Having been absent from the party circuit for over six weeks now, it is with some trepidation that I have started re-introducing myself, and so The Middle Farm Apple Festival seemed the perfect non-threatening event at which to gently dip a toe into the social pond. I am a big fan of Middle Farm anyway, and a regular customer at their famous cider barn, which houses the National Cider & Perry Collection, as well as an impressive selection of real ales, fruit wines and liqueurs, and most importantly, pretty much every type of mead one could hope for. Their annual Apple Festival is a family-friendly event with local bands, fair-rides, food stalls, sheep-racing, Morris dancing, and gallons and gallons of cider. After popping into the Blind Lemon vintage fashion fair in Brighton on Sunday morning, I arrived at Middle Farm just in time to catch Carnival Collective, who describe themselves as: “a thriving group of musicians, dancers and artists...[combining] break-beat percussion, reggae, funk, house and other dance influences - played on traditional Brazilian instruments - with a rocking brass section, funky dancers and unique costumes and visuals.” This tres Brighton set-up brought the enthusiastically appreciative audience into a dancing frenzy - where it was heartening to see yummy mummies, crusties, kiddies, scarily blacked-up Morris Men (hmmm) and other random cider-fuelled red-eyed punters bopping happily together in the hay.
After a spot of fantastic people-watching and general mooching about in the sunshine, I spotted some friends and hooked up for the rest of the afternoon to watch Django Spears and the Mountain Firework Company. It was also good to have company in the heaving cider barn, where I purchased some Gregg's Pitt Hertforshire cider, apparently a rare find, and certainly extremely pleasing to my own critical taste buds. I also took a chance on some parsnip wine, which I have yet to sample, but am looking forward to sharing with Ant when he returns from his weekend away. Spotting a huge queue of traffic heading back towards Brighton on the A27, I turned left out of Middle Farm and took the scenic route along the coast via Alfriston and Newhaven. This also afforded me a prime view of the stunning autumnal sunset, rounding off the day beautifully.