Sunday, 30 August 2015

Quebec House

For 41 years, I was entirely ignorant of the existence of General James Wolfe. I started reading up on Quebec House in Kent, where he lived until he was 11, and felt the usual sense of failure that I didn't have the faintest idea who he was. 

And then IN THE VERY SAME WEEK, I was reading Billy Idol's autobiography and suddenly out of nowhere I found myself reading a paragraph about how he decided to name his son Willem Wolfe...after General James Wolfe!!!! WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THAT? And let's face it, when the National Trust aligns with the platinum-haired prince of punk rock, you've got to see it for what it surely is: a sign that you must visit, immediately. So off we went.


Quebec House


The house doesn't open until 1pm but we managed to get on a guided tour that started earlier. Without the tour, I would have spent about 7 minutes wandering around the house looking at muskets before coming away thinking 'that was alright'. With the very excellent tour, I left with a real sense of James Wolfe and the house's history. Here are a few highlights:

The Battle of Quebec
I apologise now to all Canadians, but I had never even heard of the Battle of Quebec. Today I learned that it only lasted 15 minutes in 1759, but it was a pivotal moment in Canadian history. It was fought between the British and French as part of the Seven Years War and it saw the British take control of what had previously been French territory.

Who was General James Wolfe?
James Wolfe had followed his dad into the military at the age of 13. He became famous for his ideas and reforms, both about military strategy and about how officers should treat their men - he even wrote a book on the subject. The Battle of Quebec may have only lasted 15 minutes, but it was long enough for James to be fatally wounded. I found out later that he also fought at the Battle of Culloden, so I hope my dad isn't reading this. 

James Wolfe at Quebec House
James was actually born up the road at The Old Vicarage in Westerham, but he grew up at Quebec House. When he was 11, the family moved to Greenwich. However, he was in the army from the age of 13 so the house was very much his formative home. 

The Death of General Wolfe Picture
The picture of James Wolfe breathing his last reminded me very much of the one of Nelson doing the same. However, Wolfe's picture came first - it was painted in 1770. The original by Benjamin West is in the National Gallery of Canada, but there are plenty of copies around the house - there's even one on a tea-tray. Jacqui the guide explained that his victory/death was a huge national event and there was all sorts of stuff made to commemorate his achievements, from tea-trays to cups and plates.

Death of James Wolfe

Cannonballs
Jacqui pointed out two cannonballs in a display case. They were probably used in the Battle of Quebec, which is interesting enough, but not as interesting as where the National Trust found them: on eBay. And people accuse the Trust of being old-fashioned. 


Quebec House cannon balls

Scones
There were no scones at Quebec House but I wasn't surprised by this, for two reasons: a) I've visited 33 properties in 2015 so far and I haven't had a no-scone situation since my trip to Aberdulais Tin Works in January, so I was due a disappointment and b) my fellow National Trust sconeophile, Pete Duxon, had visited Quebec House in February and noted that it was scone-free. 

By the way, Pete took some really good photos of Quebec House - you can see them here

Anyway, the very lovely staff and interesting tour at Quebec House help to offset the lack of scones - it's definitely worth a visit.

Quebec House: 4 out of 5
Scones: 0 out of 5 (there weren't any)
National Trust's eBay ninja skills: 5 out of 5

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Coughton Court

Here's an interesting factoid about Coughton Court: when it was handed over to the National Trust in 1948, the owners negotiated a 300-year lease for themselves, the longest in NT history. 

I don't know what a normal lease looks like, but to get the National Trust to take on your massive house AND let your family remain in residence until 2248 is impressive. Where are they going to put the flying cars?

In fact, the Throckmortons win the award of Family I Would Least Like To Get Into Bother With. On top of their ferocious negotiation skills, they also spent hundreds of years being Catholic when it was a seriously dangerous business. They were involved in the Gunpowder Plot. Let's just say I don't think they scare easily.

Coughton Court

In fact, I'm going to begin with their Gunpowder Plot connections, because they are AMAZING.

