THE pretty West Sussex fishing town of Emsworth is celebrating British Food Fortnight with a flurry of foodie activities showcasing its producers, food shops and restaurants.
Within its narrow streets are Georgian houses and walled gardens, and its quay holds the key to its history as a busy port that still has connections with oyster fishing and boat building. Traditional shipwrights and chandleries are still in business although it’s now a yachting town where local resident and writer PG Wodehouse lived and used local names for characters in his novels.
Emsworth, near Chichester, is popular with nature lovers, with its views of tidal mill ponds and the shoreline, where migrating birds visit the salt marsh every year.
It is currently staging a series of food-related events including a seafood lunch, a chocolate and wine tasting, a beer and cider festival, and a gin tasting as part of Emsworth British Food Festival.
And this year, local businesses are pushing the boat out with a programme that also includes a harvest festival, a local showcase market, a Thought For Food producers’ market, a wine fair, workshops and short courses, a country market and a brewery open day.
Organiser Alistair Gibson, who is also chair of the Emsworth Business Association, says, “Community is the thing that binds us together, makes us part of the same story and gives us our sense of place.
“How can we support our independent high street businesses when online shopping makes it so easy to shop from home? During the Food Fortnight, there are so many incentives to explore our pubs cafes and shops, it isn’t difficult.”
BFF founder Alexia Robinson says, “Emsworth epitomises everything that BFF seeks to achieve in communities across the country: an event that embraces the whole town and is organised by people who know and love its food heritage.”
In 2014, Emsworth won the annual competition to find the most imaginative and inclusive celebration of British food and was runners-up last year. “Emsworth sets the benchmark for others to follow and whenever we want to encourage other community organisers, we point them to Emsworth for inspiration.”
The middle weekend of the fortnight promises “literally to have something for everyone”, say organisers.
Events include Emsworth British Beer and Cider Festival at Emsworth Community Centre, starting on Friday September 29 and continuing until Sunday October 1, which features more than 30 local and award-winning ales. They include several of the class-winners at this year’s Great British Beer Festival, including Gold Winner (Best Bitters) ‘Cwtch’ from Wales, Silver Winner ‘Jarl’ from Scotland (Golden Ales), and joint-bronze winner (Golden Ales) ‘Citra’ from East Anglia.
There is also a special selection of Somerset Ciders, Meet the Brewer sessions and live music from Reaver’s Rant and Mark Handley’s Bone Idols. Locally sourced food includes Jake’s celebrated pork pies, and Sue Treagust’s scotch eggs.
There’s also a British Cheese and Wine Tasting with Emsworth Delicatessen on West Street, where visitors can taste eight British cheeses and eight carefully paired wines. It takes place at 7pm on Friday September 29.
On Saturday September 30 is the Emsworth Wine Fair at Hewitts in South Street, which is organised by four local independent wine merchants joined by Hambledon Vineyard and Winchester Distillery.
The event focuses on award-winning English wines, including Sixteen Ridges, Albourne Estate and Ridgeview, and also features wines from other regions, from Rioja to Stellenbosch, as well as a range of British Gins. The English Whiskey Company will also be there.
Sussex chocolate company Montezuma’s will be at a Chocolate and Wine tasting experience at Tuppeny Barn on Tuesday October 3, where tasters can discover just how many wines really do work with chocolate.
The microbrewery Emsworth Brewery will hold open days on Saturday September 30 and Sunday October 1 at 16 West Street, and the Emsworth Community Seafood Lunch on the quay on Sunday October 1 will celebrate Emsworth’s fishing heritage and its famous Lobster Pot Christmas Tree. The lunch will be served on long communal tables and will be prepared by five of the areas leading chefs: Lawrence Murphy from the Fat Olives Restaurant, Gary Pearce of Restaurant 36 on the Quay, Giles Babb from the Blue Bell Inn, Jon Scourfield from the Brookfield Hotel and Barbara Crick of Emsworth Cookery School.
Food Bank Collection points have been set up around Emsworth during the fortnight in aid of the Beacon Food Bank to culminate in the building of a Food Mountain on Sunday October 8.
Emsworth British Food Fortnight runs until Sunday October 8. For the full programme of events, visit emsworth.org.uk.
Top picture: visitors enjoying the stalls at Emsworth last year
Above: The stall for Vineyards of Hampshire
Below: The Emsworth Seafood Lunch on the quay
Above: The Lobster Pot Christmas Tree
Below: Last year’s Food Mountain