Category Archives: rural Suffolk
Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival went really well this year. I had a great time taking people out on forays to look at some of the potentially edible plants and to talk a little about their folk-lore. It was also fun to take part in the pickled egg competition and the bread competition even if my extraordinary entries didn’t win any prizes – still as the school motto said, to strive is to accomplish – I’ll keep on striving!
I have managed to track down a couple of other people’s blogs and I have to say its the first time anyone has attempted to create a painting as a result of one of my forays, huge thanks to Mary Woodin, click on her name to see more of her amazing work. Another great blog was written by Lucy of the East Anglian foodies Eat Anglia. If you came out on one of the forays, thank you.
As always I was bowled over by the range of food and drink of superb quality on offer and particularly thrilled to see Jonny and Dulcie from Fen Farm dairy make their first appearance with their Baron Bigod cheese, it is their raw milk I use for my efforts at cheese making in my Sciapod Dairy project. Also it was good to meet many of the producers who I have heard on the Foodie Fix show on Radio Castle. Of course it was great to see so many old friends too and sampling great products such as the latest from Pump Street Bakery, their bean to bar chocolate; I’m hooked on Madagascar 72%. – talking of Pump Street, did you know Cedric is now hanging out at Garnett’s Gardens on a Sunday? Two specific highlights will stay in the memory though; one was the amazing drumming by school children as part of the thought provoking conference on the Friday and second is the pigeon plucking with singing on the very last moments of the final day. Well done to everyone involved in the whole event, it is a massive amount of effort, but well worth it.
Still needing more foodie moments? There are still a few fringe events to run and of course next weekend is Framlingham Sausage Festival!
Suffolk is in the news for the most curious of reasons. [For the ITV news item take a look here] The gist of the story is that Condiment working with Visit Suffolk have come up with the title The Curious County as part of a campaign to attract visitors to the county. When I first heard about it over the weekend I liked the idea, Suffolk is so much more than Beach Huts, Tractor boys, bucolic scenery and Newmarket racing (not that there is anything wrong with any of those) ~ but you do have to lift up the rug to find what’s under there. As the battle between the reported views of the MPs ‘Dangerous – got to go – negative, idiotic’ and a significant chunk of the twitter community who are #proudtobecurious I was getting ready to pen a letter to the EADT, the MPs or some other body. Then I decided don’t shout, show. So if you click the picture above or below it will take you to my particular take on Suffolk The Curious County, an ever growing Pinterest board of the things I find make me curious in Suffolk.
What would you add?
The first, igobubble is very new and certainly underused in the area where I live. I love the concept, it combines some of the features of geocaching and social networking but adds more besides.
The basic idea is that you create a video, message or photograph, edit if you wish and release it as a bubble. Other igobubblers can, once they are physically close enough, capture it and if they chose clone, take on a journey, inflate or deflate it as well as add comments. You can track bubbles you have created or interacted with.
One of the smartest things is that once released you can not guarantee what happens next, rather like releasing trackables for geocachers, you might ask that something happens but you can’t guarantee it.
I’ve released a few in wild and woolly areas of Suffolk, these may never be found. A couple of shots are of detritus thrown from cars, with “Don’t be a Tosser” on them in tribute to @MarkGlennMurphy and his anti-litter campaign. Also some in Ipswich, which lovely @easternsparkle has collected and I’ve bagged some of her’s which I’ll drop somewhere. I’ve also set up and will continue to add, a series called ‘Where in Framlingham’ some are straightforward, shots of the castle, college and town sign some are more obscure like the one below, which I hope people might see as a treasure trail (@DancingGoatFram might be able to help you with this one).
I really like this app, I love the graphics, actions and ideas behind it and I really hope it takes off. It could be used for anything from just releasing nice thoughts, videos or snaps (uses aviary for photo editing on the move too), to campaigning and a little social theory testing, it is quite intriguing. The only downside for me at the moment is rather like being the only person with a cocoa tin and a piece of string there are very few local users and with poor signal strength in our rural patch uploads take ages.
Stack the Countries
This is a nice simple game, multiple choice, identify countries. They are released and stack up, once you reach the target you win a country. A great little diversionary app and if it means I do better on geography and flag identification questions at quizzes I’ll be happy.
