Seafood is plentiful and fresh here, the numerous seaside shacks selling straight off-the-boat shellfish or good old fish and chips are a holiday must. The low rainfall makes this a wine producer's haven while the fields of world-class malt have encouraged a host of exciting ale producers and micro-breweries to set up shop here.
Ali Ray's Eat Local loves:
Seafood: Brancaster Staithe oysters and mussels, Cookie Crab Shop, the Company Shed, West Mercia. Meat: Jimmy's Farm pork sauages. Cheese: Suffolk Blue Cheese. Places: Jamie Oliver's parents' award-winning Cricketers pub (Clavering near Saffron Walden), The White Horse, Harpenden (owned by French chef Jean-Christophe Novelli). Drinks: Adnams beer, Sandringham apple juice.
Nestled in gently rolling countryside, West Runton Club Site is so close to the spectacular north Norfolk coastline you can smell the salt in the air. This untamed stretch is alive with seafood – try scouring the shores for mussels and oysters. Or leave it to the experts.
Cookie’s Crab Shop in the dinky fishing village of Salthouse has been serving seafood for more than 50 years, spilling into the garden to accommodate its fans. Don’t expect frills – a blackboard menu, bring-your-own (BYO) – glasses as well as booze – and piled-high plates of salty fresh cockles, prawns, dressed crab and lobster salad.
Get back to nature at our tranquil Thetford Forest Club Site, where red deer are regular visitors and the great outdoors beckons (bikes are the best way to explore). This low-lying land straddling Norfolk and Suffolk known as The Brecks is prettily patch-worked with vines. Our top tip(ple) is Wyken Vineyards, winner of the English Wine Association’s Wine of the Year for its Wyken Bacchus white. It’s best sampled over game lunch in the Leaping Hare Vineyard Restaurant, set in a characterful 16th-century barn. On Saturday mornings an excellent farmers’ market showcases the region’s finest, including ham, pies, organic honey and creamy Suffolk blue cheese.
Enjoy a taste of the royal life here at our wooded Sandringham Club Site, set within the estate of the Queen’s country residence. As well as 600 acres of woodland, the estate includes arable farmland growing wheat, rye and barley and organic vegetables, but it is probably best known for its apples and apple juices. Orchards were first planted here 70 years ago by King George VI and now stretch over 65 acres of Norfolk countryside. Varieties such as Egremont Russet, Worcester Pearmain and Cox’s are pressed and bottled on the estate, producing 14 varieties of very local juice. Enjoy a wander from the site, across to the estate shop and buy a bottle. Or, if you are camping here in September and October, you can pick your own.
Geographically ‘out there’, Norwich also stands out as a city with a colourful yet relaxed vibe – maybe because of its plentiful pubs, artsy student crowd and pleasing warren of medieval streets. There are also plenty of quirky independent places to eat. The Clark and Ravenscroft Deli on Benedict Street do fantastic sandwiches with local meats and cheeses. You can take your sandwich and head down the road to The Plough, a great pub owned by a local micro, Grain Brewery. This is a BYO food as they just focus on the ales. The Tea House in Wrights Court also comes highly recommend for its choice of more than 20 loose leaf teas and delectable homemade cakes or try The Reading Rooms in Nelson Street, for its local and free-range all-day breakfasts.
With the Norfolk Broads one way, and Southwold, with its squiggle of colourful beach huts, the other, Kessingland Club Site is perfect for a dollop of nostalgic family fun. Fish and chips are ubiquitous along Suffolk’s shores (Aldeburgh’s melty haddock is hard to beat), but for fancier fare it’s well worth the 25-minute drive to Snape Maltings. Passionate about supporting local producers, this beautifully converted Victorian malthouse has a food hall, tea rooms, pub, café and farmers’ market (first Saturday of the month) devoted to local gastronomy – from chutneys and ketchups made five miles away, to smoked garlic and crisp Aspall's cider. Still craving seafood? Try the smoked fish platter served with just-baked granary in the airy stripped-wood, white-walled Café 1885.
Now famous in his own right thanks to his Jimmy’s Farm TV show, Jamie Oliver’s friend has opened up his picturebook 100-acre farm to visitors – and it’s an easy drive through bucolic Constable country from our Club Site at Polstead. Children love the nature trails, the Butterfly House and looking for eggs in the ‘chicken safari’, while grown-ups can learn about butchery. Jimmy has more than 500 pigs and specialises in rare breeds such as British saddlebacks – you’ll see them roaming the woodlands sniffing out chestnuts and wild berries. Scoop up some award-winning sausages and hickory-smoked bacon from the shop for brekkie. But also make time for a pint of Jimmy’s Flying Pig bitter and a saddleback burger in the fragrant, herb-scented Field Kitchen.
Foodie Certificated Sites (CS)
Fareacre, Saxmundham, Suffolk. Almost self-sufficient in fruit and vegetables. Colin and Sue Cuthbert sell eggs at the gate and small amounts of surplus produce to campers. With prior arrangement they will show campers around the produce area and give advice on self-sufficiency.
Tithe Farm, Stevington, Bedford. From beautiful countryside views and pleasant walks to good local pubs, this CS is a treat in itself, but just two miles up the road, the owners also run a farm shop where you can stock up on a fantastic selection of home-produced goods for the barbecue.
You can buy the home-reared beef, pork, turkey and locally-produced lamb and chickens. They make their own sausages, burgers and have recently started curing their own bacon. There are lots of lovely artisan cheeses, locally baked bread and locally grown veg. You can even get hot drinks and light lunches. The shop is open Tue to Thurs 9am-5pm. Fri 9am-6pm. Sat 9am-4pm. 01234 822330.
The Paddock, Lakenheath, Brandon. Being situated in an area of fertile soil, there is a wealth of local produce available around this CS. Seasonal fruit, herbs, and vegetables from the on site greenhouse and the owner's garden are often available to campers. There is a supply of locally-produced free range eggs, bacon, sausages and potatoes on site throughout the summer.
Ten minutes away is Christmas Hill Farm Shop, specialising in their own farm-raised rare breed cattle and sheep.They also stock locally-sourced dairy produce, vegetables, and drinks. The CS owners even offer a collection service so campers can pre-order, and have the produce waiting on site for their arrival.
And if that’s not enough, there are farmers' markets at Mildenhall Jubilee Centre, Recreation Way, Mildenhall IP28 7HG (indoor, last Saturday of each month) and Ely farmers’ market in Market Square, Ely CB7 4NP (outdoor, fourth Saturday of each month).