Is Woodbridge the easiest place in Suffolk to ‘eat local’? 

Mark Hayward, owner of Dingley Dell with one of his piglets. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mark Hayward, owner of Dingley Dell with one of his piglets - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

If last year’s COP26 taught us anything, it’s that radical, defined, real changes must be made to critically slow the harmful effects of global warming. 

It’s an enormous conversation. Encompassing everything from the way we produce and use energy, to travel, and...food and farming. 

Hot topics on the agenda include reducing pesticides, agroforestry and biodiversity, reducing our reliance on meat reared in intensive conditions, and, at a hyperlocal level, minimising our carbon footprint as much as we possibly can. 

Woodbridge has been ahead of the game since 2008, with a group – Transition Woodbridge – formed to jumpstart those often-difficult conversations, encouraging people within the town and its surrounding villages to rethink aspects of their lives, making a positive local impact. 

Projects include planting community fruit trees, rewilding, creating local wildlife corridors, a Repair Café, and river cleans. 

A view over Woodbridge and the river Deben

A view over Woodbridge and the river Deben - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

During lockdown, when certain foods became scarce as supermarkets ran out of basic ingredients, one of the projects took on an even more important role. 

The Local Food initiative, led by joint secretary Carol Steptoe, created a leaflet that went to thousands of households in Woodbridge, detailing around 100 shops, producers, cafes, restaurants and pubs in, and within a 21-mile radius, of the town. 

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“You really can,” says Carol, “get most of the things you need, practically on the doorstep here. 

“We started working on the leaflet in January 2021 and were distributing it by July. Woodbridge Town Council provided funding with Melton Parish Council, and we had lots of support from volunteers.” 

Carol says it being 2021, in the 21st century, and promoting food from within 21 miles, it felt like a “significant time” to create the guide.  

“For us, this is all about reducing our reliance on imported food. Food security is very important and, wherever you are in the country, it’s imperative to be as independent as possible with most things, but particularly food. 

“When crises occur, like leaving the EU, or fuel and energy hikes, or war, we shouldn’t have to rely on imports. We have excellent producers in the area who can help keep people fed. It’s a very basic need, and if we were to totally rely on foreign imports, we’d be all the poorer.” 

Carol joined Transition Woodbridge in 2013, inspired by the group’s vision to help local people move towards a more sustainable future. 

“It’s about increasing awareness of climate change, reducing waste, promoting recycling and supporting the local economy and environment,” she says. “Locally produced food in particular has a lower carbon footprint, and in some cases less packaging, so there’s less waste. It benefits us all. 

“I’d also say, British farmers and local farmers have very high standards. Our animal welfare is higher than anywhere else in the world. The idea of importing beef and lamb is, I think, nonsense, when we have great locally reared meat right here.” 

To see all the places listed by the group – places to eat, farmers, producers and makers, all within 21 miles of Woodbridge, visit the Local Food page at transitionwoodbridge.org.uk 

LA Brewery's kombucha is produced in Suffolk

LA Brewery's kombucha - Credit: Ollie Mills

10 local producers within 21 miles of Woodbridge 

Charsfield Apple Juice 

They’ve been growing apples for more than a century at Red House Farm – and each 750ml bottle contains 99.95% apple. Richly flavoured and fruity, the juices include English Cox or English Cox and Bramley. 

Virginia Nurseries 

For nearly 40 years this nursery in Newbourne has been championing a ‘cleaner’ way of growing. Known predominantly for their salads and tomatoes (but also growing other seasonal fruit and veg), the team don’t use pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, instead relying on crop rotation for plant health, bees for pollination, and ladybirds to stave off greenfly infestations. 

The Wild Meat Company 

Delivering wild, natural meats from east Suffolk farms and estates, and ethically, locally farmed free-range meats, straight to your door. 

As well as joints and whole birds, the range includes pre-prepared options to help make eating game as easy as possible. From mixed game for casseroles, to two-bird roasts, and pheasant breast fillets. They’re the go-to folk locally if you want to try a lovely bit of squirrel too. 

Dingley Dell Cured 

Farmer Mark Hayward bred the Red Duroc pig on his wide open free-range farms specifically for their ribbons of flavoursome fat, which in turn give his charcuterie exceptional flavour – on par with anything from Spain’s famed Iberico pig. The whole meat cuts and salamis are named for East Anglian legends and figures, from Iceni salami, to Cerrunos dry-cured British proscuitto, and Albion – dry-cured, 90-day-aged pork shoulder. 

James Foskett Farms 

Founded in the mid-50s by Henry Foskett, who took on 180 acres – today stretching to 3,500 acres, all within 35 miles of the original farm. The business has conventional and organic operations, growing organic potatoes (used by Abel and Cole in its delivery boxes), carrots, butternut squash, green beans, corn and radishes. 

Korean Kitchen 

Delicious, authentic Korean kimchi – a fermented condiment ubiquitous in Korea where it’s part and parcel of almost every meal. Said to aid digestion, kimchi is made with cabbage, radish, Korean chilli flakes, garlic, ginger and a few other flavourings, for a clean, spicy, tangy flavour. Fantastic with Asian-style stews, on top of steamed rice, or even in a cheese toastie. Korean Kitchen makes four types, from Naked (without chilli), to vegan, and extra spicy. 

Tide Mill 

An icon of Woodbridge, perched right on the edge of the river Deben, and one of only two working tide mills in the country producing flour – made from East Anglian wheat. You can buy the wholemeal flour, in which nothing is added or taken away, directly from the mill, and from several local outlets, including Woodbridge's Co-op store (visit the mill's website for stockists). There’s a finer mill, for pastry, biscuits and rustic cakes, and a coarse mill – fantastic for bread. 

GRObros 

Brothers Matt and Doug can be found at some local markets selling their microherbs – but you can buy direct online too. Add a pop of flavour to your meal, by sprinkling with sprouting carrot, micro broccoli, micro red cabbage and more. 

Chocolate Wonder 

Chocolatier Nancy launched her business during lockdown and uses the finest, ethically-sourced Madagascan cocoa beans, and local ingredients to make chocolate bars and boxed chocolates. They include a 70% dark, and 39% milk bar, and chocolates with fillings that include stem ginger, salted caramel, and chocolate orange cream. 

LA Brewery 

Beautifully delicate, yet complex kombuchas, fermented with a unique tea blend, and with no added sugars. These are a superb alternative to alcohol with a meal, and flavours range from the popular Strawberry and Black Pepper, and Citrus Hops, to a Sparkling English Rose – brewed with organic white rose petals and elderflower. 

Stokes Sauces 

The creator of one of the country’s finest tomato sauces –and a whole host of other sauces, condiments, pickles, chutneys, relishes and jams. 

Even ardent tommy k haters have fallen for the charms of the brand’s signature product, which is nothing like the sucrose-sweet varieties the ‘big boys’ make. Darker in colour, and packing in 200g of Italian tomatoes per 100g of sauce, the Real Tomato Ketchup, is rich, deep and delicious. New to the brand is its Stokes Easy range – add-in sauces that include katsu curry and red wine and peppercorn.