I like this app, it’s a bit of fun. I’m slightly suspicious that a few of the countries are a bit smooth (as if not properly mapped) but it is only a very few, hopefully they’ll sort them out later.
I probably don’t need to say anything about this one; it feels like everybody is playing it. Basically Pictionary meets hangman – draw sketches others to guess what they are, earn coins to buy extra colours and bombs to make the guessing easier. It is easy, addictive and improves my drawing not a jot. I’m using the free version and it seems the vocabulary bank is a bit limited, so once you have seen a word before it is likely to come up again in future games. Occasionally games become corrupted, like the one below and the available letters do not form the word being guessed but it is easy to delete the game and start again.
One for swimmers who like to log their miles in an entertaining way. Just type in the name of your pool; easy for public pools – I’m logging as Stradbroke in Splash Path but actually swimming in Framlingham Pool as not listed. I’m currently ‘swimming’ the Loch Ness challenge. Sadly the college pool was closed for a while so I’m in danger of having my toes bitten by Nessie.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Such a simple app to finish with – create your own Keep Calm and Carry On style posters and share, the only limit is how clever you are with your ideas and the range of logos.
I hope you enjoy them……..
One down, one to go [playlist here]. This year’s Great East Swim was excellent. Once again the event was very well organised and the weather was 100% better. In place of gales and squalls there was relatively little wind and at various times the sun shone creating golden bubbles in the crystal clear water, I swear I saw a huge fish at one point too. I was pleased that my time was about 7 minutes better than last year. I was also thrilled to be able to have Paddy and Scotts coffee and a burger prepared by @gthebutcher from Suffolk Food Hall. The challenge now is next year do I try and improve my mile time again or go for the two mile course? Huge thanks to those that have donated to my Justgiving Page. Diabetes UK were on hand on the day dishing out Bananas and other goodies.
After the thrill of the swim on Sunday I cycled with a friend into Ipswich to experience the Skyride. They closed streets, stopped traffic with marshals and generally created a fabulous family atmosphere, samba, steel bands, clowns the works. It is thoroughly reassuring that despite what the tabloids might tell you there are still plenty of families, who given half the chance will get out on their bikes and take exercise. The route encompassed the New College site, Waterfront, ITFC ground and the Town Centre creating a great advert for the town.
All good practice for the Dunwich Dynamo the 127 miles overnight on 16/17th July.
On the route back I was brought to a halt by a lady tractor safari that was taking part in aid of charity. A bunch of bedecked tractors in pink balloons coming down the hill. Certainly made me pedal fast to hit the Framlingham co-op before it shut!
It has been a real British Bank Holiday Weekend. A Royal Wedding, broadcast over a huge TV screen to a packed Market Hill in Framlingham, bike riding and a climb of the church tower. All credit to all involved for pulling the whole shebang together both at the London end and locally. I know it involves a lot of work and many unsung heroes to make such a success. Bill Bulstrode was in his element and all the crew who did everything from catering to marshalling did a fabulous job; even dealing calmly with the few cars and lorries that decided they absolutely had to drive up the Hill. The huge screen supplied by http://odmtv.co.uk/ was very impressive, they even added local adverts to the coverage.
So stuffed full with hog roast I decided I needed a new cycle route challenge. A bit of royal tidying up. I plotted a journey and have remapped it for you as if done from Framlingham (my version was well over the 40 miles). The journey covers
The Queen’s Head Brandeston, The Victoria at Earl Soham, The Crown at Bedfield, The Crown at Brundish, Queen’s Head at Stradbroke, Royal Oak at Laxfield, The King’s Head at Laxfield (aka the Low House), Dennington Queen, The Crown at Great Glemham, The Crown and Anchor at Framlingham and the Crown Hotel at Framlingham. [by the way if you are a website optimiser designer some of these guys need help!)
Click on the picture below to go to the full route on Map My Ride, there is one short off-road section after the Crown at Bedfield which can be tricky in bad weather, but there is a road alternative if necessary.
To add to the pleasure of the weekend I manage a climb up the tower of Dennington Church, great use for the 360 degree panorama app = Click on the picture below to see the view from the top.
