When the cattle market and the creamery closed at Stur, locals found a new way to keep the town on the map.
Sturminster Newton was once home to one of Europe’s largest cattle markets, until, in the late 1990s, the market site was sold for redevelopment. The closure of the cattle market ended a 700 year old tradition and was quickly followed by the closure of the Creamery, makers of the award-winning Sturminster Cheddar and other cheeses.
A public meeting was held at which the town decided that an event to celebrate cheese was one way to keep Sturminster Newton on the map.
In 1999, the first Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival was held –four days long and a whole-town event. Attractions ranged from a tour of the Creamery to a tea-dance in the old Sturminster Hall. Three scout marquees on the recreation ground hosted local food producers and crafters – and there was even an evening fashion show.
The best of the West
Fast forward to 2022 and the festival is still going strong. It is now held for two days over a weekend with rather larger marquees and it takes over the whole recreation ground, off Ricketts Lane.
This year’s festival will feature 21 cheese producers and 47 artisan food and drink producers, showcasing the best that the West Country has to offer. Naturally there will be a huge variety of cheeses 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 you might like to finish off with some locally distilled gin or vodka – or maybe wine from a Dorset vineyard?
The craft tent will be home to jewellery, portraits, photography, home scents, wood turning and more. Outside there will be other stands, including plants and garden furniture as well as craft demonstrations. And don’t forget 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 and Cider Tent and an array of outside caterers to choose from – of course, 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.
Millennium of milling
If you fancy a short stroll, then perhaps take a break to wander down to the town’s historic 16th century mill, which is still operational – milling began on the Stour at Stur in 1016. It made international news during the first pandemic lockdown, when its wheels ground into action for a short time to produce flour commercially, rather than just for its visitors.
Once you’ve had a quiet look around the mill, head back to the Festival for some liquid refreshment – or maybe an ice cream – before one last round-up of 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.