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Chef shocked by River Cottage fire

Celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has spoken of his shock after the 17th century barn which housed his cookery school kitchens was destroyed in a fire.

The chef was out of radio range filming in the Southern Ocean on Wednesday when staff at the River Cottage headquarters were trying to contact him.

After 36 hours the team has finally been able to get hold of him via satellite, a spokesman for River Cottage said.

In a message back, Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "I'm so shocked to hear the news of the fire in our barn at Park Farm, our River Cottage HQ. I'm filming a long way away right now and it's just impossible to imagine.

"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.

"I understand there's already a plan under way to set up a working field kitchen so we can continue to host our events, teach our courses and look after our guests in the coming months.

"I've no doubt the whole River Cottage team will be pulling together to make this happen and in due course we'll set about restoring our lovely Devon barn to its former glory. Thanks so much to all those who have sent us messages of support."

Following the fire, which broke out just after 10pm on Tuesday on the River Cottage Park Farm near Axminster, Devon, the fire services are continuing their investigation.

Emergency services, including the police and fire crews, went to the scene after the single storey building caught fire and the alarm was raised by a gardener. Eight fire engines and 80 firefighters spent around three hours tackling the blaze.

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."

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