Are there any piscatologists or icthiologists out there who can help me. I was watching this little fish for ages yesterday. It was using a piece of grass root or stem to root around in a fold in the pond lining. I watched for fifteen minutes before I eventually went and fetched the camera. It repeatedly probed into the same spot with the piece of grass. Every now and then (1 minute into this clip) it would seem satisfied and do a little glide over the spot fanning its fins. Then it would go back round and root some more. Occasionally it would pull the grass out, quite deliberately, swim round in a loop, drop the grass and then pick it up again near the end and start the process again. Lining the grass up to the hole and then pushing it in, probing into the space once more.
So what’s it all about? I’d love to know…
It seems from the information I have now that this is a male stickleback nest-building – thanks folks. There is a wealth of learned articles out there too about feeding, flow rates and other factors that affect this behaviour.
The weather has been amazing in the UK; for Easter Bank Holidays it is unparalleled, not surprising then that I haven’t written anything here for ages. There seem to be pairs of things queuing up; please skip to the bits that interest you most. In the following order we have:
2 Apps; the 360Panorama and the Moleskine
2 Cakes; a giant Jaffa cake and a sweet, tart, redcurrant tart
2 Fungi; A Dryad’s Saddle Paper experiment and St George’s Mushroom
2 Foragy bits; Sea Purslane and an experiment with cleavers and milk in an attempt to make cheese
2 Fabulous cycle rides, mapped from Framlingham, one following the Alde and one Green Bagging in Bow and Arrow Country
2 Local Food Discussions; why does Suffolk have a strong local food culture and a new local food festival?
2 Swims – How is my training going? – first sea swim of the season
Two Apps – 360Panorama and Moleskine
I have recently downloaded two apps for the iPhone that I am enjoying immensely. The first I heard about from @ssilvestori who showed pictures of Lecce using it. Fantastic images; Silvestro is currently cycling around Puglia to generate interest in the small towns of the region. His website is worth a gander, he offers food and wine courses and much more besides. The 360Panorama app allows you to take 360 degree images that can be shown flat, like the one below, or if you have an iPhone, the images can be uploaded and viewed as interactive 360 images.
The second app that I am enjoying is a digital version of the Moleskine note book. I think it is going to be great fun for gardening and foraging notes, especially as it allows you to geotag pictures. Now if it could just capture sounds and smells, and if I could draw a little better….. However I am quite pleased with my cover and a simple gardening note.
Two Cakes – Giant Jaffa Cake and Sweet, Tart, Redcurrant Tart
This being Easter cake baking seems essential. I have been quite pleased with two cakes this holiday so I am recording them here so I don’t lose the recipes. The first is a giant Jaffa Cake. Based on a Guardian recipe designed by Ottolenghi and supplied by the lovely @downatheel, it is a rich almondy, moist cake. I adapted it by adding a jelly layer. Using 300ml of fresh Clementine juice and gelatine at 1.5 times the normal ratio. I set the jelly in a soup plate before scooping it onto the cake. I allowed the chocolate coating to cool as much as I dared before covering.
The second cake is described as a tart but is somewhere between a cheesecake, meringue and a desert sponge. It is sweet-sour and just plain lush. I used frozen currants which worked well but makes the meringue very tricky to apply as it part freezes as you mix them in. The whole cake is gloriously messy to make, but well worth the effort. The recipe can be found on Catalina Bakes.
Two Fungi – Dryad’s Saddle and St George’s Mushroom
Spring is a joyous time for mushrooming, mostly because the spring ones are a bit easier to identify. A friend brought me a Dryad’s saddle. Not many commentators declare this to be edible, but it is supposed to be able to be used to make paper. I cooked it for hours, smushed it, strained it and ended up with some thing crispy stuff – nothing to write home about or on…. but it had an interesting transulcence so it might be useful added to other materials.
Much more exciting was the early appearance of the St George’s mushroom. One thing I have learnt is the earlier it arrives the less likelihood of worm damage. This year there were far fewer, so I only picked two, but they were in tip-top condition. For the record, this year’s photograph April 18th whereas last year they didn’t appear until May 8th – what a difference a year makes. This year I sliced them and placed them with trout and Jack by the hedge, wrapped in foil and cooked on the barbecue.