1. Coughton and the Gunpowder Plotters
Consider this: there were 13 conspirators involved in the Gunpowder Plot. Of those 13, a whopping SEVEN were either Throckmorton descendants or they were married to Throckmortons. Here's a quick summary:

  • Robert Catesby = son of Anne Throckmorton
  • Thomas and Robert Wintour = grandsons of Catherine Throckmorton
  • Francis Tresham = son of Muriel Throckmorton (of Lyveden New Bield fame)
  • John Grant = another grandson of Catherine Throckmorton
  • Henry Morgan = married to grand-daughter of Catherine Throckmorton
  • Thomas Percy = father of the grand-daughter-in-law of Anne Throckmorton

It's frankly a wonder that James I didn't go all Herod-like after the plot was discovered and order the extermination of anyone with Throckmorton blood or connections. 

2. Coughton During the Aftermath of the Plot
The story of the Gunpowder Plot is very well-known, but I'll do a recap for anyone else who covered this part of history with a bit of clapping and singing at infant school, but whose subsequent history teachers didn't bother with it.

Basically, Robert Catesby and his cohorts intended to blow up the Houses of Parliament during its opening on 5th November 1605. King James I would be attending the opening, so the explosion would take out pretty much the entire power-base of England, leading to an uprising and the restoration of a Catholic-friendly monarchy. But the plot was foiled, Guy Fawkes was famously caught red-handed, and the other plotters were soon rounded up and killed, or tried and executed. 

Coughton itself was involved in the drama. The wife of one of the plotters, Sir Everard Digby, was staying there, along with two Jesuit priests and Nicholas Owen, the priest-hole builder. Another plotter, Thomas Bates, was sent to tell her that the plot had failed - Thomas probably wasn't able to tell her that she'd never see her husband again, as he would be soon find himself being dragged on a hurdle through the streets of London before being hung, drawn and quartered in front of the crowds that had gathered to see this charming spectacle. 

Anyway, the Jesuit priests, who apparently had not been told of the plot, were incriminated in the plotters' confessions - those confessions having been acquired through slightly different means to a police officer banging quite hard on a table and shouting "tell me the truth, Gunpowder Plotter!" One of the priests did manage to escape to Rome disguised as the captain of a boat carrying pigs, but Father Garnet and Nicholas Owen were eventually discovered at Hindlip Hall - Owen died during torture, while Fr Garnet was executed.

3. Other Throckmorton Adventures
If that wasn't enough excitement for you, here's a quick round-up of other Throckmorton history:

  • The main gatehouse at Coughton was begun by Sir Robert Throckmorton in the early 1500s - he also built the church next door which is well worth a look
  • His son, Sir George, was very vocal in his opposition to Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn and ended up in prison for it. He and his wife had an astounding 19 children and 112 grandchildren.
  • George's grandson, Thomas, rented Coughton to Sir Everard Digby, with interesting consequences (see above)
  • What then followed were 11 more Throckmorton baronets, most of them battling Catholic repression throughout the ages
  • Sir William Throckmorton, who inherited in 1860, restored Coughton and wanted to hand it over to his nephew, Courtenay
  • But Courtenay was killed in Mesopotamia during WWI, leaving a 7-year old son, Robert
  • It was Robert's mother, Lady Lilian Throckmorton, who arranged for the freehold of the house to be handed to the National Trust
  • Her grand-daughter, Clare McLaren-Throckmorton, and family still live in the house

4. The House 
I know I said that I didn't want to get on the wrong side of the Throckmortons, but I have to admit that I came away from the house today feeling that I didn't really understand it. It was only through reading the guidebook afterwards that I realised the nightdress in a glass case had belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. The guidebook also mentioned a famous coat that was produced in a single day by workers on the estate, from shearing the sheep to stitching the cloth, but I didn't see it. I kept thinking how useful an audio guide would have been to help point these things out, but some of the rooms are quite small and it's a very busy property, so maybe that wouldn't work.

I very much liked the views from the top of the tower though:


Coughton view from tower

5. The scones
My heart sank a bit when I picked this scone up. The reason: squidginess. In my experience - and this was my 94th National Trust scone, so I think I can rightfully claim to have some - a squidgy scone often equals a been-in-a-microwave-scone. But I bravely tucked into it anyway and was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was delicious. Even the Scone Sidekick agreed that it deserved top marks.


