Now in its fourth year, Wild Boar Week has become another popular annual food festival for Rye. See-sawing perfectly around Christmas with February’s Scallop Festival, the Week adds some welcome gusto to the dark autumn evenings with a celebration of abundant local, wild country fayre. “It’s an opportunity to make something happen in the down time,” says Oliver Campion, the organiser. “Not only is it an extra excuse for locals to get out, it’s also something for visitors to do during the half-term break.”
This year it is bigger than ever, with the emphasis of the menu going beyond boar to include a wide range of game. As it is the game season, venison, partridge, pheasant, rabbit and even an intriguing “amuse bouche” of squirrel are on the menu this year – although Campion admits he is still not quite sure exactly what the latter is. And, apart from the 20-plus different menus already displayed on the website, there are more than 30 events, including music, comedy, walks and a ball.
Wild Boar Week grew out of “A Taste of Rye”, which was about to be ditched when Campion came up with the idea of drawing attention to the thriving population of wild boar. Legend has it that the “Great Storm of 1987” liberated a herd of boar from a farm near Tenterden, which has since gone on to colonise the local coastline as far as Brighton. The word from local farm owners, he says, is: “There are so many boar this year it’s ridiculous!” So, all the more reason to celebrate their prosperity with some culinary treats. Not only are the boars found wild, but they also continue to be farmed locally, too, and it just depends on each establishment as to how they source their meat.
To whet the appetites of those uninitiated in game, there are some great taster menu opportunities at, among others, the Mermaid, the White Dog at Ewhurst Green and Landgate Bistro, which is offering a five-course taster menu accompanied by home-made foraged tipple. With 25 venues to choose from, the week offers a great gastronomical reason to get the more indelible Ryers to venture farther afield and try new places to eat. Some are as far away as Battle – a reminder, Campion says, that it is not just Rye, but its location in the wider area of the Weald that makes it so special . . . and the boars really love the Wealden woods.
Special events include a really wild, wild boar spit roast from midday on Saturday October 25 at Ye Olde Worlde Wines in Cinque Ports Street in aid of the Oliver Curd Trust. There’s also a Halloween fancy dress ball at the Milligan Theatre on Friday October 31 supporting the Demelza Hospice Care for Children, with live music from the Rhythm Doctors and Rockitmen (wild boars welcome, fancy dress optional).
Other highlights include walks, tours and music amidst a host of happenings. There’s even a wild boar hog hunt around town for intrepid younger game fans, looking for boars drawn by local artist John Izod.
Wild Boar Week runs from October 25 to November 2. Details of all events and menus can be found on the website; a programme is also available at participating venues and Rye Tourist Information Centre in Lion Street.
Artwork: John Izod