Sturminster Newton was once home to one of Europe’s largest cattle markets. In the late 1990s the market site was sold for development, the closing of the cattle market ending a 700-year tradition of livestock trading in the town. One of the other claims to fame Sturminster had was as home to Sturminster Creamery, makers of award-winning Sturminster Cheddar and other cheeses. Following these damaging closures a public meeting was held where the town decided an event to celebrate cheese was one way to keep Sturminster Newton on the map. In 1999 the first Cheese Festival was held – it lasted four days and was a whole-town event, from tours of the Creamery to a tea dance in the old Sturminster Hall. There were three scout marquees on the recreation ground hosting local food producers and crafters (and a fashion show one evening!).
23 years later
Fast forward to 2022 and the Cheese Festival is still going strong. It is now a two day weekend, with some rather larger marquees, and it takes over the whole of the recreation ground on Ricketts Lane. This year the show will feature 21 Cheese Producers and 47 Artisan Food & Drink Producers, showcasing the best that the West Country has to offer. Naturally there will be a huge variety of cheeses on offer, and you can sample them with an array of chutneys, bread, biscuits … and of course follow up with some sweet treats of jam, cake or chocolate. Perhaps finish off with some locally-distilled gin, vodka or wine from a Dorset Vineyard.
The Craft Tent will be home to jewellery, portraits, photography, home scents, wood turning and more, with more stands outside, including plants and garden furniture as well as craft demonstrations, not forgetting the local charities and other organisations which are represented too. Add to the mix some children’s entertainment (including free Punch & Judy Shows and entertainment from Strawberry Jam), live music, the Real Ale & Cider Tent and an array of outside catering to choose from (yes, including Cheese Toasties!) there is something for everyone. And you never know who you might see – the founder of the world’s largest greenfield festival has been spotted at the Cheese Festival in the past.
Millenium of milling
If you fancy a short stroll then take a break to wander down to the Town’s historic 16th century mill which still grinds wheat for flour. It became an international star during the first lockdown when it leaoped into action for a short time, once again producing flour commercially.
Then back to the Festival for some liquid refreshment or maybe an ice cream before one last wander around the food marquee.
Find out more at www.cheesefestival.co.uk and buy your tickets online. Earlybird tickets purchased before 10th September are £7 (£8 on the gate). Children under 15 go free. (Free parking is available in the field adjacent to the site).
You can also keep up with all the Cheese Festival news on Facebook and Instagram.