Coughton Court scone

Until now, I've been loudly proclaiming that Suffolk and York represent National Trust scone nirvana. However, it seems that Warwickshire has been quietly gathering its honours without me really noticing. First Charlecote Park, then Upton House, and now Coughton Court. Put Warwickshire on your maps, scone fans.

Coughton Court: 3.5 out of 5
Scones: 5 out of 5
Gunpowder, treason and plot connections: 5 out of 5

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Best National Trust Scones 2013-2015

If you want to know which National Trust properties serve the very best scones, then you have come to the right place, my friend. Sit back, relax, and chill as I thrill (or something).

This National Trust Scone Blog is two years old today. I created the blog because I was spectacularly failing to visit any NT properties, having signed up for membership in February 2013. And then when I did eventually drag myself 1.5 miles down the road to Osterley House, I literally could not have told you one single thing about the place five minutes after I left it. So I created the blog to force myself to learn something.



Since then I have:
  • Visited 93 properties!
  • Eaten 117 scones!
  • Awarded 32 of those scones 5 stars!
So if you're looking for a show-stopping National Trust scone, here are the 32 properties with 5-star scones, in reverse order of visits:

  • Tredegar House - fantastic scones AND they keep a Dalek in the stables (Doctor Who is filmed there)! 
  • Anglesey Abbey - they have a working flour mill! You can buy bags of flour that you transform into scones that won't be as good as the ones here!
  • Montacute House - they filmed Wolf Hall here! If only Anne Boleyn had been able to bake scones like these, it could all have turned out differently.
  • Goddards - brilliant scones at the house once owned by Noel Terry, of Chocolate Orange fame! There used to be a Terry's Chocolate Apple as well! 
  • Beningbrough Hall - spectacular works of art (and a few pictures on loan from the National Portrait Gallery as well, boom, boom!)
  • Sissinghurst Castle - did you see the scones, Orlando? They were great - and fantastic gardens too, in the former home of Vita Sackville-West!
  • South Foreland Lighthouse - excellent sconeage in this 'shining' example of a National Trust property HA HA! 
  • The White Cliffs of Dover - I didn't see any bluebirds overhead but I did see two very, very good scones. And lots of ferries.
  • Speke Hall - it has the River Mersey, it has a priest hole, it has a baker on Twitter, it has fantastic scones, I LOVED it.
  • Studland Beach - famous for the UK's most popular naturist beach, for inspiring Noddy's Toytown, and now for very good scones.
  • A la Ronde - a round house full of trinkets AND fantastic scones, what more do you want from life? 
  • Upton House and Gardens - a lot of pictures, an outdoor swimming pool, and truly excellent scones.
  • Treasurer's House, York - they had a Christmas pudding scone with brandy butter that I literally still dream about. 
  • Hinton Ampner - lots of sheep and fantastic scones.
  • Uppark - burned to the ground a few years ago while it was open to visitors, but now restored and serving very excellent scones.
  • Stowe - it costs £30,000 a year to attend Stowe school - I'd rather spend that on scones, personally. 
  • Charlecote Park - William Shakespeare was once caught stealing a scone from Charlecote Park. Did I say scone? I meant deer. 
  • Bateman's - "Well I'm the king of the sconers/the tea-room VIP", as Rudyard Kipling would have written if he'd had scones at Batemans. 
  • Claremont Landscape Garden - more of a park than a garden but who's counting - the scones were fantastic.
  • Standen - tests proved that the Standen scone was genetically closer to a cloud than a baked foodstuff.
  • Nymans - another place that burned down (before the National Trust was involved), now serving amazing scones.
  • Waddesdon Manor - they have a mechanical elephant that flaps its ears at Waddesdon but as an attraction it's no match for the top-class scones.
  • Scotney Castle - the scones were EPIC. Scotney also had a Banana and Walnut Scone of the Month and Richard Gere, who filmed Yanks there.
  • Dunwich Heath - they had 20 TYPES OF SCONE at the Sconeathon we attended! Sticky Toffee, Chocolate Orange, Apple & Cinnamon, Malteser... 
  • Morden Hall Park - big, warm, and glazed. 'Morden enough' to warrant a five out of five (ha ha ha! Sorry.) 
  • Sutton House - Sir Ralph Sadleir of Wolf Hall fame built Sutton House - go along and see them bring out the sconies.
  • Quarry Bank Mill - amazing scones in one of the most fascinating NT properties ever - you can even buy a tea towel made in the cotton mill!
  • Flatford Bridge Cottage - we helped bake the scones at Flatford but we gave them 5 because they were mince pie scones and they were ruddy delicious. 
  • Winkworth Arboretum - they keep the excellent scones in a bread bin, which is a very good idea if the quality is anything to go by.
  • Houghton Mill - the Scone Blogger was very hungover but she soldiered on and tried the scone made from home-milled flour, which was DELICIOUS.
  • Brownsea Island - we didn't see any red squirrels, which shows that they don't have very good taste as there was a Sconeathon on the day we visited 
  • Bodiam Castle - our very first 5 out of 5, setting the benchmark for all  
I've worked out that there are 550+ National Trust properties and around 220 of them have tea-rooms. With 93 properties visited, I am 42% of the way there. Eek.