Two Foragy bits – Sea Purslane and using cleavers to make cheese
Spring is a great time for foraging on salads, two of my favourites at the coast are samphire and sea purslane. The samphire was not much in evidence this week but there were some lovely snacks of crisp, salty, purslane to be had.
Another favourite of mine is cleavers, a fresh pea-pod taste that makes weeding a pleasure. I had read that it was used in the past as a rennet for cheese making. I found a recipe for feta cheese and bought some goats milk. I heated the milk, added the yogurt and then decided to squeeze a massive handful of cleavers into the milk mixture. I left it and left it for days at room temperature. After two days I had remarkably fresh smelling yoghurt, no goaty smell, no cheese though. I think that cleavers other title of ‘milk sweet’ might be interesting to explore further.
Two fabulous cycle rides – Orford/Iken/Alde and ‘Green Bagging’
This spectacular weather has been a great excuse for some serious cycling. Regular readers will know I am hoping to take part in the Dunwich Dynamo so I am steadily increasing my distances. I don’t seem to be able to increase my average speeds though so I think I will be on the bike for in excess of 10 hours. Several chums have asked me how I manage, especially now I have a bike with a more racing style seat. The seat is quite comfortable, I am naturally ‘well upholstered’ and I have recently invested in silicone knickers, with thick padding they are supposed to be good for up to three hours – so do I need to wear four pairs?
Two great rides though. I have remapped these from Framlingham for you, parking in Framlingham is good at the Elms car park. Both rides are mostly on very low traffic routes. The first takes you to Orford, where there are plenty of pubs and the wonderful Pump Street Bakery, I also include a slight side track to High House Fruit Farm where they have fresh apple juice and Asparagus. Points to watch out for on this route too Adders! on the Iken lanes, basking on the tarmac. It is worth stopping and strolling down to the river for a spot of foraging (see above), you may also see Alpacas between Blaxhall and Farnham. Click on the image below to go to the full map at MapMyRide.
The second ride was my Suffolk version of Munroe bagging. I recently downloaded an app called Hill Lists, needless to say Suffolk doesn’t feature. However, if someone would like to create the antidote I think it could be used for bagging greens, bottoms or castles all of which abound round here. In this ride I count nine Greens, it goes over two commons, the one at Wingfield complete with tethered cattle. It is worth checking the Wingfield website before you leave, if you have time to stop they have magnificent arts exhibitions and can offer tea and coffee. There are plenty of pub stop-offs, if your timings suit; The De la Pole at Wingfield, the Low House at Laxfield (actually named the Kings Head, but called the Low House) and the Queen at Dennington (actually named the Queens Head but known as Dennington Queen) all have solid reputations for food and ale. If you just want quick supermarket fayre there is a shop in Laxfield and Framlingham has a full range of shops, coffee houses, pubs and a cycle repair shop. This journey is largely traffic free and you will find miles of Bow and Arrow country – remember too the #bowandarrowtweetup if you are interested in joining a few of us for drinks or to watch The Social Network on 25th May 2011 at Wingfield Barns. As before click on the map below to go to the MapMyRide site.
Two Food Discussions – Why does Suffolk have a strong local food culture and a new local food festival?
One of the features of Twitter is that it is not a forum or a place for lengthy discussions; until one breaks out. A few comments and before long a group of us were involved in a discussion about why Suffolk and Norfolk have a strong local food culture, as opposed to other areas which seem to feel a bit adrift. You can read and add to the full conversation synopsis here. It ranges from great products and producers, through sympathetic media and a relative absence of the ‘big stores’, but covers much more besides.
Pride in local food is important in so many ways. There has been a food, craft and music festival at Framlingham College over the last three days. The pre-publicity did not give many clues about who the exhibitors and demonstrators would be and I knew that a couple of local food related people were not involved so I wondered what the outcome would be. Framlingham has a bit of a reputation for events being called off due to appalling weather, with the Gala rained off, fireworks not even making it to the stage of damp squibs etc. However, the setting could not have looked better in glorious sunshine, looking at the castle across from the college green was a rural scene befitting of Midsommer Murders. There were a few local food suppliers, notably the Chilli Company, Jimmy’s Farm, Suffolk Cup Cakes and local chef Emma Crowhurst was providing demonstrations. There were also suppliers from further afield so it had the air of the food stalls at a county show. It will be interesting to see if the event is run again and grows to include more local suppliers, they certainly had the best possible of weathers and things looked reasonably busy, with plenty of cars in the car parks and people wandering the grounds and at the demonstration. I bought chilli sauces, curry sauces, sausages and enjoyed Emma’s demonstration, not least because real time demos are so much better than edited TV for things like sugar work.
