Thousands of foodies are set to descend on Alresford tomorrow (Sunday, May 15).

The 18th annual Alresford Watercress Festival is due to be held in what is known as the 'Capital of Watercress', to celebrate the start of the new UK watercress season.  

More than 15,000 foodies descend on the Georgian town and enjoy a slightly eccentric day as the Watercress King and Queen dispense freshly harvested watercress from a horse and cart as it progresses up Broad Street preceded by troops of Morris Men and school children.                       

Visitors can travel to the festival on the Watercress Line Steam Railway and once in Alresford can enjoy a day of entertainment.

There are cookery demos by local chefs plus the winner of the 2012 BBC MasterChef winner, Shelina Permaloo and fellow TV chef and Saturday Kitchen regular, Lesley Waters.                          

There are more than 140 stalls lining the streets selling a mixture of foodie goodies infused with watercress eg burgers, sausages, fudge, ice cream, beer and gin plus numerous arts and crafts.  The food products can be entered for the Watercress Festival Awards, the winners of which will be announced towards the end of the afternoon and be presented with their prizes by the Lord Mayor of Winchester, together with the winner of a public competition to develop ‘Dishes fit for a Queen’ that comprise of only seven ingredients, including of course, watercress.

Nutritionist Dr Lucy Williamson, and GP Dr Kyle Stewart are keen to share their knowledge about the health benefits of watercress and will be doing Q&A sessions on the cookery stand. 

However, the highlight for many is the World Watercress Eating Championships where anyone can compete to eat 85g of watercress in the fastest time (and keep it down!). Can Glenn Walsh retain his title for the 14th consecutive year and beat his own time of 42 seconds recorded in 2019?                         

Throughout the day local bands will be playing and there is also a Kids’ Zone with petting zoo and circus skills workshop amongst other things.                       

Finally, The Watercress Company, key sponsor of the festival has a stand where watercress is exchanged for a donation to local children’s cancer charity, Abby’s Heroes. More than £50,000 has been raised for this cause over the 17 previous festivals.

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