Eat Local Heart of England
A gastronomic tour around England’s heartland offers an exciting fusion of exotic flavours and cooking styles mixed with traditional dishes rooted in the region's industrial and agricultural past.
Birmingham is renowned for its fantastic curries while the county towns of Bakewell and Melton Mowbray have put themselves on the map because of their eponymous rustic dishes. You’ll find fantastic new cheeses, glorious Herefordshire ciders and hearty bakes and cakes in the Derbyshire villages. It’s a region of contrasts, from gritty urban landscapes to honey-hue villages – and the variety of food is just as exciting.
Ali's Eat Local loves
Top Taste Tips: Staffordshire Oatcakes for breakfast, filled with bacon and egg, Day’s Cottage Gloucestershire heritage variety Apple juice, Cotswold Organic Dairy Blue-veined Brie.
This campsite shop in the Forest of Dean waves the local food flag with an impressive selection of edible delights. But, if you are looking for someone else to cook your dinner, head down the road to The Mill Race, a pub that has become the hub of the local community and has a great reputation for good food. Ingredients are sourced from local farms, villagers or foraged by the chefs. The pub holds cookery demos, pizza nights, talks from local food producers and a lively annual food fair. Now, that’s a proper Eat Local local!
How to eat cake without the guilt? Take part in the Peak Eat Trails Cake Walk. Download the map from the tourism website then stroll along the Monsal Trail taking in a range of stop-offs specialising in locally-produced food and drink. Try the not-for-profit village-owned shop in Litton, where the home-made cakes are fantastic. Or, if you’d rather sling a picnic on your back, head to Ibbotson’s delicatessen in Ashford on the Water.
This century old village shop does a delightful cheese selection and its own-brand pickles. I’m told an Ale trail and Sausage trail are in the pipeline.
Okay, I give in. I’ll mention Bakewell Pudding. I know I’d have protests from many of you sweet-toothed types if I didn’t acknowledge one of our most famous eponymous regional treats. I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to put my neck on the line and pick which of the many bakeries in Bakewell make the best version of this slice of national heritage. And whatever you do, don’t call it Bakewell Tart – you are likely to be chased out of town.
No, a genuine Bakewell Pudding is a circular puff pastry shell filled with an almond and egg mixture, strawberry jam and whatever secret ingredient those in-the-know add to the top. A Bakewell Pudding is certainly not the saccharine icing-covered cherry-topped offerings that you buy in the supermarkets.
The original pudding came about by accident, which has since become a legend in bakery circles. In 1860, Mrs Greaves, a flustered cook in the village was in charge of baking a jam tart for some important guests. Her anxious state led her to mix ingredients together in the wrong order and the Bakewell pudding was born – and loved by her guests.
When I visited, I randomly chose to buy my pudding from Bloomers Original Bakewell Puddings in Water Lane – and very nice it was too. I’ve also heard good reports about the The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop in the Square. But wherever you buy yours, the experience of wandering around the wibbly wobbly cobbled streets of this quaint Derbyshire town is a worthy way to spend a morning.
Now it may seem strange to suggest an entire town as a food attraction, but if there is one in the UK, Ludlow, 20 miles from our Club Site, is it. The town itself is beautiful – perched above the River Teme and surrounded by unspoilt hilly countryside. But, the real attraction for me is the food culture that has built up around the town over the last decade or so.
Ludlow has a wealth of fantastic restaurants, good food pubs and cafes all supported by an outlying network of devoted and fanatical food producers. Every September this is showcased in a food fiesta; the Ludlow Food and Drink Festival, an internationally renowned event. Even if you aren’t staying at Wolverley – our nearest Club Site – in September, the town is still worth a visit.
The Ludlow Food Centre is an exciting vision of the future of food shopping. A vast contemporary glass fronted building houses a food emporium that fuses food retail and production. Half of the products sold are made on the premises. Behind huge glass windows around the hall, customers can watch cheese being made, coffee roasted, jams bottled and bread being baked.
Information on food and its provenance is a big focus here. It’s worth a visit. It’s an experience as much as a shopping trip – and the food is good too.
Just two miles from our Wolverley Club Site is Hodge Hill Farm Shop. This great family-run shop has been selling fresh vegetables to the public for 35 years. Initially it sold home-grown tomatoes from a small shed, although now the enterprise has a grown into a fabulous farm shop selling fresh bread and cakes from Ludlow, Shropshire vegetable and fruit produce, local meats and tea shop.
Myers Bakery in nearby Horncastle is the one-stop shop for the best of the region's specialities. You’ll have heard of Lincolnshire sausage and cheese, but have you tried Plum Loaf – a rich and heavy fruit bread?
Stop off for a cuppa and a slice in the bakery cafe. The mill was started by Charles Myers in 1901 and the bakery is still in the family. It serves unpretentious local food like gammon steaks and home-made burgers that taste great and are reasonably priced. They’ve also opened a deli next door – with more than 50 varieties of local cheeses – even the crisps are from the county.
Make a family day out of it and head to Essington PYO Fruit Farm and farmshop. This family-run farm has been proudly selling its produce to local residents since 1892. Tradition is clearly important here – the farm sticks to old fashioned and heritage fruit varieties for their flavour. Selling direct to the customer means food miles are minimal and your food is as fresh as it can be – especially if you pick it yourself.
It farms its own pork, all reared free-range and chemical free. Home-made cakes, pies and ready meals sold in the shop are cooked in the farmhouse kitchen or you can enjoy it on-site in the restaurant. The Essington folk are high on my list of Eat Local heroes.
The Glutton Club – fabulous name and equally fabulous fare. Young chef George Cavendish set up an experimental pop-up restaurant in Shrewsbury in December. It was such a success that he has decided to stay put. He uses seasonal, organic produce much of it grown by himself to creative some innovative British cuisine.
If not from his allotment, ingredients are sourced from Shropshire suppliers. For a treat-for-two try his Gluttonous Platters to share for £13 per head. The meat platter has home-cured meats, chicken liver pate, pork rillettes and beef consommé. Or try the equally gluttonous fish or vegetable versions. Delightfully different.
One of the meat suppliers for the Glutton Club is Battlefield 1403, in Upper Battlefield, near Shrewsbury. This seemingly curiously-named attraction is actually a farm shop, deli, cafe and museum. The name comes from the fact the fields surrounding the converted farm buildings were the site of the famous Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, when Henry IV slayed the rebellious Henry Hotspur, 2nd Earl of Northumberland.
This is an impressive enterprise. Battlefield 1403 has eschewed the rustic farm shop image for a slick stylised experience that is as impressive as the food. Beef and lamb from the Albrighton Estate supplies the on-site butchery and pie makers. The farm shop sells great home-made ready meals, soups and cakes while the The Sparrows Cafe focuses on seasonal ingredients and has popular house specials like the Battlefield Beef and Shropshire Ale Pie.
With the exhibition next door commemorating the battle, you can make a decent afternoon's entertainment here.
Certificated Sites with food
Some 230 acres of beautiful Shropshire countryside, make up Lower Hill Farm
. It’s also a busy working farm that produces beef, lamb and free-range pork. Campers can buy sausages, burgers, chops and bacon on the site.
Campers can buyhome-made cakes from site owner Pat Turner at Forest View, no doubt made with the free range eggs that she also sells to members on the site. She also keeps a supply of barbecue-friendly meat; bacon, sausages on site or will get them delivered to you if you order from her. The meat comes from local butchers Brian and Simon Betteridge a.k.a Junction 10 Bacon men.