Two Swims – How’s my training going?
I think I’m on track for the Grethathalon two swims; one the Great East Open Water Mile and the other a dip at Dunwich Beach preceded by the 120 mile overnight Dunwich Dynamo bike ride. I am gradually increasing my miles on the bike. I have been doing more reading around the subject and beginning to understand why the training plans also focus on shorter, faster rides. I hope this will make me try and ride faster, to build up the relevant muscles, mitochondria etc to improve my overall performance. It has to be said I am a bit sedentary at the moment.
Yesterday I did my first sea swim of the season, at Dunwich Beach; no way was I going to attempt crawl or put my face in the water though, so back to the old chestnut of controlling the drowning reflex.
If you would like to make a donation, I am supporting Diabetes UK this year. My Just Giving page is here.
Today I have had fun shopping for food in Framlingham, Yoxford and the Sandlings. Yesterday, I had a mystery shopping assignment to a top four supermarket. What a soulless place it was; the assignment itself was interesting but above anything it restored my understanding of why I don’t shop in the big four often. Today was a wholly different experience. First I picked up from the Framlingham Market Facebook page that the lovely Darren, below, was doing a Facebook deal on sea bass. So I went along and ask for two Facebook, great success – apparently I wasn’t the first, someone bought their’s with the papers at 7.00am.
Then I popped over to see Roger Etheridge on his veg stall, I bought watercress which will go nicely with the bass and a few purple sprouting plants. There was a time when I bought boxes of fruit and veg from Roger, but now I grow more and buy less.
Next stop was to meet Twitter friend Carl, or as I know him @solebaycheese, another one of those introductions where I have to remember that most people only know me as a green blob and a dodgy twitter name. Carl has just taken over the Yoxford Post Office and is in the ‘soft opening’ phase. This allows for the Post Office training to be carried out by the previous Sub-Post Master; I dutifully posted a parcel to ensure the training was maximised. Carl served me the most gorgeously gooey piece of Vacherin cheese, whilst dispensing tips on how to prepare and cook; that’s service. Good luck to you Carl, I really hope the new business takes off and look forward to the coffee and free wifi once it’s up and running.
Next stop was Orford country market to test out @PumpStreetBakery’s bread. The market is run in the hall and is a delight. I also bought some sausages with caramelised onion and some potatoes. The Pump Street Bakery stall was being run by @patorford and there was a roaring trade. Some fabulous looking pastries, croissants and meringues too. I now have a huge loaf of crusty bread to enjoy with the cheese. Pat mentioned that the village shop in Orford is taking off. It is fantastic, full of local produce and with a small coffee area, I bought a beautiful Romanesco and some Marybelle milk.
From there a quick jaunt to Snape farmers market for High House discovery apple juice, perfect pale lemon pink in colour and Suffolk Blue cheese, piri-piri Sutton Hoo chicken and then off Friday Street market for some Paddy and Scott’s coffee and smoked garlic. All in all, far more miles than I would normally do, but such fun and I have a tidy haul of food to serve over the next few days, topped up with some more veg and fruit from the garden, all will be well.
So what do you think – are we about to see a renaissance for the village shop or market? It may never be able to compete on price but how about quality and friendliness combined with convenience, is it a price worth paying? Vote below and add comments, for example should local shopping use social media more?
Aldeburgh Food Festival has some great fringe events, I joined two separate farm walks and thoroughly enjoyed them both. [Here is your Spotify playlist to accompany this post]
The first was at Whitegates Farm, just off the A140 at Creeting St Mary and home of Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses. If ever you have the chance to go on tour do. Here is a happy farmer, with happy cows and a great example of turning adversity into advantage. The whole project started when Jason’s employer decided to sell up his herd leaving Jason without a job. Now he and Katherine, after a few false starts along the way, have perfected their Suffolk Cheese, using milk from their Guernsey herd. You may remember the cheese featured in my Suffolk diet dinner a few months ago. The creamy milk is gorgeous too and I thoroughly enjoyed the pork sausages I brought home.
