This weekend’s Benington chilli carnival celebration will be a real hot ticket

Benington Lordship chilli festival. Contestants brave the chilli eating competition

Benington Lordship chilli festival. Contestants brave the chilli eating competition - Credit: Archant

Once upon a time, historic Benington Lordship was best known for its captivating gardens and an annual display of snowdrops that drew visitors from far and wide.

Benington Lordship chilli festival. Mexican musicians add to the spicy flabour of the day

Benington Lordship chilli festival. Mexican musicians add to the spicy flabour of the day - Credit: Archant

But when Richard Bott, the latest generation of a family which has been linked to the estate for more than 100 years, inherited the seven acres surrounding a fine Georgian manor house and the remains of a Norman Castle and moat, he had something a little spicier in mind.

And his decision to tickle the taste buds and establish an annual chilli festival proved a hit with foodies and festival fans alike.

Now in its 10th year, the festival – which will be held over the coming bank holiday weekend – has expanded to three days to cram in even more fun.

Richard was already an experienced chilli grower when he took over the running of the estate, so he was confident that our growing interest in new and interesting foods from around the world would prove a firm foundation for the festival’s success.

Benington Lordship chilli festival. Festival founder Richard Bott in a polytunnel where chillis are

Benington Lordship chilli festival. Festival founder Richard Bott in a polytunnel where chillis are grown - Credit: Archant

He admits that he’s something of a chilli lightweight – although his favourite variety is the Habañero, which is at the hotter end of the scale – but he’s working hard to make sure there’s something to suit all tastes.

Vendors come from all over the UK, and last year’s event attracted 4,500 visitors on the Sunday alone.

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There’s plenty of entertainment on offer, including extreme mountain biking displays, magicians and comedy duos, as well as face painting and sand art for children.

But the focus is still on chillis, with scores of stalls selling all sorts of treats linked to the fiery food that’s been part of diet in the Americas for nearly 10,000 years, with food cooked on site also giving mildness a miss.

There will be artisan beers and ciders with a chilli dimension, too.

But for daredevil diners the highlight will be the chilli eating competition sponsored by Encona Sauces from Welwyn Garden City, which will be providing a hamper for the winner.

If you think you’re hard enough, sign up on the day for the ultimate challenge which will be held at 4pm each afternoon – there’s only room for 12 competitors, on a first come, first served basis.

The festival will run from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Admission is £7.50 for adults, £2.50 for those under 16 and if you’re under 12 it’s free – as is the parking.

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