I'd like to thank all of the lovely Sconepals that have supported this odyssey so far. We shall be victorious.

Finally: please leave a comment below and let me know where you've had your favourite National Trust scone. I need guidance on where to start for the last 127.


Saturday, 15 August 2015

Dunham Massey

If this blog ever wins the Pulitzer Prize - you may have to humour me here a bit - I would have to devote a good chunk of my tearful acceptance speech to thanking my long-suffering Scone Sidekick. He puts up with a lot in supporting this National Trust Scone Odyssey. He is the wind beneath my scones.

Today's trip to Dunham Massey was a treat for him, as he is very interested in warry things. Dunham has a colourful history dating back centuries, but in 1917 the owners agreed to turn it into an auxiliary hospital for injured troops. To mark the centenary of World War I, the National Trust has recreated the Stamford Military Hospital, as it was known, and for a short time you can see how it would have looked back then. 

Dunham Massey

Dunham Massey - the history of the estate
The original Dunham Massey house was built by Old Sir George Booth in 1600. The Booths were very involved in politics during the Civil War, just about staying on the right side of things as the tides turned. 

George's great-grandson, Henry Booth, was made 1st Earl of Warrington by William III but it all turned sour and Henry ended up deeply in debt. His son George married a wealthy heiress - although the marriage was unhappy, he saved Dunham Massey. 

George unusually passed Dunham to his daughter, Lady Mary Booth, who married the Earl of Stamford. Their son, George Grey, became 5th Earl of Stamford and Warrington.

The 7th Earl was quite a character - he first married a bedmaker's daughter called Bessy and then a circus performer called Catherine Cocks. She was rejected by local society, so the Greys left Dunham and did not return for 50 years.

The 9th Earl, William Grey, started to restore the place in 1906, but died suddenly in 1910 when his son Roger was just 13. Roger eventually continued the restoration of Dunham but never married and gave the 3000 acre estate to the National Trust in 1976.

Stamford Military Hospital
Dunham wasn't the only National Trust property to be used as a hospital during wartime - Clandon Park created an operating theatre in one room last year in commemoration of their involvement.

But the Trust has really gone one further at Dunham Massey. The Saloon, which usually looks like an Edwardian sitting room full of swagged curtains and polished tables, has been transformed into a 14-bed hospital ward. It smells of antiseptic and there are audio recordings of gassed soldiers struggling to breathe - it's grim but it brings the whole thing to life in a very real way.


There were 3,300 auxiliary hospitals in Britain during the War. Dunham Massey was chosen because it was near Manchester and only three people lived there at the time (Lady Stamford, her son Roger the 10th Earl of Stamford, and her daughter, Lady Jane). Lady Stamford became the Commandant of the hospital, while Lady Jane worked as a nurse.

The very excellent guidebook explains how an injured solider would have made it from no-man's-land to a place like Dunham. He'd have started off being carried by a stretcher bearer to a regional aid post, then he'd have been moved to an advanced dressing station, then a main dressing station, followed by a casualty clearing station, followed by a general hospital and then back to the UK to an auxiliary hospital. How anyone survived that is beyond me. 

