As excitement builds for one of the region’s favourite food festivals, visitors are being encouraged to plan their journeys in advance.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Bishop Auckland Food Festival when it returns this weekend with a tempting line-up of word-class producers, celebrity chefs and interactive workshops.
Organiser Durham County Council is keen to make the free festival as easy to get to as possible and has arranged for a special park and ride service to operate on Saturday and Sunday. The buses, provided by Weardale Motor Services, are all wheelchair accessible and will run to and from Bishop Auckland College’s main campus in Woodhouse Lane to Newgate Street in the town centre every ten minutes.
On Saturday, buses will leave the college from 9.45am to 5.15pm and the last bus will leave the festival at 5.30pm. On Sunday, buses will run from the college from 9.45am to 4.15pm and the last bus will leave the festival at 4.30pm. Return tickets cost £2 for adults, 50p for children aged six to 15 and free for children aged five and under.
Along with the park and ride service, all the town centre car parks will be open as normal.
Local bus services will also be operating over the weekend but the bus stops on the Market Place and North Bondgate will not be in use. Instead, services will stop at the bus station, which is located behind the Newgate Centre, a four-minute walk from the Market Place and Bishop Auckland Town Hall.
Those travelling by train can use Northern Rail services which run to Bishop Auckland Railway Station, with connections from the mainline station at Darlington. Weardale Railway will also be running a service from Stanhope.
The following road closures will also be in place between Friday, 12 April and Sunday, 14 April:
• Castle Chare (north-west bound only) – 5am Friday to 9pm Sunday
• Market Place Southern Service Road – 5am Friday to 9pm Sunday
• Market Place Southern Circulatory Road (St Anne’s Church) – 5am Friday to 9pm Sunday
• North Bondgate – 5am Friday to 9pm Sunday
• Fore Bondgate – 5am to 9pm Saturday and 5am to 9pm Sunday
Last year, 27,000 people attended the festival, resulting in record-breaking sales for traders and boosting the profits of businesses in the town. This year, there are even more traders and organisers have expanded the festival site to encourage visitors to explore more of the town.
Jill Wood, festival and events team manager at Durham County Council, said: “Bishop Auckland Food Festival is a fantastic day out for all of the family and we want the whole experience to be positive, including getting to and from the event. That is why we are encouraging those who can to use public transport or to make use of our park and ride service.”
This year’s celebrity chef line-up includes BBC MasterChef’s Gregg Wallace, actress and restauranteur Jennie McAlpine, BBC MasterChef’s reigning champion Kenny Tutt, television presenters Angellica Bell and Stefan Gates, and Great British Bake Off finalist Briony May Williams.