Wherever there's a well stocked cider bar, you're sure to find the Rockingham Forest Cider Picking & Panking Team in situ. Such was the case at this years Swan & Rushes Cider & Cheese Festival. Whilst I loitered on the fun side of the bar, our compact harvesting team Paul & Sue, gamely volunteered to help out at the sharp end, pouring, serving, and offering their expertise to customers throughout the Saturday session (whether they wanted it or not).
For my part, I indulged in plenty of cider, perry, and as much cheese as my trembling arteries could handle. The cheese selection was a wonder to behold, and not a pineapple chunk in sight. My picks of the day were the hard as Parmesan Gorsehill Abbey St Kenelm, a mellow, sweetish cheese from very near where we harvest our cider apples and perry pears. Two Hoots Barkham Blue was a really creamy, classy blue; and the Wootton Dairy Ringwell Organic was both crumbly and creamy, with a moreish, slightly pungent flavour. This festival is worth visiting for the cheese alone.
But there was cider and perry too of course. I concentrated mainly on perries, including a sweetish Thorn and rich Greggs Pitt/Aylton Red/Blakeney Red blend from the ever reliable James Marsden of Greggs Pitt fame, plus excellent, well-balanced perries from Springherne and Barbourne.
As usual, the day went far too quickly, and I bid a sad farewell to the many cheeses and ciders I didn't get a chance to try. Congratulations to the Big Cheese himself Grant, and his hard working team for putting on such a fine festival.