And that's actually where the National Trust has done a particularly fine job. It's clear that Lady Jane and the other nurses devoted every single bit of their energy to looking after the men sent to Dunham. And yet you're quietly reminded of the utter futility of the whole thing, thanks to poignant stories of the soldiers that DID survive the journey - one lad went to war when he was 15, got injured and was sent to Dunham to be patched up, only to be shipped back out to the trenches and killed a month before the Armistice. It's a very sobering experience.

The operating theatre at the time was located at the bottom of the staircase and they've recreated that too. The photo below might give you some idea of how incongruous the whole set-up was - the historic grandeur of the house providing a bizarre backdrop to a primitive, yet life-saving medical facility. There's an excellent audio recording of Lady Jane talking about how she assisted with operations, including a gruesome description of trepanning into some poor solider's head. 

Operating theatre at Dunham Massey

And on that totally inappropriate note, I am going to move on to the matter of the scones. It is exactly two years since I started this National Trust Scone Odyssey and I really wanted the anniversary scone to be a good one. 

The Dunham scones were formidable to behold - generously proportioned, very fresh, with a crunchy exterior and fluffy inside. 

Dunham Massey scone

In fact, the only thing that stopped the Dunham scone from getting a 5 out of 5 was the cream. It was a bit odd. The other 80+ NT scones that I've encountered on this odyssey have all come with clotted cream, whereas the Dunham cream looked and tasted like that squirty stuff, ie it tasted of nothing at all. The scone would definitely have benefitted from a bit of a boost but it was a good scone and I was DELIGHTED to see it on this very auspicious occasion.

So I highly recommend that you visit Dunham while the Stamford Military Hospital is still on view - it's only going to be there until October this year I believe, so get along if you can. The National Trust has done an impressive job and it's well worth a visit. 

Dunham Massey: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
Lady Jane's description of trepanning: 0 out of 5 if you're very squeamish

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Tredegar House

I occasionally have moments of doubt about this National Trust Scone Odyssey and whether I will ever finish it. I have started watching YouTube videos of Sally Gunnell talking about how WINNERS must VISUALISE themselves achieving their goals. And I picture myself entering a tea room for the final scone, surrounded by cheering well-wishers, to the theme tune from Rocky while someone shouts "LET'S. EAT. SCONES." into a microphone. 

But then the National Trust ruins it all by taking on another property. They keep doing it. They had around 550 places on their books when I started and around 220 of them had tearooms. Every time they buy another bit of coast or a dovecote I shout "NO! STOP IT, NATIONAL TRUST! I HAVEN'T DONE THE OTHER ONES YET!" but they don't listen. They just keep on rescuing the nation's heritage with no thought for me at all. 

Tredegar House near Newport is a fairly new arrival - it was only taken on by the Trust in 2012 - and so I wasn't sure what to expect. Would the volunteers just shrug and say "I dunno" if you asked them a question? Would there still be a few die-hard squatters barricaded into the Drawing Room, refusing to come out until they were rehoused by the council?


Tredegar House

Well, new property or not, I can tell you now that Tredegar (pronounced Tre-DEE-ga) is one of the best National Trust houses I have ever been to. I'll try and explain why I loved it so much:

The Morgan Family
I do love an NT property that has an 'interesting' family attached to it. Tredegar doesn't disappoint:

  • The Tudor part of the house was built by John ap Morgan, who had supported Henry Tudor in 1485 and was rewarded with local land 
  • The red-brick house we see today was built between 1664-1774
  • It was built for William Morgan who had married his wealthy cousin, Blanche
  • Blanche died and William married Elizabeth Dayrell, who then proceeded to try and murder him - he had her committed to Bedlam
  • The Morgans thrived during the Industrial Revolution, with several Morgans making their mark on the development of Newport
  • Godfrey Morgan, who inherited in 1875, had been one of only two officers to survive the Charge of the Light Brigade
  • Godfrey's income exceeded £1000 a day (that was a LOT of money)
  • Godfrey's nephew Courtenay inherited and set about spending the above-mentioned fortune
  • But it was Courtenay's son Evan who topped them all - this was a man who converted to Catholicism and became a Papal chamberlain, apparently unhindered by the fact that he was a) gay and b) a practitioner of the occult
  • He had many animals, including a baboon called Bimbo 
  • Evan died and the house passed to his cousin John, who couldn't afford its upkeep, so he sold up to some nuns and moved to Monte Carlo
And that was the end of the Morgans at Tredegar. The house became a school, until the council bought the estate in 1974. The National Trust took on the lease in 2012 and have begun the process of restoring the place, starting with a £5m roof replacement project (eek). What a shame Evan spent all those millions on upside down crucifixes and baboon food.

