FOOD producers will get to showcase their businesses at an event in the grounds of a castle this Easter.

Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland will open its doors to thousands of visitors on Saturday, April 10, when it hosts the Wear Valley Food Festival.

Free guided tours of the castle, cookery demonstrations, family activities and craft stalls will all help pull in the crowds on a day that aims to boost local enterprises.

Organisers hope the festival will build on the success of a similar event held at the Bowes Museum near Barnard Castle last August, which attracted about 7,000 visitors.

Mike Richardson, tourism promotion and development officer for Wear Valley District Council, said: "This should be a really great event for the area, for the businesses represented, for the venue and for the town centre, as footfall will rise."

The festival is one of the main events on the calendar for food producers from the Dales to promote their goods to local people, restaurants, hotels and shops.

Katrina Palmer, co-ordinator of the local food and produce project in Wear Valley and Teesdale, run by Teesdale Marketing Initiative, hopes local people and major buyers will discover what the area has to offer.

She said: "There are some top quality food producers here. Lots of farmers and family businesses have diversified by selling their own products.

"People like to know where their food is coming from and what has gone into it. Those are the assurances you get by using local food producers.

"I expect a really good variety of quality producers to take up stalls, so hopefully they will pick up new trade by selling to local people on the day, who will then continue to support them, and hopefully buyers such as shops and restaurateurs will place orders."

Stallholders lined up to attend the event include Broom Mill Farm, nationally acclaimed for its bacon and sausages, Jenkins and Hustwit, suppliers of cakes to department store Selfridges, and businesses selling organic vegetables, meat and preserves.

Businesses interested in a stall can call Katrina on 07759832234.