We are blessed in Yorkshire to have a truly beautiful coastline, and one of the star attractions is Saltburn, still showing off the grandeur of the Victorian seaside resort it once was.

The town has come into its own once again in recent decades, boasting various food festivals, the opening of new restaurants and businesses, and a thriving arts scene.

One person who has helped enormously with part of this regeneration is Lorna Jackson, who owns and runs the popular licensed deli and cafe, Real Meals. She began the Farmers' Market, the highly popular Food Festival, and later, the Cheese Festival, all based in Saltburn.

"It was mum who got me into food," she says. "And my gran before her, who was more of a traditional cook, and her food was so tasty. Mum was more experimental, growing her own food and trying out different blends and spices, so I would often gravitate to eating at gran's!"

Darlington and Stockton Times: Lorna with the chefs at the Food Festival

Lorna's mother, Sheila Beswick, had actually trained as a cook, but became a teacher and in her retirement decided to open a deli with her husband Tim.

"Later they opened a backyard bistro where you had to ring the bell in the yard to let us know you had arrived," says Lorna. "They decided to expand and we got the premises in Milton Street where we are now. It took a long time to get established as apparently we were on the wrong side of the railway track at the time."

As a teenager, Lorna wanted to see a bit more action. Saltburn at the time was not as vibrant as it is now, so in 1988, she moved to Keswick in the Lake District to work in the hospitality industry.

"In the summer, and at Christmas and weekends I worked in hotels and loved it," she says. "I lived in, had no bills, a great job and a fantastic social life. I loved being around the kitchens and serving people. It gave me a real taster for a future career, and a real affinity for Cumbria. I did this between the ages of 16 and 20, doing my A-levels of chemistry, biology and maths at Redcar. There was a part of the biology course I was really interested in, and that was ecology. Mum was really keen for us to get degrees, as she had got hers later in life, so from 1990 to 1994, I did a degree in ecology at Liverpool University."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Lorna and chefs in 2016

Her degree was diverse, studying many topics including environmental interactions, and companion planting – the study of which plants grow better together and why. She feels the cause and effect principles she studied helped raise personal awareness of the potential outcome of life choices.

Organic farming was really taking off when Lorna left university, so she became an organic researcher and manager, working all over the country, and even as far afield as South Africa.

At one time she had to make really brave decisions, such as cutting down 50 per cent of an apricot orchard where some of the trees had become spindly as they had been planted too close together. The orchard was converted to organic, and the remaining trees grew stronger, and yielded more fruit.

"I look at the natural benefits of food, and would like to study more about foraging," she says. "I am not a vegetarian but I am supportive of people, nature and animals."

In 2000, she decided to return to Saltburn and work with her mum and Tim. She had met her future partner, Craig, who was a colleague of her mother's, which was another incentive for the move. Their shop was now a cafe too and by 2008, the business was going really well. Lorna's contacts in the farming industry and knowledge of the natural benefits of food helped with expansion into ad hoc food events, and in 2010, she decided to start a monthly farmers' market

"Saltburn has such potential," says Lorna. "And I wanted to create a real buzz using local producers, many of whom were contacts and suppliers and people I had got to know. We started small and it has really taken off. It's on the second Saturday of every month."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Lorna at Real Meals

Then, when on a family holiday in France, she fell in love with the night markets there, and decided she wanted to create some kind of food festival for Saltburn – not just another market, but something different.

When she got home, ideas started to form, and with other food producers – and her new friend Alison who was dragged in to help – Lorna set about creating a Milton Street Food Festival. In 2013, they closed off the street and set out tables and chairs, creating a space for people to celebrate food, to eat, drink, shop and mix socially. It was hugely successful and has grown and grown each year.

After a three-year absence, because of the effects of Covid, the food festival returned this summer and was a massive success, with the town bursting at the seams with visitors.

It featured about 100 stalls offering food, drinks and crafts, plus celebrity chefs demonstrating their skills in a cookery theatre.

Irene Myers, from Irene Myers Associates, who has worked closely with Lorna, says: "You meet someone, and instantly know that this person is someone special. Who doesn’t just talk about their ideas and vision, but actually makes things happen, in a big way.

"Those were my feelings when I met Lorna Jackson many years ago. Sharing our passion and commitment to food, supporting local producers and growers, and putting them in our reach.

"Lorna has gone way beyond just sharing those thoughts, and has brought such wonderful, long-lasting legacies to Saltburn, with one of the earliest farmers' markets, and later, the highly successful Saltburn Food Festival. I was approached by Lorna to organise the popular food theatre, and bring local and well known chefs to add to the culinary mix."

The Covid pandemic could have been a disaster for the cafes and restaurants in Milton Street, but Lorna, ever being one to work collaboratively, focused in on the idea of outdoor seating, which was taking off in many communities.

"People loved it," she says. "We all pulled together. The council fenced off the area outside our cafes, which we shared, and we made the area beautiful and the customers were able to be sociable again with the safety of being outside."

Last year, Lorna had the idea of holding a Cheese Festival in the town, which at first involved five cheese producers from the Tees Valley, and she asked restaurants to experiment with more cheese in their menus if they could, and to name the cheeses too. Brockley Hall had a featured cheese menu for a week.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Inside the shop and cafe at Real Meals

"We had cheese and wine nights at Real Meals, and we tried to build people's awareness of the local cheese-makers, hence the naming," says Lorna, who is full of enthusiasm and has a determination to attract people into the town, all while helping local food producers, and hospitality businesses.

She continues to expand her knowledge, studying foraging and the benefits of seaweed, and attending events such as the Oyster Festival in Stranraer.

"I love just walking around and noticing what's there," she says. "I work with a great team, and we love exploring possibilities. I hope I have in some way helped our town. I love working with others, as everyone benefits. I believe the sum of all the parts is greater than the individual."