IT was Gras for breakfast for the good and the great of the Vale as they marked the start of this year's Asparagus Festival with the Great English Asparagus Run.

The traditional event took place on St George's Day and saw a patriotic - and slightly eccentric - crowd of people gather at the Fleece in Bretforton.

Familiar green faces including Gus the Asparagus man and Eve the Asparagus Fairy joined the Asparamancer, and local dignitaries at the National Trust owned pub for Morris dancing and the first round of Gras was sent on its run.

This year drivers in vintage cars took part in a treasure hunt gathering clues around the Vale before ending up at Broadway Tower, with the first car to finish winning the round of Gras.

The launch of the festival also saw the release of this year's food directory put together by the Transition Evesham Vale, the Ode to Asparagus read by Trevor Harrison, better known as Eddie Grundy from the BBC Radio series the Archers, a song about asparagus performed by Simon Greenhalgh and an appearance by antique expert Trevor Sandon.

Nigel Smith, landlord at the Fleece and one of the Pebworth Morris Men, who entertained guests, said: "It's a great starting point for the year. There is a lot of fun and frivolity to get us going after our hibernation. It's great to see the asparagus season going again.

"The festival and the launch is great because it brings so many people together. Everyone with an interest in the Vale is here."

Henry Sandon added: "It is great to be part of this festival. I have done a few of the runs now. Today I'm travelling in a Rolls Royce."

For the first time this year there will be the AsparaWriting Festival, which will see talks taking place at All Saints Church in Evesham and money raised will be donated to the Bell Tower Appeal.

The big event for this takes place next Thursday (May 1) at 7pm and features Rebecca Tope, famous

for her Cotswolds crime stories.

Then on Wednesday , May 14, 21 and 28 the Asparabus Coach Tours take place, with the Bretforton Silver Band Asparagus Auction on Sunday, May 25, the Asparagus Festival Family Fun Day on Monday, May 26 and Asparafest on Saturday, May 31 until Sunday, June 1.