Category Archives: Suffolk

Sliced Essex Lion

Don’t press play above if you don’t like sweary bits!

There is something stirring in Framlingham, a merry band called A Slice of Life are set on bringing different and unusual arts to the town. I was pleased as punch to find that Luke Wright was going to be recording a programme (which will be broadcast on Radio Suffolk and Radio Essex on New Year’s Day). I have followed Luke for quite a while on Twitter and had seen odd clips of his poems online, then at Lattitude this summer his was the breath of fresh air I had been looking for. Luke curates the poetry tent as well as performing his own work at the festival and it was there I met the Essex Lion for the first time. I did wonder how Luke would manage the process of editing out the sweary bits for the Radio show but he chose his pieces carefully and this meant I heard several poems that I hadn’t heard before – it was a great night and well done to Slice of Life for bringing the unusual to Framlingham – keep it up!


Mino – Magnifico!

Mino at The Table

I was lucky enough to be part of a large party at The Table in Woodbridge recently. This was no accident, we were there for the chef! Lovely Mino Mazzotta had travelled from the Salento, the southern part of the heel of Italy to be guest chef for the weekend.  On the Sunday the offering was a rolling buffet of wonderful Puglian flavours. Mino had created a wide range of fresh cold, hot, fish, meat and vegetarian dishes that are typical to his home area; from stuffed squid to gridded aubergines, salamis, octopus, beautiful meatballs – actually too many different dishes to list from memory.  The meal was great value and you could (and we did) go up to the buffet as many times as you liked.

I had not been to the Table in its latest incarnation but was really pleased that we had one long table for our large party, which gave the feel of a big Italian friends and family gathering.  The staff were really charming and we all enjoyed a long leisurely lunch followed by tiramisu, fruit salads and ice-creams; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The food was always going to be great, having tried Mino’s cooking before in the warmth of Italy, the only question was going to be if it transferred successfully to Suffolk – of course it did!  There was a successful draw to raise money for Mino and his wife Val’s interests in supporting stray and injured dogs in their home area.  Take a look at the Puglia Pooches pages for more information.

Thank you to The Table for hosting and I really hope Mino will be back to Suffolk again in the spring; if he isn’t I’ll just have to wait until I’m back in Puglia again for those luscious fresh, flavours.

Britten’s Got Talent – watch out for it!

Britten's Got Talent

Britten’s Got Talent

“There are times when I feel like I have no talent…no talent at all”

I was fortunate enough to attend a ‘rehearsed read through’ of Britten’s Got Talent at Framlingham College on Sunday. I was very keen to see this; local writer Robin Brooks, who has had numerous plays on Radio 4, has written a satirical comedy based on Benjamin Britten’s life in Aldeburgh. I wasn’t sure what the play would be like, but was delighted to find the type of techniques that would work well on radio incorporated into the play; mixing timelines from Britten’s working life to the modern-day with ease. The piece is gently humorous, part innuendo and part cleverly playing with today’s attitudes to homosexuality as much as with views that may have existed in Britten’s own time.


The actors took their roles very well, Keith Hill was gloriously angst ridden and Jonathan Hansler played more characters than I have hot dinners in a week; showing an amazing ability to change from lover to mother, from elderly judge to boy. I was very impressed by Sam Bell who plays a young boy, so effective and very well done. I am looking forward to seeing the production at the New Wolsey Studio in Ipswich from 20th November the full version with music by Matthew Sheeran should be a delight. Well done to Fiona McAlpine and team for a very enjoyable evening.

ps added value to going on 22nd or 23rd matinees they’ll have cake!

Many thanks to Fiona for the photos from a later rehearsal.


Blown Away by Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival

© Mary Woodin

© Mary Woodin


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!

Curious – Me?

What would you add?

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?

Enter Lear on a Mobility Scooter

Theatre in the Forest - Red Rose Chain - King Lear

It has already been quite a summer – I have not written anything here since the Wensum Swim, so time for a little catch-up.  We all know there has been a helluv-a-lot (meteorological terminology) of rain so looking back I’m amazed at how many summery things have been going on.

Theatrically I have had the pleasure of seeing Margaret Catchpole performed by Eastern Angles at the Hush House at Bentwaters.  This former jet engine testing site makes an excellent theatre and Margaret Catchpole was a fabulous topic for a regionally based play.  It was beautifully performed and the long exhaust chamber that forms the end of the hanger was used to very good effect.  The production followed the story of Margaret, from her life in Naction, to ‘stealing’ a horse and being sent to Australia; at heart though it is a love story with a bit of Suffolk farming and smuggling thrown in.


