Traders and stallholders at Ludlow Food Festival have hailed the opening day of this year’s event as their best ever after many sold out of stock.
Bakers and chocolatiers were among those who proved a huge hit with the thousands of people who flocked to Ludlow Castle yesterday.
Numbers through the gate were boosted by glorious sunny weather all day.
And with the forecast looking good for the rest of the weekend organisers are confident of clearing the 20,000-visitor mark over the three days of the festival.
Attractions on day one of the festival included a series of demonstrations by top chefs including Marcus Bean, Alan Murchison, Richard Bainbridge and Will Holland, who is head chef at Ludlow’s La Becasse restaurant.
More than 160 local producers ran stalls in the castle grounds while a Malaysian cookery school run at the festival for the first time swiftly sold out for the day.
Robert Swift, of Clee Hill-based bakers Richard C Swift Ltd, said his company’s stall had sold out of bread by the close of play yesterday.
He said: “We have had a brilliant day – it is probably the best Friday we have ever had in the eight or nine years we have been here.
“Friday is usually the quietest day with it being a trade day, being a working day for other people and no trails taking place.
“But we were really busy straight from the off and we haven’t really had a lull.
“Events like this help us connect with people we may not get through the door. We get quite a cross section of people from all over the country and we also get a lot of repeat business from people who have seen us at the festival.”
Mr Swift added: “When we go away to other shows people ask where we are from and when we say Ludlow people know of it straight away because of the food festival.”
Ludlow-based chocolatier Daniel Jones revealed via Twitter that he was close to selling out of goods midway through the afternoon, while Ceryl Keysell of Keysells Farm in Rochford, near Tenbury Wells, described the day as ‘hectic’.
Staff at Hobsons Brewery, of Cleobury Mortimer, were also selling copies of their new book Funky Food and Ale consisting of recipes made using the brewery’s beer. The winning recipe – Saucy Postman’s Pudding by Debbie Powell of Cleobury Mortimer – is due to be made on the demonstration stage tomorrow.
And former military doctor David Carey was also selling copies of his book Ludlow Food Heroes – featuring several restaurants and producers based in the town – to raise cash for Help for Heroes.
Judy Eyre, 62, who runs Orchard House B&B in Ashford Bowdler, near Ludlow, said she had been booked up for the weekend for a year and had already started taking bookings for next year’s event.
She said: “People from all over the country are staying in our B&B.
“I think they come because Ludlow was one of the first places to hold a food festival and because it is such a special place to visit anyway.”
Shrewsbury’s town crier Martin Wood, who was compering at the food event, said: “The atmosphere has been absolutely superb.”
Beth Heath, festival organiser, said that a new layout in the main marquee had helped accommodate more stalls without visitors feeling as crowded as in recent years.
She said: “The weather has been fabulous and we could not ask for any better.
“We think this will bring millions of pounds in for the local economy – we keep on meeting people who come every year and we hope that we have found a winning formula. People are walking around seeing top chefs they recognise from the TV and also getting to try lots of local produce.
“The Malaysian cookery school sold out for the day really quickly and we know we have got people from as far afield as Japan, Australia, America and Scandinavia here.”
For details of events today and tomorrow visit www.foodfestival.co.uk