Sir Briggs' grave
One of the volunteer guides pointed out the grave of Sir Briggs in the garden, marked by an obelisk. I should point out here that Sir Briggs wasn't actually a Morgan - in fact, he wasn't actually a human. He was a horse who survived the Charge of the Light Brigade with Godfrey. When the horse eventually died in his 20s, they buried him here. 


Sir Briggs' Grave

A Dalek
I've seen a few National Trust stables in my time, but Tredegar is the first one to keep a Dalek in theirs. This isn't quite as random as it sounds - Doctor Who is often filmed at the house apparently. 


Dalek at Tredegar

Excellent volunteers
I have to say that the volunteers at Tredegar are among the best that I have encountered at the National Trust. They were extremely friendly and helpful, and quick to step in and explain things. The woman that told me about Evan Morgan must have talked about him 1000 times and yet she still sounded genuinely astounded by his shenanigans. 

Welsh cakes in the kitchen 
Just when I thought that Tredegar couldn't get any better, I wandered into the enormous kitchens and found a woman in there making Welsh cakes. As she handed me one, she explained that the baking helped to create a nice aroma of food and it gave little kids a nice treat. Never mind the little kids, I thought, it's a nice treat for me - in fact, I wish every National Trust property served regional baked goods as a nice little treat in the kitchen.

The scones
This was the 92nd stop on the National Trust Scone Odyssey, but only my second foray across the border into Wales. Back in January I had been to Aberdulais Tin Works and spent the entire journey worrying that I would ask for a scone and be chased back across the River Severn by pitch-fork-wielding Welsh people screaming "GET OUT, ENGLISH IMPERIALIST EVILDOER". 

So I was very, very pleasantly surprised to see scones at Tredegar today. And not only did they serve scones but they were EXCELLENT. My scone was one of the best that I have tasted. It was melt-in-the-mouth delicious. 


Tredegar House Scones

This means that I have now had an unprecedented SIX top-scoring scones on the bounce. Although this is a good thing, it brings it own problems; will people think I have lost my critical edge? In the immortal words of Chas n Dave, there ain't no pleasing the National Trust Scone Blogger. 

So I highly recommend Tredegar House - it's a very striking building, in beautiful grounds, with top class scones.

Next week, this blog celebrates its second birthday (I know!) and I'll be sharing my list of the 32 properties that have served top class scones on the National Trust Scone Odyssey so far. Don't miss it!

Tredegar House: 5 out of 5
Scones: 5 out of 5
Bonus Welsh cakes in the kitchen: 5 out of 5

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Anglesey Abbey & Lode Mill

I almost got into a fight at Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge today. I'm actually quite proud that I got this far - Anglesey was my 91st scone mission, which means that 90 trips have passed off without incident. 

Why is this impressive? Well, you only need to read a few TripAdvisor reviews to realise that a National Trust property is chock-full of potential hazards for the easily offended. There are car-parks where someone might take the spot you saw first. There are queues where someone might get served before you. There are people who might look at you funny. You would be amazed at the amount of people on TripAdvisor who give an NT property 0 out of 5 because the woman at reception "was very abrupt SO WE LEFT IMMEDIATELY!!" 

Anyway. There was no punch-up; the police were not called; you will not be required to launch a campaign to free the National Trust Scone Blogger. 


Anglesey Abbey

Part of the problem today was the amount of people - Anglesey Abbey is the National Trust's 10th most popular property and it was very busy. But it's well organised and there's plenty to do. 

