When the VisitBrighton team were invited to Stanmer Park for a forest feast event organised by the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership we had lots of questions, how does one cook in a forest? What would we be eating? What would it be like seeing teammates in real life that we hadn’t seen for over a year? Would we come back hungry? (OK so the last one may just have been my question) With inquisitive minds we signed up for this new event taking place in one of the city’s most beautiful parks. Brighton & Hove Food Partnership are no stranger to food events, they’re a non-profit cookery school in the centre of the city, that hosts courses for the whole community and offers everything from simple baking tips, through to master classes with local top chefs, I would go as far as to say they are the resident experts.

Photo of Forest Feast event at Stanmer Park, Brighton

With open minds and a heavy covering of sun cream we set out one sunny morning to explore the stunning Stanmer Park and cook our own lunch over a campfire. To give you some background, Stanmer Park is the biggest park in Brighton and lies within the South Downs National Park, the perfect spot for a picnic or beautiful woodland walk. Plus getting to the park couldn’t be easier with connections by bus, train, or bike. This is an area of Brighton countryside where you can truly feel away from the bustle of the city and despite it being right on our doorstep, I had forgotten just how breath taking Stanmer is.

Forest Feast Facts:

  • Can be booked for individuals, couples, and groups (Covid restrictions permitting)
  • Site tour including edible plants and local history
  • Working in teams to prepare a range of seasonal dishes
  • Options to include mindfulness or wellbeing exercises
  • Enjoy a full meal, dessert and bring your own drinks if desired

Once at Stanmer we met our guide Rosie at the church and after a short walk and much excited chatter, we were whisked away to what would be our camp for the day. The wellbeing gardens are, as the name suggests, the perfect oasis for some time away from the screen. We were greeted with a drink on arrival and whilst the organisers explained our menu for the day and talked through the layout of the site, I felt my shoulders start to relax. There is just something about sitting around the campfire that transports you back to camping holidays and festivals, good times. Inevitably after not seeing each other in person for over a year, we had a lot of catching up to do, preparing lunch gave us a chance to do just that chopping and chatting is so underrated. I was pleasantly surprised by how well everything had been thought out and having chef Charlotte on hand to help, ensured we produced a meal that Nigella would be proud of, even though none of us is that experienced in the kitchen.

Photo of Forest Feast event at Stanmer Park, Brighton

Whilst the fire stew bubbled and the Salsa Verde infused, we got a chance to explore the wider area with Rosie our guide,  what Rosie doesn’t know about plants isn’t frankly worth knowing, talking to us about our surroundings and pointing out edible plants as we went, gave us a greater understanding of what grows in Stanmer. After a pleasant walk to give us a hearty appetite we headed back to camp for a welcome local apple juice.

Photo of Forest Feast event at Stanmer Park, Brighton

Whilst away, a beautiful table had been set which was groaning with our cooking efforts, flatbreads glistening with garlic butter sitting next to butternut squash and chickpea stew were neighbours with a big fresh salad, bejewelled with pomegranate seeds and edible flowers and probably the best Salsa Verde I had ever seen (OK so I admit our group made this one and I am clearly biased!) The dishes would be envied on anyone’s Instagram feed and tasted every bit as good they looked. Sitting and eating together in the middle of the park was a surreal but wonderful experience, talking easily around a table of food really is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Sitting around the campfire, a bowl of fruit compote with a crunchy topping and caramel toffee sauce in hand, we had that contented full feeling, all fears of going home hungry vanished.

If you get the opportunity to book one of these sessions do not hesitate, this is the perfect chance to get away from your desk, out into the stunning Brighton countryside and cook up a storm. Whether you’re a solo visitor or a group looking to re-connect, this is the perfect activity, being in nature, lovely food, exercise and learning about plants there is nothing not to like.

Caroline

  • VisitBrighton were testing the session as a group as part of the Interreg-funded BioCultural Heritage Tourism Project.

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