As with any festival, you need to know what’s inside each tent. There were small tents for demonstrations, smallish tents for non-cheese foodstuffs, a medium-sized tent for prestigious non-cheese foodstuffsand drinkstuffs, with emphasis on large things (pies, sausages, curry, oysters etc) one might eat immediately, a big red tent for music, beer and cider, and, vitally, a huge tent full of every possible declension and conjugation of cheese. Cheese from cow, goat and sheep, cheese raw or pasteurised, cheese soft, hard, red, blue, or smoked. Cheese pure and cheese with bits of things in. British cheese, fully represented.
Experience suggests that you could not possibly taste them all without the benefit of extensive prior training. Your correspondent needed two separate period of recuperation (see para one). One tip, however counter-intuitive it may seem: have breakfast before you go. Otherwise, driven by hunger, you will do as I did, prioritising those displays whose sample chunks are the largest, regardless of other factors, and thereby reducing your chances of the widest-ranging exploration.
Having sampled and purchased to our tiny hearts’ content, we headed for the “Village Green” area, where outdoor pursuits, more or less cheese-themed, allowed revellers to work off their over-consumption. There were cheese skittles, cheese tossing, and an electric rodeo bull, with the festival ambulance coincidentally standing nearby. Fewer drunks and animals than realism might demand, but enough people lying about dreamily and children playing on straw bales.
Overall, a very enjoyable day. One heard some mutterings from people who were, pardon me, a bit cheesed off about the entry fee (£8.50), for what is essentially a huge open-air speciality shop. Others were disappointed to see Tesco, that scourge of small independent producers, so thoroughly intertwined in the occasion, while admitting that the giant chain had sourced itself some fine cheeses. But for the most part, I think people were ok with whatever had to be done to make the event viable. It is a unique experience, and its support of the British cheese industry has to be a fine thing.