Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall sees fire-damaged River Cottage

A TV chef has returned to his cookery school in Devon for the first time since it was severely damaged by fire.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage headquarters, near Axminster, was damaged in a blaze on 7 February.

On Monday night he held a party to thank firefighters and the local community who helped to tackle the fire and cope with the aftermath.

He had been filming abroad at the time of the blaze. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "[The damage was] extraordinary, devastating, beyond what I had imagined."

He added: "It was a mad shock to get the news so far from home. You feel so powerless."

The cookery school kitchen contained about 10 ovens each connected to individual gas cylinders, which were involved in the fire.

Image caption Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said the damaged building would be repaired

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said the damaged building would be repaired.

"There's not much left except the four walls - which of course gives us hope for rebuilding for the future," he added.

Eight fire engines and 80 firefighters spent about three hours tackling the blaze.

Since the fire the school has reopened in a temporary field kitchen.

River Cottage said it received thousands of messages of support.

The cause of the fire remains unknown, but Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said it was not treating it as suspicious.

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