Clitheroe Food Festival – keep your eyes on the pies!

We’re only here for the beer

On a blustery bright day in August we headed off to the fourth annual Clitheroe food festival to be held in this bijoux east Lancashire town. Over the hills from the beautiful Yorkshire Dales this part of England is more often looked upon as a bit of a post industrial backwater, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the enthusiastic attendance at this lively festival celebrating the produce and culinary talent exclusive to this part of England. The red rose of Lancashire is fighting back against white rose of Yorkshire. In the tourism stakes, that is.

Red Rose special

The narrow winding streets didn’t seem too busy when we got there quite early and we had no trouble taking a turn on the smoothie making cycle and didn’t really have to queue for anything. However by lunchtime it was gridlock as thousands of visitors crammed into the village under the watchful gaze of Clitheroe castle, proudly sporting its Union Jack flag. A motte and bailey castle during the Wars of the Roses, the exiled King Henry IV was captured at Clitheroe by the Yorkists in 1465.

Festooned Food Festival

Over a hundred quality food and drink exhibitors from all over Lancashire were showing their wares. There was a fair old variety of stalls at the festival, but there was a noticeable prevalence of pies, sausages and alcohol, possibly reflecting the diet of the local population. There were a couple of desultory visitors to the organic veg box stall, but just opposite at the premium sausage shop the queue snaked around the interior, and then out and down the street. The pies were also impressive to say the least. Just about anything can be made into one if you think about it. There were some savoury pies on show which were like the biggest sausage rolls you have ever seen. They were proving poplar too.

Not just any pie..

Take from this what you may, but as I was actually born in Lancashire myself and despite the fact that I have travelled the world, I retain the capacity to get excited by the sight of a nice looking pie. Or an Eccles cake. Yes, this was my kind of food festival.

Lancashire lovelys.

There was, perhaps, quite predictably, a lot of real ales on offer. Accrington Pals ales for sale were Kitchener’s Call Up, The King’s Shilling, Over the Top and Lions Led by Donkeys. These Pals’ Ales commemorate probably the best remembered of the battalions raised in the early months of the First World War in response to Kitchener’s call for a volunteer army. The Pals suffered devastating losses on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme which was hard to bear in a community where nearly everyone had a relative or friend who had been killed or wounded. It has a special significance to me as I played the lead role of May, one of the women who was left behind, in the Peter Whelan play of the story of the Pals. It was an amateur production, and our soldiers on stage ended up going round the side of the trenches instead of ‘over the top’ due to health and safety reasons (don’t ask) but it did mean that I became a bit more informed about what actually happened in WWI.

Lions led by Donkeys

The beautiful Thwaites shire horse dray team were there being very friendly in their equine way. They are used only for promotional work now rather than deliveries and were loving all the attention. There were lots of ales with fantastic names like Old trout, Collier’s Clog, Costa del Salford, Nutty Black and Some Like It Blonde. We even got asked if we’d ever thought of a career change and would fancy becoming tenants of a Thwaites pub! Do I look like Liz Macdonald?

Hot holiday destination

A number of hog roast opportunities presented themselves and we plumped for one from Cunliffe Farm. I have to declare it was the tastiest pork and stuffing sandwich I have had the pleasure of eating at any event. I did take the precaution of asking if the pig had had a happy life first, to slightly assuage my guilt at eating it. ‘Oh Yes,’ came the prompt reply ‘we hand rear them all outdoors,’ ‘Did it have a name?’ I enquired. ‘No, there are too may of them for that.’ came the sensible reply. Phew!

Top tasting hog

There was musical entertainment on offer too and I was particularly taken with Clitheroe’s answer to the Warblers from Glee club, albeit with a rather more mature demographic. They sang Under the Boardwalk beautifully and were really getting into the groove.

The Clitheroe Glee Club

There were Lancashire crisps. What’s so special about them? I enquired suspiciously. ‘Well we grow the potatoes and we make them, and they are just flying out of the door – we can’t mek ’em quick enough!’ was the convincing response. There was lots of lovely Lancashire cheese too which is mild and very crumbly, my favourite was the lemon cheesecake one – but there were others, such as Kick Ass Cheddar, which packed more of a punch.

A big strong cheese handler

Local Samphire was on offer, a kind of seaweed known as asparagus of the sea which is rich in iron and highly recommended to those who have recently had chemotherapy, apparently. Or presumably suffer from anaemia. It does taste just like the sea, and can be eaten raw in salads, but it is recommended you boil it for a few minutes and then toss in butter – yum!

Asparagus of the sea

The Clitheroe Food Festival is definitely a good advert for east Lancashire. It was fun and very friendly with loads of stuff to look at and to try and no one was skimping on the free samples which is always nice to see – not even the whiskey! If you do get the urge to cross the pennines next summer I can heartily recommend it as a great day out for those who love to eat and drink.

Laugh until you’re horse!



Cheesily does it