The spare whey goes to feed an eclectic mix of pigs, who grunt eagerly for scraps of cheese experiments that have gone past their sell by dates. I am looking forward to hearing how the air dried ham and Brie style cheese trials are going. If you are interested in learning the craft of cheese making, you may like to join one of the Food Safaris that are run at the farm.
The second visit was to Peakhill Farm at Theberton, here the emphasis is on the beef end of cattle production with beautiful South Devon cattle strolling through the meadows, slowly creating full flavoured organic beef. I wish I had taken my proper camera as I only have one photo. Rob is a charming host and talks passionately about his love of his farm and cattle. Here beef never goes to slaughter, it goes on holiday and comes back ready for the shop. The last year has seen the farm add another element of diversity with a small caravan site; a fantastic location for those wanting to hide away near the Suffolk coast. The walk finished with tomato and basil soup, jacket potatoes and beef casserole and quince crumbles all produced by the delightful Karen and cooked in the field kitchen. I bought a beef pack and the brisket was great, the rest will come out of the freezer over the coming weeks and the dried field mushrooms are being turned into a Heston Blumenthal recipe soup.
It was great to meet Rob and Karen, having ‘conversed’ with them via Twitter for some time before the walk. Slightly worrying that Rob was expecting an older woman with a ‘large chest’; but as he ended up having to push my car out of the pond I guess he had to deal with the batty creature that turned up anyhow.
So two farm visits, plenty of luscious meat and dairy to eat and then along came a code to allow me to try and Graze on nuts and olives. If you haven’t come across the concept before, you order a Graze box, it is posted to you (typically your work address) and you munch. I quite enjoyed the nibbles, fresh and very tasty; I would normally pack a small selection of nuts or dates with my lunch box anyway, but I do have a basic packaging over expediency problem with the whole idea. So not sure I will be joining the herd, long-term, or only for very special treats but I can see how it would appeal to the office bound with only a cake shop to fall back on for comfort.
If you would like to try the Graze experience click HERE you will receive your first box free (until the voucher expires) and I will receive either £1.00 off my next box or to donate to a Uganda farming project.
The Inter Village Games is a sports based tournament that takes place every year between villages in ‘bow and arrow’ country; the part of Suffolk that could be described as in the middle of nowhere but prefers to know itself as in the middle of everywhere. The competition was started to form a focus sporting activity for villages, many of whom had no playing field and some only had a hut for a village hall. The aim is to have 10 villages competing (it makes the scoring easy) but at present there are eight.
Each village takes a turn at hosting the games. Part of the deal is that the host village chooses the events, so of course they can skew things slightly in their favour. There are a group of pre-event games such as bowls, football, rounders, a quiz and badminton. Villages select a number of events from the list to enter. On the main day there is a ‘sports day’ like feel, with the usual running races, both long and short distances other regular village type sports such as tug of war and three-legged races feature. Again teams choose from a list but there are also some compulsory events which all villages must enter. All the events include age bands so there might be an over 40s distance run followed by an eight and under sprint.
There are some events that are quite unusual and only tend to occur at the Inter Village Games. We have four on two planks, with the planks passed from one generation to the next; egg throwing, slow bicycle and the wheelbarrow race uses real wheelbarrows.
There are always thrills and spills, controversy and tears. When people win they literally jump for joy – like the Badingham team member above. Everyone says ‘never again’ and then turns up the next year to seek retribution. This is the first year in a very long time that I have not been directly involved, due to signing up for the Great East Swim and not spotting the date clash. There are adults now taking part who were babes in arms when I first became involved. Dennington really needs to replace its tennis courts and villages are very dependent on their ability to raise funds through events like this.
I wish everyone the very best of luck both as participants and organisers.
UPDATE: Current positions as of 20th June 2010 morning – The main day starts this afternoon – Good Luck to Everyone – Click on image to open in bigger screen
1st Place Dennington, 2nd Badingham,
Please click on the link below for PDF of final score grid
p.s. The Inter Village Games are known by the local St John’s Ambulance as the inter village blood sports; for pictures from last years event go to nearthecoast.com