Tastes of Dorset

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Dorset Food and Drink celebrates local produce this summer – and shares recipes with some of Dorset’s refugee and ethnic minority residents

A Flavours project group get together

Discovering Dorset’s flavours
Dorset Food and Drink, the county’s food producer group, doesn’t just support and promote local producers, it also works with refugees and people from ethnic minorities living in the county. The Flavours project, a joint venture with Dorset National Landscape, Dorset Race Equality Council and Grace the Space, is all about finding ways for people from other backgrounds – from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe – to explore and discover some of the farms and open spaces within our local landscape.
The aim of Flavours, says Dorset Food and drink coordinator Can Richards, is ‘to help build confidence for refugees and others, to connect them to nature in Dorset and to share food and drink in all its glorious expressions. From picnics, shared lunches and recipe swaps to baking and cooking together and sharing food stories and traditions, food is central to all the activities.
‘Shared meals, crafted from locally sourced ingredients and prepared with care, become more than just sustenance – they become bridges, uniting participants across cultural divides and fostering bonds that transcend differences.’
The group, whose members include a number of Ukrainian refugees, has enjoyed visits to several local farms and parks, including Launceston Farm near Blandford, Durlston Country Park and two organic farms, Middlebere near Arne and Tamarisk at West Bexington.
‘Flavours wants to help make connections and memories that will last … one bite at a time!’
If you would like to get involved with the project – to join the conversation or be a part of this exciting initiative in other ways, contact Caz on 01305 224717 or hello@dorsetfoodanddrink.org.

Feasting with the cygnets
Dorset Food and Drink had to cancel Abbotsbury Food Fair, its first major event of 2024, because of heavy rain and flooding – so it’s fingers tightly crossed for the two-day Abbotsbury Swannery Food & Craft Fair over the late May bank holiday weekend, Saturday and Sunday 26th and 27th May.
It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful or atmospheric setting than the centuries-old swannery – the only place in the world where visitors are able to walk through a colony of nesting mute swans.
The Benedictine monks, who built a monastery at Abbotsbury during the 1040s, farmed the swans for food. The monastery was destroyed in 1539 during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the 14th century tithe barn, the largest of its kind in the country, is the only remaining monastic building.
The Abbotsbury Swannery food fair coincides with the arrival of the new season’s cygnets, so it is a particularly special time to visit.
As well as a wide range of Dorset Food and Drink members and craft stalls, visitors and their children can enjoy the new Brambly Hedge Trail, the Swan Maze, arts and crafts activities and pedal go-karts. There will also be live music. The fair is open both days from 10am to 4pm. For tickets visit abbotsburytickets.co.uk

Abbotsbury Swannery Food & Craft Fair

Dorset Food and Arts Festival
This festival began life as a one-off, two-day event to celebrate artisan Dorset food and drink producers during the 2012 Olympics, when Weymouth was the base for the sailing competitions.
The festival took root, and this year will be held on Saturday 3rd August. It is still very much one of the foodie highlights of the summer, still in Poundbury and still free for the public.
The original festival was a memorable one – the team, including representatives of the Duchy of Cornwall and Dorset Farmers Market, had some generous sponsorship which enabled them to hire a big screen where visitors, sitting on straw bales and enjoying local beer and hot food, were able to sit all day and long into the evening, cheering Britain’s haul of gold medals.
The aim of the festival was always to celebrate Dorset creativity in food, drink and arts and crafts, with free entrance, all day entertainment, and chef competitions and demos. Free to enter (and park) and packed with thousands of visitors, it was a stark – and successful – contrast to the over-priced “Olympic festival”, which swiftly collapsed financially on the Saturday.
Now based at the Great Field, Dorset Food and Arts Festival continues to champion the best of Dorset, with 60 plus stalls showcasing a great lineup of local food, drink, art, craft and community talent. Caz Richards says: ‘The brilliant thing is that when you shop at events like this, you get to meet the people who make, bake, farm, grow, cook, preserve, pickle and serve you with all this local goodness – many of them award-winning!’

More local foodie dates for your diary:

Shaftesbury has a long tradition of food events, festivals, fairs and eccentric competitions – and this year sees the launch of a new annual celebration, Feastival, on Sunday 5th May, from 10am to 5pm on the High Street and Park Walk.
Combining food stalls, an artisan market, foraging walks, hot food, cookery demonstrations and the infamous Gold Hill Cheese Run (that’s UP the steep cobbled hill), it has something for everyone and, like the Dorset Food and Arts Festival, entry is free – so you have no excuse not to spend lots of money! For more on Shaftesbury Feastival see the feature from the April issue of The BV.

This year’s Royal Bath & West Show runs from 30th May to the 1st June. Each day you can watch a cocktail masterclass, and foodies should definitely make the most of the free cooking demos as the celebrity chef guests will be cooking up a storm in the Great British Kitchen. For years, food lovers have been coming to the show to enjoy the artisan delights they can find in the food tent. As always there will be plenty of street food vendors dotted around the showground, including the Pilton tent, and on the main lawn – ideal locations to sit, eat and enjoy the entertainment.

The re-scheduled Spring Countryside Show is now to take place on 8th and 9th June at Turnpike Showground near Gillingham. It will focus on offering food from the South West, and you will find venison burgers and rare breed sausage rolls. For those into gin or cheese, artisan makers will be showcasing their produce … and who doesn’t want to ‘sample’ a brownie or a doughnut?
You’ll also be able to have a go at crafting, meet heavy horses, delight in a madcap clown stunt show and learn about heritage steam engines …

Some of the other major events in May and June are Gate to Plate at Axminster on 27th May, Christchurch Food Festival on 25th to 27th May, Bridport Food Festival on 14th and 15th June and Swanage Fish Festival on 15th and 16th June.

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