AROUND 16,000 people headed to an annual Alresford festival at the weekend to sample all things watercress.

Crowds took over the streets of the town to celebrate the start of the UK watercress season with a mix of music, mayhem, and morris men at the Alresford Watercress Festival.

The King and Queen of Watercress, Mikael and Molly, seven-year-old pupils from Sun Hill Infants School, threw bunches of freshly harvested watercress to the crowds, while stall holders from Hampshire Farmers Market sold foods using local and seasonal produce including watercress.

The festival also included its popular watercress eating competition, which was won by Alresford resident Glen Walsh, who successfully retained his title for the 13th year. Glen valiantly chewed his way through 85g of watercress in an astonishing 42 seconds, marginally longer than his 41.6 seconds of last year. He beat 19 other contestants, one who had come from as far afield as Australia, to retain his crown.

Tom Amery, managing director Alresford growers The Watercress Company, said: “The Festival never ceases to amaze me as it seems to get bigger and better every year.

“We have always been very lucky with the weather and I think that with the Kids Zone, food and drink, craft stalls, the cookery demos and live music there is something for everyone.

“There is undoubtedly an affection for watercress amongst the local community thanks to the history linking the two, but some people come from miles away to help us celebrate. We’re keen to spread the word far and wide about just how good watercress is for you, and the Festival is a great way to help achieve that.

“The sponsors of the Festival are the NFU Watercress Association, of which we are members, Charters Alresford, Hazeley Developments and Southern Coop, however it would not run without the support of over 100 volunteers from local sports clubs and voluntary organisations to whom we are extremely grateful.”