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The English summer just isn’t complete without a traditional summer fete – and no summer fete can ever truly call itself English unless it’s splashed with rain.
So it all came together beautifully here at Titchwell Manor on July 23rd. The crowds came, undeterred by the weather, to enjoy what has become a hugely popular fixture in the north Norfolk calendar over the past five years.
As soon as the sun came out – which it did as promised at 3pm! – the apple bobbing started in earnest amidst gales of laughter and lots of extremely wet hair and clothes. Sales of our ManorMade ice cream flew, we mopped down the bouncy castle, the sandpit buzzed with construction activity (a young lady called Daisy won the competition and a £40 voucher to spend at our fish and chip shop), and my daughters, Jemima and Verity, poured endless cups of their delicious lemonade. Faces were painted – there were butterflies, pirates, and of course glitter galore – and plates were piled high with delicious treats from the kids’ healthy buffet.
Over in the grown-up corner, it was all about the food and drink, with magnums of delicate, crisp Château de Campuget Rhone Valley rosé emptying fast, and my team preparing countless glasses of Pimm’s.
The guys from the Dabbling Duck just down the road in Great Massingham cooked up an array of delicious plates, including sweet potato gnocchi with smoky Mexican black-eyed beans and chimichurri, and a fabulous honey pannacotta with honeycomb and bee pollen. Richard Golding’s (Market Bistro, King’s Lynn) poached chicken and fresh garden peas dish went down a storm, as did his home-smoked salmon, while Fran Hartshorne brought a taste of the sea from the White Horse at Brancaster Staithe with her lime-cured mackerel with apple, walnut, celery and beetroot, and tiger prawn bao buns.
Catherine Temple – the brilliant star behind Mrs Temples cheese – had the crowd in fits as she recounted stories of derring-do in the dairy, while Cyril and Ben Southerland, legendary fishermen from Brancaster Staithe, shared their expertise in shellfish – oysters in particular on this occasion. Mark Hayward of Dingley Dell Pork talked flavour, welfare and all things piggy as our head chef, Chris Mann, cooked up some incredible cuts of pork which were handed round the crowd to taste. Charlie Hodson’s love for Norfolk produce shone as he demonstrated with inimitable enthusiasm how to make his award-winning sausage roll.
And then there was the hot dog eating competition, brilliantly compered by Dingley Dell Mark… Ten brave contestants, including my daughter Jemima, head chef Chris, and Richard from Market Bistro, tackled heaps of sausages, plus buns and ketchup, but they were all beaten by Dom from the Dabbling Duck who managed to consume a staggering 3 supersized hot dogs in less than 3 minutes. I bet none them want to see another hot dog all summer!
Thank you to so many local businesses for such enthusiastic support for our Summer Fête. It was great to have Thornham Deli there with their gorgeous homewares and scrummy biscuits, chocolate and chutneys, Bells and Whistles who set up shop in the summer house to sell all manner of children’s wear, games and toys, and of course representatives of the Norfolk Hospice, Tapping House, our chosen charity this year.
Who needs roaring sunshine to have a successful summer fete? We certainly didn’t! Thank you to everyone for coming, and we look forward to welcoming you back to do it all again on July 22nd 2018, come rain or shine!

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