I love where I am from. Not just that, but I am proud of where I am from. You can call me a farmer with my broad and articulated “arr”s, make jokes about my brand new combine harvester, and turn your nose up at that strand of corn what I ‘av ‘angin’ from my ‘ere mouth, but where else would you find a region in our Great Britain, where Cheese Rolling was an organised annual event? Or that you could buy cider that’ll stop you from seeing straight after a pint?
People disregard Bristol and the West as “farmer country”, but in my opinion it has some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes that the UK has to offer. This has also helped contribute to shaping a fusion of fine cuisine and produce.
Bristol offers something to cater for everyone’s taste. Whether you’re into hearty home-made grub, or the more delicate and artisan side of cuisine, you’re sure to find some award-winning examples of either and all somewhere in the South West.
St Nicholas’ Market just off the Corn Exchange in the centre of town offers some pop-up South African stalls, which show off the diverse range of culture that you can find in Bristol. This theme is continued in the Farmers’ Market on the Corn Exchange each Saturday, and the complimenting street market in Southville at the back of the Tobacco Factory – the very same street market that is home to the now award-winning and nationally recognised Pieminister Pies.
If you time it right you can also pay a visit to the Cheddar Ales Beer Festival, which usually runs in the month of June at a cost of £4 per person on the door. The festival showcases some of the finest local ales and ciders over the weekend, with live music from local bands and a resident DJ.
Of course, there’s also the Royal Bath and West Show which, in my opinion, is an absolute must see. Many a deal and freebies are up for grabs here from a huge variety of local, independent and artisan retailers. The festival exhibits the finest livestock in their class as well as the produce from award-winning retailers, rides and entertainment, including re-enactments of historic battles, dog shows and live music. This year the festival runs from May 29 – June 1 and earlybird prices start at £19, compared to £22 at the gate. To be honest, it doesn’t even matter if the show is a wash-out because, provided you don’t mind getting a little muddy, that’s half the fun.
However, if you don’t feel you can bear to get your hands dirty, there is of course the festival that made Bristol iconic. The Bristol Balloon Fiesta runs from August 8 – 11 and boasts mass balloon ascents at 6am and 6.30pm, including the Night Glow events on Thursday and Saturday evenings. With live music, traditional fairground rides, food and drink, this free festival is not to be missed.
Other events that Bristol has to offer include the annual Harbour Festival (July 26 – 28); live music, market stalls, food, drink and – of course – boats, this runs in the middle of Summer and is always a great day out. This is then shortly followed by BrisFest; a celebration of new, up-and-coming and local talent from the worlds of music, comedy, street theatre, circus and art, taking place between the 21 & 22 September.
Of course, it’s not all festivals and markets in Bristol and the West. Nearby, you can find the Thatchers Cider factory, which is definitely worth a visit, as you can stock up on a considerably wider range than is available in your local supermarket or pub – perfect if you’re planning a barbecue this summer. You could also seek out the little known Butcombe Brewery, which produces some beautiful real ales and also stocks the local Ashton Press cider, produced in nearby Long Ashton.
There is so much you can source from the South West and with so many awards under our belts, it’s easy to see why our produce is used and adapted across the world. It’s a gastronome’s paradise, and from what you’ve read here, I hope you can understand why.
So, please don’t dismiss us as simple farmer folk, because oo-ar do we know our trade. That’s what makes it so gert lush, my luvver.