How to have a ‘free’ break in Norfolk

Algy and Amy Garrod on pizza duty. Photo: Mark Fitch

Algy and Amy Garrod on pizza duty. Photo: Mark Fitch - Credit: Archant

Mark Fitch discovered the world of ‘night stopping’ with a stay at Algy’s near Dereham.

Mark and campervan at Algy's Farm Shop. Photo: Mark Fitch

Mark and campervan at Algy's Farm Shop. Photo: Mark Fitch - Credit: Archant

This month I am offering something of a public information service. It’s a two-parter, so if the first doesn’t currently or potentially apply to you, do read on for the second.

In a couple of previous articles, I have made mention of our VW camper van. We’ve had it nearly a couple of years now and I have to say the experiences have been great. Holland last Easter was probably our best; Glastonbury (not for the festival, your Editorship - oh no, not me) this summer was probably our favourite this side of the Channel. Staycations are obviously on the rise, and camp/camper/caravan sites have been in high demand. So, when an alternative presented itself, albeit specifically for the motorhomers among us, I thought it would be right to share.

The scheme is called Brit Stops. There are now, in the UK and Ireland, over 1,000 places that will allow you to stay for a night on their premises. What I love is that you have to buy the book (around £30) to know where these places are, but the stay over is free! Just one night, so long as there is space (you telephone ahead to check - yes, the whole system works without the internet) and you will probably have to live ‘off grid’ - motorhoming spiel for no electricity hook up and dealing with your own waste. But it doesn’t cost you a bean. But here is the thing; because it’s free, you want to spend your money with your host.

Most places in the book are pubs. Our first try was, however, at Algy’s Farm Shop, near Bintree. Now, the astute among you will be thinking... hang on a minute, it’s all secret! It’s OK, I obtained permission from Steve and Mandy, who have been running Brit Stops for 10 years now, to give up this snippet of info (and so avoid a rather short Fitch in the Kitchen.)

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We chose Algy’s because we saw on Friday nights during the summer that he was baking his own pizzas in his wood fired oven. I, like many I suspect, know the farm best for its pumpkin extravaganza and its popcorn. More on both of them later.

On our night, the man himself, Algy Garrod, was being assisted by his daughter, Amy. And a fine team they made; Algy on the metal paddle and Amy making them up. The pizzas are the definition of thin and crispy and Mrs F’s dairy and gluten-free intolerances were handled superbly - in fact, Amy’s buckwheat base, I have to say, beat my own best effort thus far. I have been asked to mention Annabel, Amy’s sister, who is part of the team. I also saw mum in the farm shop.

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After a good night’s sleep in the vicinity of the chickens, who, as promised, had put themselves to bed without any kind of kerfuffle, we had our cup of tea and then departed, but not before a look around the farm shop. My basket was filled with several tubs of popcorn, flavours of which include Algy’s revenge (chilli), salted caramel and the sublime lemon meringue - all cooked on site.

The Friday night pizzas may extend to October, but if not, the oven will be at full throttle during the pick-your-own pumpkin bash throughout October half term.

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