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Turning up the heat at West Dean on a wild, wet and windy weekend

A WET and windy weekend didn’t stop the heat rising at West Dean Gardens.


The annual Chilli Fiesta kicked off on Friday with torrential downpours and wild winds but visitors still flocked to the event to try all things chilli related.


Stalls were set up with various traders from across the country selling homemade and fresh produce from oils, chutneys, sauces and spices.


Visitors were able to browse the stalls and sample products before buying, allowing everyone a chance to get some heat.


It wasn’t just about the heat, with products including cheeses, sauces, cakes and snacks available for those who aren’t as keen on spice.


For those not adverse to the change in weather, entertainment was on offer throughout the weekend with a stage area with live Latin music and an outdoor cinema.


There were also tents with cookery demonstrations with top chefs including executive chef at Lavant’s Earl of March, Giles Thompson, Rick Stein’s son, Jack, Masterchef 2018’s Sweta Choudhury and Anthony O’Shaughnessy.


Gardening theatre talks and demonstrations were available to show people various tips such as exploring herbs to make incredible cocktails, how to care for your chilli plant, understanding various chilli varieties, and ideas for growing unfamiliar edibles.


Street theatre performances, juggling and circus skills and belly dancing also provided entertainment for all ages.


Nicky Court from Portsmouth travelled to the event with her friend Sarah Nott. She said: “We came last year when the weather was slightly better but still enjoyed it today. It’s great because it’s not just about chillies, there is so much variety here.


“We have bought some curry sauces, some chilli oils, cheese and pork scratchings. It hasn’t been a complete wash-out.”


Visitors could also explore the gardens of West Dean and see the chillies growing in the glasshouses. There were opportunities for tours of the gardens and people could head to the shop to purchase chilli plants too.


In the walled gardens there was a display of more than 150 chilli varieties all ranging in colours, shapes and sizes.


Melissa Hartridge and her husband Danny from Chichester took their three children along on Friday. Danny said: “It’s a real shame about the weather. We weren’t sure what to expect because it’s all outdoors but we took shelter in the beer tent area and the kids still had an ice cream!


“It’s great to see so many local businesses here, and some we’ve never heard of before.


“We’ve enjoyed the samples and it’s so good that it’s not all hot and spicy so the kids can get stuck in too. We are definitely going to book for next year, just hopefully the sun will be shining.”


For keen chilli lovers, or those travelling further afield, the UK’s biggest chilli festival also offers visitors the chance to camp and included a competition for the ‘Best dressed tent’. The winner received a family pass to next year’s festival and a hamper.


Pollyanna Hutchinson, owner of Pollyanna’s Kitchen makes a condiment called Chillish in West Sussex using an award winning locally sourced Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil.


She said: “Another fantastic year at the Chilli Fiesta, the vibe was as fantastic as ever. There are always so many interesting people who come to this event, from all walks of life-even those who don’t like chilli.


“There are so many wonderful attractions and different things to see and buy. There is something for everyone, it’s just a wonderful three days of fun and amazing food. Thank you West Dean.”

Posted in Family Fun, News.