Visit Harrogate column with Mike Newby: Yorkshire foodies are in for some very tasty treats

The Foodies Festival returns to Ripley between 19 and 21 August.
The Foodies Festival returns to Ripley between 19 and 21 August.

The time old British custom of taking afternoon tea was established in 1870 by Anna Maria Russell, 7th Duchess of Bedford, to fill the long gap between luncheon and the fashionably late evening meal that left her feeling peckish mid-afternoon.

Once she started inviting people to join her, the practice quickly spread across the country and has since become synonymous with British life, whether as a way to enjoy and absorb beautiful surroundings, or to introduce a pause to a busy or active day. It is certainly popular among visitors to this area, so Visit Harrogate has recently launched a new section to our expanding food and drink pages on the website promoting some of the afternoon tea offerings that are available throughout the district.

If you are looking for the luncheon or evening meal that were too far apart for the Duchess of Bedford, now might be the time to see what the district has to offer. January is usually the time to make resolutions, although these often involve eating or drinking less after the festive season. Why not make July the time to resolve to find something new in the district’s extensive and varied food and drink offering.

This area has a lot to offer – try the Visit Harrogate website as a starter.

Next month sees two events that will no doubt appeal to food lovers. The Foodies Festival returns to Ripley between August 19 and 21.

As well as international food on the street food avenue there will be an artisan producers market along with a cake, bake and tasting theatre and vintage tea room. While the Foodies Festival is a returning event, the following weekend (August 26-29) sees a first with what is billed as The UK’s first National Street Food and Family Fun Festival.

This will be a four-day free festival in the Valley Gardens with quirky and unique performers and entertainers for children of all ages, 75 street food vans and a tepee village with craft beer, cocktails and fine dining experiences.

The Independent Experience

While some visitors might feel comfortable with the familiar, others want to discover what is different about the place they are visiting and seek out what makes a place unique.

There has been much discussion in the pages of this newspaper and on social media recently about the importance of independent businesses and how they can give character to an area. Often the context of the debate is one of decline and closures but there are optimistic stories out there. One such is Bishopthorpe Road (known more popularly as Bishy Road) in York.

I heard Johnny Hayes (chairman of Bishopthorpe Road’s Traders Association) speak at a meeting last week telling the story of how this area transformed itself from planning blight to winner of the country’s ‘Best Local Parade of Shops’ and ‘Great British High Street of the Year’.

This is an inspiring tale and there is another chance to hear it on Wednesday, July 20, when Renaissance Knaresborough will be hosting a public meeting entitled “How We Became Britain’s Best High Street - An evening with Johnny Hayes MBE” at Henshaw’s Arts and Crafts Centre, 50 Bond End, Knaresborough, at 7pm.

Attendance is free and should be of interest to anyone who is interested or involved in creating and maintaining a thriving independent sector. Appropriately this month is Independent Retailer Month. This is a campaign that runs annually throughout July to highlight the important role that smaller, local, independent retailers play in the communities they serve, the local economy they contribute to, and in the retail sector as a whole.

Impact of Brexit

Will the referendum vote have an impact on tourism to the UK? As with most of the consequences of that historic vote, it is too early to say although in the short term, with the value of the pound decreasing, the UK becomes more of an attraction to potential overseas visitors.

Visit Britain is actively monitoring sentiment in overseas markets promoting this as the best time to travel to Britain, building on a record-breaking first quarter for inbound tourism.

We continue to do our bit, having welcomed a group of overseas journalists to the district last month with several more planned for the coming months.

Domestic holiday figures are also up with spending on domestic overnight holidays in England up 23 per cent from last year to £1.8 billion, while overnight holiday visits in England were up.

Perhaps an expensive pound might encourage British travellers to stay in the UK this year.

To complement the overseas travel writers we also have a schedule of UK writers visiting the district to get the Harrogate message out to as many people as possible.