it was all there! And it WAS a “foodie’s” event, despite the looming rain clouds the queue at the gate seemed endless and EVERYONE came with shopping bags and pull carts in tow, leaving with them bulging. I’ve been to many events in my life time and this is the first event I’ve ever seen with a “shopping crèche “(like a “coat check” but for your shopping bags)! My only regret throughout this wonderful 5 day experience is that i did not snap more pictures. I found myself so caught up in the moment, the smells, the fabulous folks I met, the deliciousness i consumed in mass quantities…that i just forgot to keep clicking the camera! I found
myself doing everything from setting up an endless amount of chairs, to assisting the lovely ladies behind the scenes on the Demonstration Stage, to helping with the fabulously fun and interesting Cooking-Like-Cleopatra MasterClass, to just wandering the stall marquee and grounds providing information and direction to the visitors. Beth, Phil and Vince of the Ludlow Food Festival Organizational Team made my time as a volunteer (and im sure all of the volunteer’s would agree) such a pleasure! The committee made sure to rotate schedules so that the volunteers had a great perspective and interesting day. They accommodated for needs and interest if necessary and they fed us all like kings and queens with a magnificent lunch buffet each day as well as tea with heavenly cakes provided throughout. The festival is a well oiled machine with so many aspects and individuals involved in making it happen that somehow comes together each year beautifully and seemingly flawless. There are many (in fact hundreds) of food festivals in England now, but you MUST plan your trip to England in September with a visit to the Ludlow Food Festival, come hungry for both food and fun and I guarantee you will satisfied beyond belief!
I also want to mention and give a big thank you to Sarah and Andrew of Whitfield House B&B who not only allowed this friend, of a friend, of a friend (otherwise a complete stranger) “camp out” for the weekend and making me part of their beautiful family while I was there. Whitfield House has luxurious and spacious rooms, a beautiful garden and the most gorgeous views of Ludlow castle to be found. Although there are many lovely places to stay within Ludlow, Whitfield House is most definitely the only one you’ll want to book for your visit !