River Cottage fire: 'We're back', says chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has returned to his River Cottage HQ for the first time since fire ripped through the venue nearly three weeks ago.
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall was away filming on a fishing boat in the South Atlantic when the devastating late-night blaze destroyed a 400-year-old barn at the base, just over the Devon-Dorset border in Axminster.
It took eight fire engines and 80 firefighters nearly three hours to bring the fire under control and, although nobody was injured, the River Cottage team was forced to postpone its calendar of events and courses.
“It’s been an incredible shock to see the extent of the devastation wrought by the fire inside our lovely old barn," said Hugh on his return to the site yesterday.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"There’s not much left except the four walls – which of course gives us hope for rebuilding for the future.
"I am really pleased to finally be back amongst the team.
"They deserve huge congratulations for the amazing spirit and determination they have shown getting the show back on the road.
"It wouldn’t have been possible without the huge amount of help and good wishes we have received from friends, neighbours and our various partners.
"With so much fantastic support, we’ve been able to create a new event space in the field beyond the barn – a stunning field kitchen, demonstration area and tented dining room that will ensure that all our guests in the coming moths have the fantastic experience they are hoping for.
"The view is spectacular and despite this extraordinary setback we are now feeling inspired and ready to get stuck into another year of growing, cooking, teaching and feasting.”
The bespoke events space has been created in partnership with established River Cottage friends, The Pop Up Hotel Company and Abbas Marquees.
The areas contain a professional catering kitchen, housing the latest technology and the cookery school, which has been kitted out with hand-crafted demonstration units.
Guests can now dine against the backdrop of a view which looks across the valley and out to sea.
The River Cottage staff have also been moved by the amount of support received from both the local community, and across the country.
A River Cottage statement said: "The day after the fire, more than 40,000 people visited the River Cottage website and thousands of messages came through from those offering to come and help with the rebuild brick by brick, to those pledging their time and skills, to the lovely lady who arrived at the top of the hill with a basket full of cakes!
"Without this sort of national spirit backing them, the team would not have achieved what they have and they want to extend massive thanks to all those who contacted them."