Today I’m off to my fourth food festival of the summer. I know I said I was finished at three, and I did have plans to go on a stream train today, but what can I say? A friend suggested it and I’m easily led, especially when it comes to food. In addition, I’m not sure if going on a train (even a steam train) during a rail strike makes me a scab?
And so we’re off to Upton House Food festival. The event takes part in the grounds of Upton Country Park and runs all weekend, from Friday until Sunday, with each day being split into two sessions (11 am – 4 pm and 4.30 pm – 8 pm). Unlike the last two food festivals we visited, this one is not free to enter. Each session costs £3 per person, with an additional £6 per session to park. This would make a day out for two people £18 – the most expensive of the four food festivals we have attended this summer.
We considered the Friday evening session, because there are some good bands lined up. But we have an early start for an event tomorrow, so opt for just the Friday afternoon session.
Upton Country Park is 8 miles west of Bournemouth, 3 miles miles north of Poole. We decide that we don’t want to fork out for parking. However, as Upton isn’t blessed with great public transport links, we choose to catch a bus to Poole then hired Beryl bikes to cycle the rest of the way. From the bus station, it’s a little under 3 miles around the lake along a cycle path and gravel trails, so no traffic to worry about.
When we arrive, the festival site is pretty deserted, so not much atmosphere. But on the plus side, no queuing for food and it’s the first time I’ve been to a food festival and there have been tables free to sit and eat lunch – we usually end up plonked on the grass trying not to get trampled on.
We arrive around lunch time, having worked up a hunger on our epic three mile cycle. So, after a full rotation of the festival (to be honest, it’s not massive) we choose our lunch venue. It’s a tough choice, the Greek and Afghani food stalls look particularly inviting and there’s curry and Thai and Mexican all smelling delicious. But in the end I go for loaded fries – the loading being salsa, chimichurri, chillies, cheese and crispy onion. And salt. A lot of salt. And garlic. A very lot of garlic. After so much consideration of where to eat, I have made the wrong choice. The chips are bordering inedible due to the levels of salt and garlic. On the plus side, I won’t be bothered by vampires for a while!
I deal with the overwhelming taste of garlic in the only sensible way (a pint of Thatcher’s cider), before one more wander round the field and the purchase of some very tasty cheese with cider – you can’t have too much cider (or cheese).
My friend buys the the biggest doughnut I’ve ever seen from a stall selling supersized cakes manned by a pair who look like they live on a diet of supersized cakes.
As I mentioned, it’s my fourth food festival this year and I would rank it a poor fourth out of the four. So not only the most expensive, but also the least good. There was quite a nice variety of food stalls to choose from to buy a meal, but there really wasn’t much in the way of produce stalls. We usually depart laden with bags full of locally produced goodies, but this time I have a chunk of cheese and Helen has some cheese and a massive doughnut.
I think we probably made the mistake of opting for the day slot; my brother went in the evening, when there were bigger crowds and better bands and it looked much more lively. But either way, I think this is one festival I won’t be bothering with in 2023.