Cornish cider, food and music – we get into the festive spirit at the Little Orchard Cider and Music Festival.
As we arrive at the festival, we can see that the prevailing rain has failed to dampen the mood of the revellers converging on Healey’s Cyder Farm. Indeed, even as a host of festival goers disembark from the temporary ‘park and ride’, they all seem in very high spirits.
At the promise of an afternoon and evening filled with the best of Cornwall’s cider, as well as music from some brilliant UK artists, we tentatively make our way through the gates – my choice of footwear somewhat lacking in forethought. With food at the top of our agenda, we make a beeline for the Woodfired Canteen.
Outside the tent, we pass a number of wood fires, each concealing a different delight smouldering beneath secretively closed lids. Chefs busy themselves, hurrying in and out of the tent as they prepare for the next sitting. When we introduce ourselves, it becomes clear that one of them is Ben Quinn– founder of the canteen, along with his wife Samantha.
Woodfired Canteen specialises in using local produce, particularly here in Cornwall, to provide unique and interactive dining experiences across Cornwall and the UK. While they often use meats local to where they travel, they usually stick to Cornish fruit and veg. Samantha explains: “It’s something we’ve got a lot of faith in, and our suppliers always provide us with the very best.”
As we take our seats and await the first course, we find ourselves chatting with other attendees – people from all walks of life, from local and afar, yet all here to enjoy the same things – good food and cider! Finally, as Ben steps behind the counter and addresses the tent, he explains that this is entirely the point – getting to know new and interesting people over the finest food and drink.
Over the next hour or so, the courses come and go, each paired with a different cider and each as full of flavour as the last. The experience is really informative, with descriptions from Ben as we enjoy each course detailing how and why each has been put together. He’s warm, welcoming and knows how to entertain a crowd, even if he is contending with the BBC stage’s sound system! If I have to choose, my favourite is the woodfired chicken thigh paired with Rattler, but a lot has to be said for the mussels that are served as the first course. Cooked simply in cider with a few sprigs of rosemary – I have to say – they’re the best I’ve ever tasted!
Once we’ve polished off the last round of plates, we feel ourselves relaxing and easing into the festival vibe. It could be the warm hospitality, or the varied samples of cider we’ve been presented with. Personally, I think it’s a mix of the two, and after taking some shots of the Woodfired family and saying our farewells for the weekend, my partner J and I make our way, instinctively it would seem, to the bar.
The bar – busy, as they tend to be at festivals, and slippery, thanks to the gallons of mud flowing beneath our feet. There’s a huge range of cider on offer, so much so that it would be dangerous to even think about trying them all, so I settle for one called Porth by St Ives Cider. J chooses a refreshing elderflower tipple, inspired by the third course back in the Canteen.
And the night goes from there! We vigilantly stick to the same cider for the evening, for fear of what might happen in the mud should we start to mix and match. We spend the dusky hours bouncing from stage to stage, enjoying the offerings of upcoming talent at the BBC Introducing stage, before dancing to the blurred lines between bluegrass, folk and country music from Cornish band Flats & Sharps. The evening ends on a set by Scouting for Girls – eagerly awaited by J – and by this point, we know that we’ve got everything we wanted out of this wonderful little festival. Indeed, even though we have the whole next day to enjoy; with mud-sodden shoes and what’s bound to be a sore head in the morning, we instead lift our final drinks and toast: “To the same again next year!”