Two Meet Hugh, Or: Our Top 5 Cheeses At River Cottage Festival

Well, we made a rare foray beyond the walls of the shed last weekend and made our way east. Past Honiton and Axminster, the valleys widen out and grand, long ridges start to appear. One of these is Raymond’s Hill, and if you dive off the top there and plunge down a rutted, winding track you’ll eventually end up at the River Cottage Headquarters. The long white farmhouse with its fabulous vegetable garden is instantly recognisable from all those TV programmes and the setting - all alone in a beautiful high valley - is stunning.

James and I were there for the weekend to be part of the River Cottage Festival: two days of food, music, making, activities and ideas. On one side of us were the extraordinary craftsmen of Savernake Knives, on the other the truly unique personality that is Julian Temperley, creator of Somerset Cider Brandy. Inspiring. And: we met Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who seemed very nice, and very natural - as you’d probably imagine.

Mainly, of course, we were doing what we always do: enthusing about the wonders of Westcountry cheese and the skill of its makers. Giving away cheese to people to try; selling cheese. And what a receptive audience we had! People were fascinated, and - frankly - they went bonkers for the select group we’d taken along. So here are the top five cheeses from the weekend, as chosen by our River Cottage Festival customers:

1 Kern. People thrilled to the huge floral flavours of this newcomer, Cornwall’s answer to Comte.

2 Cornish Blue ... so it was one and two for Cornwall! When this cheese is at its best it’s exceptional. Lost count of the number of people who said “I don’t normally like blue cheese, but …”

3 Sharpham Rustic with Garlic & Chives. Nothing else like it in our list of 100+ cheeses and our River Cottage customers could see its very special qualities.

Equal 4th: Sharpham and Dorset Blue Vinny. A sumptuous raw Jersey milk brie from the banks of the Dart ended up neck-and-neck with a great traditional blue. An honourable tie. And who’d want to choose between them anyway?