Ramsbottom certainly knows how to appeal to the masses: chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate.
The annual Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival went all kinds of Willy Wonka for the eighth year running, putting up its yearly middle finger to healthy living. And boy did the sugar fiends accept the challenge. Families with sprogs bursting at the seams with e-numbers, adults nomming every free sample available, and a dog barking in circles as it was pushed around in an enclosed pram by its owner. Only in Rammy.
Traders lined the streets of this South Lancashire market town and gave us a treat to behold. As well the obvious fancy chocolate (salted caramel anyone?) there were cakes, biscuits, brownies, preserves and good old fashioned sweets. If like me, your stomach has a dinner side and pudding side, no fear, it seems no festival is complete nowadays without an array of street food options. There were so many food-related dilemmas it was hard to know where to look or what to buy.
Nothing warms my cockles quite like seeing independent traders getting their produce rightly wiped out. By the time we’d filled our boots at 4pm, some stalls appeared to have sold out completely and others barely had anything left. Unless you were a poor fool who mistimed your visit, I’d say that was a win for independent businesses.
But bloody hell, was I unprepared for how popular the Ramsbottom Chocolate festival is or what? I knew I’d have to lower my usual intolerance for crowds but whoah. This made the evil that is Manchester’s Market Street on a Saturday afternoon look like a pleasant do.
The choc fest is not one for the mildly claustrophobic. Teetering on a meltdown, at one point I found myself stuck in a human bottleneck, struggling to avoid suffocation by a fluffy hood to the front of me whilst a man loudly slopped his burger in my ear to the side.
Thankfully I was swiftly navigated to the chocolate wine stall and my inner calm was restored. Chocolate wine – what a bleeding revelation. After sampling chocolate orange cheddar (which freaked me out because it tasted like chocolate orange and I was truly at odds as to how I felt about that), the chocolate wine was god damn amazing. I’m not sure where it’s been all my life but it’s not been in my mouth. Needless to say I bought it. Possibly more than one bottle at that.
The Ramsbottom Chocolate Festival is a joyful affair for one and all. Children were especially well catered for with a range of hyper-burning activities on offer including mini golf and a bouncy castle. After being pumped with more sugar than Christmas Day, I could have gone to town on a bouncy castle. In fact, they might be missing a trick there. An adult bouncy castles post glutton and booze – it could be revolutionary or total carnage. Worth suggesting for next year, right?
Ramsbottom’s Chocolate Cafe: www.chocolate-cafe.co.uk
For those interested in the chocolate wine, info can be found here: www.thesecretatthevineyard.co.uk