More recently I was invited to attend King Lear performed by Red Rose Chain, if you get the chance this is a must see theatre-in-the-forest production;  absolutely madcap and thoroughly entertaining.  You are met by the cast before you have even parked you car so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise when King Lear enters on a golden mobility scooter.  It is a testament to how engaging the whole piece is that the children in the audience were completely enthralled.  There is something magical about outdoor theatre, and the the cast made the most of the setting, entering from deep in the forest as an integral part of various scenes.  As night fell and the sounds of the forest changed the sensations became even more intense.  It was both hilarious and moving – and it has to be said suitably sad at the end. The cast, staging and costumes were fabulous. The production continues over the next few weeks, don’t miss it! [..and p.s. buy a programme, there is a comic strip version of the play in the back, which helps if you never listened much in Eng Lit – or like me did The Scottish Play]


This summer has also seen Suffolk’s first International Polo match. After Suffolk Show having been blown away in the storm it was good to see Trinity Park back on form as a social centre. I had forgotten just how huge a polo field is, but thankfully as the teams change ends frequently there was plenty to watch, not least is the pitch invasion ‘treading in’.


Travelling has led to some more interesting finds on the hotel front.  The first I can thoroughly recommend is the Green Dragon, a pub with rooms, at Cockleford, not far from Cheltenham. This is dog friendly, has very comfortable bedrooms, free wifi and excellent food.  There is also fantastic woodland walking just over the road. The second, the Clifden Hotel in Teignmouth, was a totally dog friendly hotel, not surprisingly as it is run by Vision. The staff could not be friendlier and the facilities include ‘spend areas’ for the dogs, grooming areas etc.  In both cases the hotels were found through Smoothhound, which remains my favourite source of different accommodation.


The rain has brought on some interesting fungi – one of the cutest was the Witches Butter growing in the moss down the middle of the lane.  I think the rabbits have been eating it – looking at the list of things the polysaccharides in it are supposed to cure/prevent the rabbits will probably last for ever!

Now we are in full Olympic’s mode and I’ll admit I’m hooked.  I was lucky enough to see the torch arrive at Ipswich and then on the day of the opening ceremony Framlingham had its own flag parade; it even made it to the national news!  it certainly brought home to me how the torch bearers role as ambassadors for the games live on after their few minutes with the torch – people were queueing up to have their pictures taken.

Now its time to start looking forward. The full programme for Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival has been published.  The main days should be interesting – I’m involved with Food Safari and looking forward to the fringe programme which has almost too many fantastic activities to choose from.

Dennington 60/40 auction – Saturday 19th May

Sad to say the tennis court in Dennington is in a very shabby state. Not much chance of any future British tennis champions coming from the village, nor any others improving their health by the sport if this is all the facilities we can offer. It is a huge pity because for a small village we boast a wonderful playing field, bowls green, children’s play area and village hall. So, a big fund raising effort is required.

There will be an auction on Saturday 19th May, starting at 10.00am (viewing Friday 4.00-8.00pm). People can offer goods on a 60/40 or full donation basis and some local collection is possible. It is an ideal opportunity for local people to have a good clear out and who knows what bargains customers may find. In previous auctions my best buy was a ‘mixed box’ which I sold on as individual pieces for a considerable profit with one item going via e-bay to Australia. Typically it is also a great way for people to fit up grandparents with bikes for visiting children or young couples to get some basic kit together for a new home. The joy is that like most auctions, you never know what you will find unless you get stuck in and take a look. All proceeds will go to Dennington Sports Club who are raising funds to replace the tennis court.

So why not follow @DenningtonAucti on twitter and view the twitpics on which will show some of the items as they are collected. In previous years we have had up to about 200 lots.


