Vale of Eve­sham

Cotswold Life - - EDITOR’S COMMENT -

Jane Leigh ex­plores the weird and won­der­ful world of the as­para­gus fes­ti­vals

If it’s April, it must be as­para­gus time in the Vale of Eve­sham and Per­shore, as Jane Leigh dis­cov­ers

Spring is in the air, with blos­som and flow­ers burst­ing forth to take away the me­mory of win­ter’s chill. It’s the time of year when na­ture re­ally does put on a show: and nowhere looks more beau­ti­ful than the Vale of Eve­sham, as blos­som from cherry, ap­ple, pear and plum or­chards sig­nals the start of the new sea­son while wel­com­ing vis­i­tors and lo­cals alike to sam­ple the pro­duce of the area. Star item on the lo­cally-pro­duced menu is as­para­gus, the ten­der shoots of a plant known to the an­cient Egyp­tians, Greeks and Ro­mans as both a veg­etable and a medicine. The Vale, with its mild cli­mate and sandy soil, is known as the as­para­gus cap­i­tal of the UK with around 65% of the na­tional crop of ‘gras’, as the del­i­cacy is known, be­ing pro­duced here. ‘Gras’ is one of only seven UK fruit and veg to have been awarded Pro­tected Food Sta­tus with the Euro­pean Union. This year, the Vale sees the an­nual As­para­gus Fes­ti­val get un­der way on St Ge­orge’s Day (Mon­day, April 23) when it will be full steam ahead for the ‘gras’ sea­son. Mor­gan cars and other classic mar­ques will meet at the Fleece Inn at Bret­for­ton from 8am and, af­ter Mor­ris danc­ing and mu­sic, they’ll trans­port the tra­di­tional first cut of as­para­gus - ‘100 rounds of gras’ - in a con­voy to the new­lyre­opened and re­fur­bished Broad­way sta­tion.

There the of­fi­cial ‘gras’ es­cort will be joined by rail fans in board­ing the As­para­gus Ex­press, a steam train spe­cially char­tered for the Fes­ti­val: this will be the first steam train to take pas­sen­gers from Broad­way to Chel­tenham Race­course sta­tion for al­most 100 years. Those on board will be able to en­joy as­para­gus re­fresh­ments in the com­pany of Gus the As­para­gus Man, the As­para­mancer (who uses as­para­gus spears to pre­dict the fu­ture) and even St Ge­orge.

At Chel­tenham, the ‘gras’ will be pre­sented to Ed­ward Gille­spie, Deputy Lieu­tenant of Glouces­ter­shire and Vice Pres­i­dent of Cotswold Rid­ing for the Dis­abled (Cotswold RD). Also present

‘The As­para­gus Ex­press will be the first steam train to take pas­sen­gers from Broad­way to Chel­tenham for al­most 100 years’

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