On Monday 8th April 2019, the sun shone in the South Lakes which, following the arrival of spring just weeks before, were full of blossom, daffodils, and the occasional early bluebell. With the sound of birdsong filling the air, and blue skies all around, it was the perfect day for a Royal visit…which was exactly what we had.
Kicking things off with a trip to Carlisle, HRH The Prince of Wales was in Cumbria for a tour of the county, which included a stop at the Windermere Jetty Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories for its official opening; as well as a visit to the Langdale Ambleside Mountain Rescue Team based in Ambleside.
The final stop on The Prince’s tour of Cumbria was the Hawkshead Relish Company’s production facility at Esthwaite Old Hall, a beautiful waterside barn just south of Hawkshead village, for a very special celebration. Having been founded in 1999, the award winning Hawkshead Relish Company was celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Hawkshead Relish was born during the foot & mouth epidemic, when husband and wife team Mark and Maria Whitehead realised they would need to diversify from their business at the time – a cafe based in Hawkshead – in order to deal with the resulting downturn in trade. Over the last 20 years, the family company has gone from strength to strength, and to round off his visit to Cumbria, Prince Charles was guest of honour at a celebration marking their 20th year in business.
Having been commissioned to make a special set of glasses to be presented to The Prince on his visit, alongside a very tempting hamper of Hawkshead Relish produce, I was lucky enough to be invited to be a part of the afternoon’s celebrations. Fellow guests included a number of local supporters, as well as those who had been involved in the success of the company over the years.
This being the Lake District, our breaths were held in preparation for rain. When it came to it, the weather couldn’t have been better, and the Lakes could hardly have looked more inviting. The Royal Visit came, apparently, slightly earlier than anticipated – but following weeks of planning beforehand, the trip appeared to work like clockwork. It was very impressive to witness the understated, highly efficient organisation that went in to making the visit run so smoothly and appear so natural.
Upon arrival, The Prince was met by Mark and Maria, as well as their daughters Abigail and Isabella, who then gave him a tour of the company’s production facilities, introducing him to staff and discussing the range of Hawkshead Relish products. Despite having grown steadily over the years, Hawkshead Relish has always remained true to its roots, and their products are made by hand at the very production facility and headquarters which acted as setting for Prince Charles’ royal visit, just a stone’s throw from the village of Hawkshead.
After the tour, The Prince gave a short speech, unveiled a commemorative plaque, and chatted with the invited guests (seeming to make a point of talking to as many as possible!). He seemed very impressed with the way the traditional 16th century Lakeland barn had been sympathetically restored to house the production facility, praising the way this allowed the old to continue, but with a new lease of life in a rural setting. He also seemed to be looking forward to trying the Hawkshead Relish products in his hamper, particularly the Bloody Mary ketchup!
Following the visit, there was – as at all good parties – cake! A completely delicious banoffee and caramel cake made by local chef Martin Frickel, to be exact. This will be one of the recipes in the Hawkshead Relish recipe book to be published later this year, and if it’s anything to go by, it’ll be a book worth having.
On a very special day, this was a wonderful visit to a local, award-winning company that makes products that are (and have always been) family favourites for us as well as for many people in many countries. If you haven’t yet tried the Black Garlic Pickle or the Westmorland Chutney, you really should. Happy anniversary, Hawkshead Relish!