Waveney Valley’s tastiest treats in the spotlight

The Waveney valley food and drink festival in the grounds of Bungay castle.

The Waveney valley food and drink festival in the grounds of Bungay castle. - Credit: Picture: Nick Butcher

Characterised by its tranquil river and endless miles of stunning views across some of the richest farmland in England, the Waveney Valley produces outstanding quality and a diverse range of incredible food and drink.

There are award-winning ales from marvellous micro-breweries, fresh-pressed ciders and juices, rare breed meats, artisan bakers and chocolate-makers and talented local chefs – and you can enjoy them all at this year's Waveney Food and Drink Festival which this year boasts two flagship weekends and a fortnight of foodie heaven from October 4 to October 13.

The festival is the last of the mini food festivals that are held under the umbrella of the EDP Adnams Norfolk Food and Drink Festival and stretches the parent event to a whopping seven weeks of food and drink related celebration.

The festival begins with the Food Debate at Fisher Theatre in Bungay – everyone has an opinion about food, how it's grown, produced, prepared, cooked, packaged, sold, eaten or wasted and this is your chance to voice it! Tickets cost £3 from the Fisher Theatre Box Office, 01986 897130, www.fishertheatre.org.

Throughout the festival, The Black Dog Restaurant on Earsham Street in Bungay will be serving a special menu at lunchtime and dishes of the day in the evenings, featuring the best the area has to offer. Visit www.theblackdogrestaurant.co.uk or call 01986 894000.

On Saturday, there will be the popular Beccles Farmers' Market and the Diss Battle of the Bangers will be held and will see independent butchers and sausage makers from the valley competing with commentary from first ever Waveney banger winner, 'the sausage king, Stephen Plume. Additionally, follow the Sizzling Sausage Trail as independent restaurants, cafés and food retailers create sausage-inspired dishes and snacks to celebrate the day.

Eye's food producers will also be holding A Taste of Eye, a series of special events in the town including chocolate-making demonstrations from Cocoa Mama Chocolaterie, coffee-bean roasting at The Bank community arts centre, samples at Laurels Farm Butchers, a special celebration menu at the Lindsay House Restaurant, a Spanish event at the Queen's Head and the Eye Pie Competition, a bake-off for professional chefs, adults and under-15s.

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On Sunday, there will be a foraging walk of the Bath Hills and Tapas Night at The Swan in Loddon while on Monday, at the Pennoyer Centre in Diss, a week-long celebration begins in the café of all things pork and piggy. The special Pulham Pigs – the name used to describe the airships based in Pulham in World War One – menu will include recipes using local sausages, bacon and pulled pork, chorizo, salami, pork pies and more. And for the sweet-toothed…chocolate pigs and marzipan battenburg piglets will be available!

Take the Real Ale Trail on Tuesday, starting at Grain Brewey for a tour and tasting, moving on to The Bell in Wortwell, The Buck in Flixton, the Huntsman and Hounds in Spexhall (where food will be provided) and return to Bungay at 11.15pm. Tickets cost £8.50, call 01986 897130.

Also on Tuesday, Samphire – at Sycamore Farm in Tibenham – will be holding a Walk, Talk, Eat event at 5.30pm which includes a guided walk to visit rare breed pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks and geese, the vegetable garden and orchard followed by a barbecue (vegetarian options available). Tickets £5 for a tour and a burger, booking is required, visit www.samphireshop.co.uk or call 01379 674413.

On Wednesday there will be an Open Farm at 10am at Hill Farm in Redenhall (01379 852289), Harleston will have its own Food and Drink Festival including the Browne's Banger Bonanza where 12 sausages will be available for tasting.

Next Thursday sees the 15 Mile Meal at Earsham Street Café (three courses, £18, www.earshamstreetcafe.co.uk) or the 10 Mile Meal at The Fox and Goose (four courses, £35, with wine from Wissett and Fressingfield vineyards to match each course.Visit www.foxandgoose.net).

On Friday October 11, The Castle Inn in Bungay is holding a Tasting Night with seven courses for £25 per person, (£35 including specially-matched wines, call 01986 892283 or visit www.thecastleinn.net) while in Diss, the Diss Corn Hall Beer Festival begins at 5pm and also takes place on October 12, from noon.

The festival will be headlined by the current winners of Champion Beer of Norfolk, Grain Brewery and there will be blondes, IPAs, international flavours, classic beers and stouts on tap in addition to several beers brewed with field-fresh hops.

The festival ends with a gala weekend at Bungay Castle on October 12 and 13 which will showcase the best produce from the valley with stalls and tasting opportunities and a host of events.

Enjoy a Real Ale Trail on October 12 which takes in St Peter's Hall in South Elmham, the Artichoke in Broome, the Duke of York in Ditchingham and the Queen's Head in Earsham before a return to Bungay – tickets cost £5, call 01986 897130.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Earsham Street Café will be celebrating the abundance of Norfolk and Suffolk's apples and pears in a special menu and on Saturday there will be a tours of St Peter's Brewery starting at 11am on the hour until 3pm, tickets £5 for adults, including a tutored beer tasting (visit www.stpetersbrewery.co.uk or call 01986 782322 for details).

Loddon Farmers' Market on October 12 will have 24 food stalls celebrating the best of local produce including milk, eggs, bread, sausages, beer, cider, lamb, pork, beef, sausages, chutneys, fruit and vegetables and join the team from Rosie Lee's Tearoom for a fish cooking demonstration at 6pm at Loddon Mill Arts Centre (call 01502 520204 for details).

Saturday also sees Diss Farmers' Market in the Market Place from 9am to 1pm and on the final festival day, there's another chance to enjoy Tapas at the Swan in Loddon (five dishes £12 or £2.95 each, www.theloddonswan.co.uk), partake in more foraging in Bath Hills and Bungay Castle will once again be filled with producers from the area and their fantastic fayre.

For more information, visit www.norfolkfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk and www.edp24.co.uk/what-s-on/norfolk-food-and-drink-festival for recipes, quizzes, interviews and more.

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