Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was “shocked” to hear about River Cottage fire

by Lynn Connolly

As we reported yesterday, a fire decimated one of the buildings used by the River Cottage team, where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall holds cookery classes.

The blaze at the site, in Axminster, Devon, happened on Tuesday night, and it took fire-fighters several hours to get it under control.

Hugh is currently filming on location abroad, but on learning the news, he posted on his personal blog, “I’m filming a long way away right now and it’s just impossible to imagine.

“I’m so shocked to hear the news of the fire in our barn at Park Farm, our River Cottage HQ…

“Obviously it’s a huge relief that nobody’s been hurt, and I’m very grateful to the local fire brigade for their prompt response and all their help.”

It apparently took Channel 4 staff 36 hours to contact Hugh by satellite phone, however, as soon as he was apprised of the situation, he vowed to rebuild the kitchen.

He said, “In due course we’ll set about restoring our lovely Devon barn to its former glory.”

In a statement given to the Telegraph, Mike Burroughs, of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said, ”It is too early to speculate on the cause of the fire but I can categorically state that the fire did not start in the wood-fired bread oven or the fish smoker.”

The roof of the cookery school kitchen, which is a restored 17th century barn, was completely destroyed by the fire, with much of the remaining original wood left charred and blackened.

Prior to the blaze, the River Cottage website said of the barn, “A beautifully restored threshing barn, with its oak floor and large windows, (it) is a glorious space at any time of the year.

“Of course the River Cottage kitchen team never disappoint, cooking up wonderful celebratory dinners using the very best local produce.”

A spokesman for the show added, “The barn is only one of several buildings at Park Farm which are used for courses and events, and there are plans being discussed today for an additional kitchen and events space to support these.”

Here’s a clip recorded while the fire was in progress…

And you can click here to see what remains of the building in a BBC News report.


Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.