FORMER Great British Bake Off winner Jo Wheatley admitted she would welcome a return to Whitchurch after her star turn as special guest at the town’s Food and Drink Festival last weekend.

Mrs Wheatley, who won the second series of the show, gave two demonstrations as crowds packed out the town for the festival, which has become bigger each year.

She believes events like this are vital to towns like Whitchurch, while also allowing her to keep her own cooking “local”.

“I really enjoyed my visit – Whitchurch is a beautiful town,” she said. “I love all the stunning buildings and felt a real sense of community here.

“I loved doing the cookery demonstrations and how the audience really interacted. They asked lots of questions and really engaged with the demonstration.

“Events like this are really important, not just for me as a chef but also for the local community to champion their produce rather than relying on huge corporate multinational chains.

“We are all guilty of shopping at supermarkets. This regains a sense of community for local producers which can be lost along the way.

“I really enjoyed the great variety of local products. I would definitely come back and I loved the bed and breakfast where I stayed, which was really welcoming.”

Town centre manager Zoe Dean declared the event a huge success and was delighted people braved the weather to give it their full support.

She added: “I’m thrilled with how well the event went; Jo Wheatley was a real pleasure to work with.

“She was very relaxed and friendly. With 80-plus food and craft stalls, there was plenty of choice on offer. 

“On Sunday afternoon festival-goers were more than happy to stay seated in the food court enjoying the sunshine even after the festival closed.

“I would like to thank all  the volunteers; Blackberry Fair, who provided and music and entertainment outside, and I offer my special congratulations to Sarah and Simon from Whitchurch’s very own Watergate Bakery.

“Their ginger and walnut Eccles cake won supreme champion out of all of the products entered in the festival’s Producer Awards.”

*For a full page of pictures on the festival, see this week's Whitchurch Herald.