A bit of history:
  • Anglesey Abbey is believed to have been founded in 1135 
  • It became a priory of Augustinian monks until the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1536
  • It then fell into the hands of various families - some lived there, some let it fall into disrepair 
  • One owner was Thomas Hobson, who bought Anglesey in 1625 - he used to hire out horses and would allow customers to 'choose' from one horse, thus becoming the origin of the phrase 'Hobson's choice'
  • In 1926 it was bought by Huttleston Broughton, 1st Lord Fairhaven, and his brother as a convenient base for their stud and racing interests at nearby Newmarket 
  • Lord Fairhaven bequeathed Anglesey Abbey to the National Trust in 1966
The house is presented as Lord Fairhaven left it; very much a country estate from the first half of the 20th century. Only the Dining Room remains from the priory days - it was originally built in 1236.

It's a sizeable house and it's full of art and ornaments. There's even a gallery with Lord Fairhaven's extensive collection of pictures of Windsor Castle.

The highlight for me today though was the working mill. I absolutely LOVE a National Trust mill. They are ALWAYS manned by the most enthusiastic, knowledgeable volunteers ever, which explains why we came away laden down with bags of flour "milled just an hour ago!"

I was especially glad to see a mill today because my mother and sister were with me. When I started this project, almost exactly two years ago, I tried to explain the National Trust Scone Blog concept to my sister. She gave me the same pained expression that I have seen many times over the years, the one that says 'please, please let one of us be adopted'. Anyway, back in 2013 I persuaded her to come on an early scone mission to Houghton Mill and she LOVED it, particularly the rotary quern. So she was over the moon to find one at Lode Mill today. That's Christmas sorted.


Scone blogger sister and rotary quern

But onto the scones. Anglesey Abbey is extremely popular with the National Trust Sconepals that I have befriended since I started this blog. Almost every weekend I get sent a photo of someone enjoying an Anglesey scone, although the verdict is not always 100% positive. 

So I was very pleasantly surprised today to be faced with an excellent scone. It was very fresh, it was the perfect size, and it tasted delicious. I'm not sure whether they use flour from the mill - I really hope so - but it was great. Almost worth a scrap.


Anglesey Abbey Scone

Anglesey Abbey: 4 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Enthusiasm of National Trust miller: 5,000,000 out of 5

GUEST POST: Kenny Bear at Sizergh Castle

Visiting National Trust properties is one of my favourite pastimes, especially if the property has yummy scones. It’s one of my ambitions in life to visit all the National Trust properties in England and Wales!

I visited Sizergh Castle as part of my holiday to the Lake District. The ‘castle’ (which is actually more like a stately home) is situated just south of Kendal in the South Lakes. All National Trust Properties are interesting but Sizergh Castle is especially interesting as it has been lived in by the Strickland family since 1239! 

The castle is very impressive. It is very large and it took us around an hour and a half to look round all of it! The castle is home to a number of fantastic Jacobean portraits of the Strickland family as well as a large collection of Australian artefacts, such as a taxidermied platypus and boomerangs which belonged to a Strickland who was also a mayor in Tanzania in Victorian times.

As well as the magnificent house, the grounds of Sizergh Castle are stunning. The castle has the largest rockery owned by the National Trust which is full of colour and beautiful! It was also a very fun place to climb! The vegetable garden was also fantastic. There were some fantastic flowers grown as well as a wide collection of vegetables, including onions much larger than tennis balls! The grounds also had a family of chickens and two hives of buzzy bees! There are also many fantastic walks that you are able to do around the castle and you can visit the bird hide!

Also on the day we went it was Royals and Roundheads weekend. This was really exciting as we got to witness a battle re-enactment including some very loud musketeers! There was also lots of music and food from the time and you could take part in other Roundhead and Royalist activities, such as looking at the armoury. There was also loads of information about the castle in the civil war as the Stricklands supported the monarchy, however many around them didn’t!

Anyway on to the scones! Sizergh Castle has a lovely cafĂ©. It looks quite new, like the shop, and has a wide range of sandwiches and hot meals as well as cakes you can choose. However, it was the scones I was most attracted to! The scone I ate was lovely. It was fresh and fluffy and had a light consistency. It tasted delicious too! However, my only complaint would be that for a fruit scone there wasn’t much fruit inside!



Scones 4 paws out of 5
Sizergh castle 5 paws out of 5
Rockery 5 paws out of 5