Immersed, submerged, profoundly drenched

Thank You and Kiss Me Cards from Goodshoeday on Etsy

This weekend I’ve been at Snape Maltings aka Aldeburgh Music for ‘Place‘, described as an enquiry into the cultural meanings of water. It appealed to me due to my love of open water swimming, inland waterways and generally getting wet. I wasn’t entirely sure what the nature of this enquiry would be but it was a mix of art, performance, films and readings. The highlights for me were:

Robert MacFarlane: On Roger Deakin; Robert knew Roger in the last few years of his life. It was good to hear a little more about Roger’s life and their shared experiences. I am re-reading Waterlog and looking forward to reading his other books and will hunt out Robert’s The Wild Places – readers of my twitter account will be proud of me for not buying a further mountain of books, but my wish list has grown considerably!

David Rothernburgh: Whale Music & Writing on Water; David was a replacement when other performers had to pull out and when he bounced to the podium like Tigger crossed with Paddington Bear I was not sure what to expect. He plays his clarinet to whales and they sing back. It was stunning, I was totally enthralled,  he had also created a pair of films; underlying the film was the story of a man who has lost everything, his wife, children, possessions and sled through the ice (I wish I’d written down the reference).

Jay Griffiths: Telling the Sea; this really was narrative writing performed in a way which was lyrical and engaging. I took very few notes as I was wrapped up in listening to her use of language, it was beautiful and of all the pieces in the weekend probably the one that gave you the greatest feeling of being in water. Her book Wild is definitely on my wish list.

Olivia Chaney: Water Songs; the second replacement act, beautiful singing, haunting and plenty of drowning.

I would love to explain the evening performance of Swandown to you, but you really have to experience and decide that for yourself! [If you are an arts sceptic who wants to know ‘can people really get funding for this stuff?’ it could be a place to start, the audience were distinctly divided]

Today started with a showing of Derek Jarman’s ‘The Garden’, sadly the DVD playing was a bit mucked up and there were frequent restarts. The whole film is distinctly disturbing anyway, I’m glad I’ve finally seen it but will be happy to leave it there.

Manu Luksch: Kayak Libre; this was a delight. Manu carried out a project where she provided a Kayak taxi, with the fare being a conversation, which she captured. A great use of technology combined with the calm induced by travelling at low speed in water below the hight of the normal carriageway.

Simon Read: Seamarks; huge maps, hand drawn that interpret the rising of the waters and their potential impacts on the land. This work is both beautiful and informative, the detail aids understanding and creating the pieces helps Simon to question the landscape and imagine what will happened if various defences are breached.

So thank you to Aldeburgh Music and to Gareth Evans who curated the weekend. Also huge thanks to Linda @goodshoeday for light relief in the interval and the lovely cards, hot from her Letterpress Lab.

Latham’s Dog Food – Bzz Report

It's in there somewhere....

I was quite pleased when the chance of a Bzz Agent package on dog food came along, including free samples, money off vouchers and voucher codes to pass on.  Twitter followers will know of #OKDoggy, she of the early morning walks. OKDoggy has not had that much variety in her food over the years having survived well on dry rations and water all her life with the excitement of cheese rind and ham off cuts when sandwiches are being made.

Latham’s is a dry food, and according to the blurb “wholesome, hypo-allergenic veterinarian approved dog food tailored to meet the differing needs, different breeds, sizes and ages of dogs. Our natural recipes will keep your dog in tip-top condition; they are rich in meat and contain no added artificial colours or preservatives and are free from ingredients, such as wheat, soy and dairy.” You would have thought this would equate to right up my lane. Part of the campaign is obviously about the fact that Tesco are now stocking it – to me that is no advantage I can obtain OKDoggy’s current food in the local co-op and get there on my bike but nil desperandum I asked a friend to collect some for me.

As advised I mixed a little with her existing food. She carefully avoided the Latham’s. I kept this up leaving the food down until she had eaten it all including the stuff she didn’t like. At no point did she develop an interest in the Latham’s only eating it once she was really hungry. If I did the dirty on her and buried her old food under the new food she became a miner, digging down to find the old stuff (see above).

So sorry Latham’s no switch over going to happen here. I’m also sorry that I failed to complete this before the end of the campaign but it has been slow progress.

I am also now suffering from petfood social conscience I did a bit of digging around. It seems Latham’s is actually a Tesco brand that they have developed to pitch against the like of Iams. It also transpires that OKDoggy’s current food is by Purina aka Nestle – the one saving grace is that there is a Suffolk connection, her dog bowl smells just like Sudbury where the local Purina factory is located. The whole multinational conglomerate status of these companies can tie you in knots at times.

Cakes, Rides, Local Food and Silicone Knickers

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.

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