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West Dean Chilli Fiesta – the hottest festival in the UK!

Think you know your Jalapenos from your Scotch Bonnets?

With the UK’s largest chilli festival on its doorstep, ChichesterWeb couldn’t resist paying a visit to the 22nd annual West Dean Gardens family-friendly event to find out if we could stand the heat.

Attracting 25,000 visitors over three-days (11th - 13th August 2017), chilli lovers and families travel from not just Chichester, but far and wide to join the party and watch live cookery and gardening demonstrations from top chefs and gardening experts. There are over 140 stalls offering artisan chilli produce, gifts, plants and seeds, and plenty of tasty offerings to sample from the speciality food stalls.

West Dean Gardens Chilli FiestaWest Dean Gardens Chilli Fiesta 2017

Aritsan Chilli Produce

The Chilli Oil Company - Delicious Artisan Chilli Produce!

 

 

UK Chilli Festival

UK's largest Chilli Festival

Grow your own chilli plants

West Dean Gardens chilli plants

What do you mean you don’t like chillies?

You don’t need to be a heat-seeking blow-your-socks-off chilli fiend to enjoy a great day out here. The live Latin music and dance demonstrations from two stages really give a buzz to the party atmosphere.

We tried our hand, or should I say feet (and maybe even hips!), at the Salsa Dance workshop. There were a lot of laughs and we definitely learnt a few moves, although I don’t think we’ll be any competition for Oti Mabuse anytime soon.

For family-friendly entertainment, there was a nice selection of vintage fairground rides for the children (small fee charged), and the Helter Skelter was a stunning eye-catching addition to the front of the beautiful West Dean College lawns. New for 2017 was an open-air Hidden Cinema with three screenings a day, including an art film and children's movie providing a relaxing retreat to recharge those little batteries.

Having heard the sounds of a rustic, but an incredibly enjoyable rendition of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, we took a peek inside the ‘Teen Tent’. A music workshop for children offered the chance for them to take over the guitars and drums, and with a little help from the professionals, pull together their own band.

Choosing lunch was a tricky business with a choice any foodie would be excited by. From the spicy and exotic to hearty home-grown favourites, there was catering for every taste. Opting to try a traditional Vietnamese dish we headed away from fiesta central and found a tranquil spot amongst the immaculate West Dean Gardens to have our lunch.

Something not to be overlooked or missed was an opportunity to explore the Victorian greenhouses, which spectacularly showcase West Dean Gardens 150 varieties of chilli plants and many other horticultural delights.

You can never have enough chilli!

We had a wonderful day out at the West Dean Gardens family-friendly chilli festival, and we’re hoping to notch-up the heat a level next year and take advantage of the camping facilities within the beautiful Sussex grounds. Who knows, we might even win the best-dressed tent competition!

Book your tickets for 2018 Chilli Fiesta (10th - 12th August 2018) by 4 September 2017 and SAVE 33%!

BOOK NOW

 

Grow your own Chilli Plant

For those whose interest stems in the growing of these punch-packed little beauties we listened to an insightful talk from Sarah Wain, West Dean’s Gardens Supervisor and Chilli expert and picked up some top tips on how to grow chilli plants from home.

Sarah Wain West Dean Gardens chilli expert

Sarah Wain - West Dean Gardens Supervisor & Chilli Expert

  • The ideal growing temperature for chilli plants is 25 °C
  • Viability of seeds decreases once the packet is open so always date your seed packets
  • Water from the bottom to ensure the roots get maximum exposure rather from the top, which can open up the seedling to fungal spores
  • Always use clean mains water for propagation – keep your precious water butt water for established plants only

 

Heavenly Lordington Lavender

For just one week every year, Lordington Farm, near Chichester, opens up their gates to the public for a glorious walk around their 4-acre field of lavender. When ChichesterWeb visited earlier this week, we managed to grab a few moments with owner, Andrew Elms to find out a little bit more about the background to this event.

Lordington Lavender 2017
     

During the open week event, 10-16 July 2017, Andrew Elms gives fascinating talks about lavender farming in Chichester, and we were lucky enough to catch him straight afterwards with some questions of our own.

From talking to Andrew it is clear to see he is very keen on the natural wildlife in the area and his farming methods help them to thrive. His conservation grade farming means Andrew’s work is not just for profit, but also about helping to cultivate the land to create greater biodiversity so that local flora and fauna can flourish. Indeed on the farm they have many species of butterflies including Cabbage Whites, Marble Whites, Humming Bird Hawk-Moth, Large Blue, Red Admiral, Peacock, Meadow Brown, Painted Lady. There are also 12 birds identified by the RSPB including Skylark, Lapwing, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Red Kite, Barn Owls. Most noticeably of all must be the bees of which there are 6 major species of bumblebee.

Lordington Lavender started with 25,600 Mailette lavender plants in 2002, a variety found in the Provençal area of France and especially chosen for their high quality oil producing content. It is those very same plants that are still growing strong today on the 4 acre plot.

The lavender is harvested after open week has finished. Once the flowers have been cleaned and trimmed they go to be steam distilled at a plant in Siddlesham to extract their precious oil before being cleaned up and delivered back to Lordington Farm. Lordington use the oil to produce a variety of products, from room scents and soaps to culinary grade oil for cooking and adding to drinks. Their latest addition is a glorious scented candle, perfect for recreating that French atmosphere at home. You can buy all of Lordington Lavenders products at the Open Days or direct from their website or find them at the Chichester Farmers markets, they will also be at West Dean Chilli Fiesta (as will we!)

 

 

 

Lavender field Chichester West Sussex Bee wild flowers

The farm is nicely signposted and there is plenty of parking available. The whole family will enjoy the tractor-trailer ride taking you into the hub of the farm. Stepping off the tractor we could instantly smell the gorgeous lavender and the view was quite breath-taking.

Walking up the lavender field in between the lavender plants was truly delightful, one thing you couldn’t help noticing was just how many bees there were, a lovely sight at a time when we are constantly hearing how quickly their numbers are declining.

We're already looking forward to visiting again next year!

Visit Lordington Lavender
 
Sussex grown lavender cooking treatments Tractor ride at Lordington Lavender event 2017
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Top lavender keeping tips!

Andrew’s top lavender keeping tip – once the lavender has finished flowering around mid-august, be brave and cut it right back into the shape you want and it will come back again next year. Treat them mean and keep them keen! They like hot arid weather so don’t overwater and place in full sun.

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