TENS of thousands of people had a whale of time at the first day of Dorset Seafood Festival.

The festival is celebrating the bounty of the sea and continues today.

Visitors and residents turned out in force for the seventh Dorset Seafood Festival yesterday, which proved to be bigger and better than ever before.

It's one of the country's biggest food festivals.

Full car parks and a busy park and ride facility meant the opening day was a huge boost to the resort's economy, with streets and local shops heaving with people.

Situated around Weymouth Harbourside, the two-day bonanza includes dozens of stalls, cooking demonstrations and a chance to celebrate whelks, one of the country's most neglected seafood.

The festival, which is a non-for-profit event, has a packed programme with money made going to The Fishermen's Mission.

It aims  to celebrate the fruits of the sea and offered visitors the chance to enjoy get involved by learning how to fillet a fish and discover 'How To' in the Seafish Pavilion.

The weekend features talks from the county's top seafood chefs and a whelk revival.

In an average year more than 50,000 seafood lovers come to enjoy the two-day festival.

With about 100 stands, many selling seafood and associated goods, the award-winning Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival keeps going from strength to strength.

The chef and expert line-up this year includes Great British barbecue champion Ben Barlett, The Dining Room's Taher Jibet, John Wright from River Cottage, Masterchef winner and chef patron of The Casterbridge Mat Follas, Dorset's Michelin chef from Sienna - Russell Brown and award winning chef patron, Nigel Bloxham from The Crab House Cafe.

Many enjoyed the demonstrations and talks on champagne, sustainability and a 'Ready Steady Fillet' competition as well as a fish auction during yesterday's events.

Brett Hibbitt, of the Jurassic Fish Burgers stall, had huge queues waiting to taste one of the local burgers.

While Jackie Cornish, of Miss Marshmellows, said: “It's our second year at the festival and we couldn't ask for more.

“It's sunny and there are loads of people here.”

James Shannon, who is from Ireland, enjoyed this year's festival.

He said: “The seafood it great. I really liked the Cornish- smoked sardine.”

Thousands packed onto the forecourt of Weymouth Pavilion to see AGA range master cookery theatre including a special treat by Matt Budden, chief executive of Highcliff Grill, who cooked up a favourite seafood dish while explaining the 'fish to fork' ethos.

He told the crowd: “It's about breaking down barriers. It's great to be here today to do a demonstration for you all.”



11am: Whelkhome! The Great British Whelk Revival

11.30am: Enjoy ARA wines from New Zealand with Gus Struthers, vineyard manager

Noon: Culinary secrets of Dorset-born Alex Caiger, owner of top London catering company Caiger &Co

1pm: River Cottage’s foraging expert John Wright shows off his amazing ‘finds’ of the weekend

2pm: Pommery Champagne with UK director Sara Hicks

2.30pm: Crab House Cafe owner Nigel Bloxham creates a food and wine matching experience

3pm: Michelin-starred Russell Brown of Sienna creates this year’s favourite seafood dish

4.30pm: Fish Auction in aid of Fishermen’s Mission