Saturday, 31 August 2013

Food for thought

Having opened late a couple of weeks ago in order to visit the Craft Fair again after 5 years off, I thought I would do the same this morning and pay Holkham a much delayed visit. It's the North Norfolk Food Festival, you understand.

Growing up not far from Shakespeare's birthplace, we hardly ever visited Stratford - and it's a bit like that with Holkham. I think the last time was to go round the Park with the Deer Keeper for a piece in North Norfolk Living. Suffice to say, the park looked so good first thing this morning that I now can't understand why I don't go more often.

Going early meant no queues to get in! Without going completely over the top, the Festival is a bit like going to a gentle summer party with every foody delight and temptation conceivable.

But what it did bring home is just what a fantastic range of makers,  growers and suppliers we have round about.  Even better is the opportunity to put faces to names and meet some of the people who produce the delights that I try not to eat too much of! Particularly good to meet David and Julie from Perfick Pork. Not only do they supply the key ingredient for Sarah at Brays Cottage but also Ben Handley at The Duck Inn at Stanhoe. The pork belly at The Duck last night was just wonderful.

As ever with these events, you find out things - in this case, a categorical denial from the horse's mouth so to speak regarding a widely rumoured change of ownership of one of the best known local businesses. So now I know; never believe these things unless it's already happened.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

And ...... relax!

Even though August still has nearly a week to run, change is in the air. Even between yesterday - the last Bank Holiday of the season - and today, the change is tangible. You can almost hear the North Norfolk coast relaxing.

From an unpropitious start, the last 7 to 8 weeks have seemed like one of the best summers people can remember. Maybe it was because of the long cold spring that expectations were lowered. Indeed it changed almost from the moment that the official forecasts pronounced that it was not going to get any better and that we needed to get used to it, with summers likely to be disappointing for the next few years.

In reality it probably hasn't been that remarkable but the surprise of reasonably consistent 'summer' weather has also engendered a positive feeling about just how good life can be.  Annual events which over the last few seasons have started to seem a little routine took on a new shine. A bit more fizz and sparkle. The Burnham Craft Fair - a key event right at heart of the North Norfolk summer - not only felt fantastic but did great business and seemed to avoid some of the stresses and tensions associated with the busiest day of the year.  Watersports Day at Overy which in recent years was increasingly under threat from insurers and the Health & Safety ethos was back in its stride, blessed with just the right weather and fantastic support from local people. Reassuringly good.

On the cultural front the North Norfolk Music Festival is in the middle of an amazing programme with events sold out even when they're competing with fine summer's evenings. On one of the very few damp days, Jools Holland worked his magic at Holkham last Saturday and there is still the Food Fair to come.

And close to home, footfall and sales in the gallery are up. And that was before the opening of Gerard Stamp's latest exhibition with us.  Given the last few weeks I suppose it is not really a surprise that his unique evocations of the marshes, creeks and coast around Overy have been so well received and sold so quickly.  It is a modest exhibition in terms of number of works, but definitely worth seeing.

As somebody remarked at the weekend it feels like time for a rest.  In fact it's not really a rest but a change of pace and style that kicks in now.  More space, more serenity and eventually fewer events and activities. But this is probably how most of us who live and work here like it. Relaxed.