Saturday, 21 January 2023

Prior Park Revisited

It's funny how you always tend to remember the good bits of a day out. For example, I set off on my revisit to Prior Park Landscape Garden today remembering that it was easy to get there from Bath train station and that the centre of Bath itself is close by, with all the bonus loveliness of that.

What I had forgotten is that Prior Park is at the top of a steep hill. And when you get inside the park, you basically have to walk down the hill again before having to go all the way back up it again. And then when you leave, you have to walk down it again. In short: you basically spend a lot of time on a hill in Bath.

BUT! Don't let that put you off, because it's a lovely place and totally worth the Grand Old Duke of Yorking that you have to do. It was also very, very cold today so I was glad of the exercise, frankly.

I went back to Prior Park Landscape Garden today because they didn't have any scones the first time I visited in 2015 and I'm trying to give every property a fair go before I finally complete this project in February. The gardens were created by an exceptional man called Ralph Allen - you can read all about him in my first post about Prior Park so I won't repeat it here. 

Last week's revisit to Hindhead Commons and the Devil's Punch Bowl had been glorious - it was very cold but very sunny. Today I got the very cold bit:

Palladian Bridge

But it didn't matter. The Palladian Bridge seems to look lovely in all weathers. 

The Prior Park Scone

The main thing I remembered about the Prior Park scone from 2015 was that they didn't have any. What I hadn't remembered (but my original blog post helpfully reminded me) is that I'd taken solace that day in a huge lump of carrot cake. So I was hopeful of some sort of baked treat.  

The other thing I recalled was that the refreshments at Prior Park had been right at the bottom of the hill, about as far away from the entrance as you could get. I had steeled myself for this today, so I was overjoyed when the woman at reception told me they'd moved it and it was now just a few short metres away. 

I walked around the corner and found the promised Tea Shed:

Prior Park Tea Shed

It looked really lovely and inviting, despite the cold. However, I've been on this National Trust Scone Odyssey for a long time now and I can tell when scones are less likely to be on the menu. I prepared for the worst - and was delighted to be wrong. The Tea Shed offered a choice of fruit scone, plain scone or cheese scone. I plumped for fruit.

Prior Park scone

Clearing the frost off the table was a first for this project but it was worth it, because the scone was a triumph. It was very slightly warm and tasted delicious - I did waver very slightly on the score but in the end it had to be a 5 out of 5.

I have to tell you that the city of Bath has form for requiring revisits. My first visit to Bath Assembly Rooms in 2013 ended in scone failure, so the Scone Sidekick and I went back in 2014. On that occasion we had a Bath Bun as well as a scone. Today I decided to buy another Bath Bun for old time's sake - I knew the Assembly Rooms were closed but I thought every bakery in Bath would serve them. Turns out they don't. But Bath is always an excellent day out, so I recommend a visit if you've never been. 

Prior Park Landscape Garden: 4 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Prettiness of work of Jack Frost: 5 out of 5

Sunday, 15 January 2023

Hindhead Commons and the Devil's Punch Bowl Revisited

Let's begin this final year of the National Trust Scone Odyssey with a recap: so far, 243 National Trust properties have been visited. Only one place remains on the 'to visit' list. 

If you're wondering why I don't just go there now and get myself over the line, the final property is the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. And although I live under the Heathrow flight path and could probably get to Belfast quicker than I could get to Ipswich, I mentally need several months' notice if there's a plane involved.

But it's actually very fortunate that I ended up with a few weeks on pause. I started doing my 'scone return' - totting up all the scores over the past 10 years and working out which counties had performed the best etc - when I noticed an anomaly.

Basically, there are a small number of properties that have scored 0/5 for scones over the past decade. I hasten to add that in most cases this is because there never were any scones in the first place - there's no catering at the Beatles' Childhood Homes, for example, or at Carlyle's House in Chelsea. No scones were promised and none were expected, but we went there anyway. So we can discount those.

But there were a tiny number of properties that scored 0/5 for other reasons. One of those reasons was that the cafe didn't have any scones when we visited, even though they appeared to have the facilities to do so. And this is where the anomaly occurs, because Hughenden didn't have any scones when we first went there in 2013, BUT WE WENT BACK in 2014. Hughenden therefore scored 4.5/5 for its scone without any mention of the 0/5 on first asking.

Is that truly fair, I asked myself. Is that truly fair on poor old Chedworth Roman Villa, for example, who might have just been having an off day? 

So, because I'm a conscientious person, I have decided to revisit as many of the should-have-had-a-scone-but-didn't places as I can before the end of February.

Which is all a very long way of explaining why I found myself back at Hindhead Commons and the Devil's Punch Bowl in Surrey today.

Hindhead Commons View

I'm not going to repeat everything I shared on my first visit to Hindhead Commons and the Devil's Punch Bowl. In that first post, you'll find the history of how the place got its name, mixed in with the history of the A3, and some stuff about mist.

I did manage to find the gory stuff this time. There's a really good map that provides walking trails and I decided to change the habit of a lifetime and not pick the shortest one. This meant that I ended up covering a different part of the area and learning a few new factoids.

This celtic cross below, for example, stands on Gibbet Hill, which is the second highest hill in Surrey (after Leith Hill). As the name suggests, it was once the site of a gibbet where murderers were executed and then left to rot as a warning to others. 

Celtic Cross Devils Punch Bowl

The area used to be notorious for highwaymen but the most famous crime was the murder of a sailor by three men in 1786, which is commemorated by the Sailor's Stone:

Sailor's Stone

The men were hung on Gibbet Hill, having been tried by The Reverend James Fielding. He was the local magistrate, although he was also allegedly a highwayman according to the nearby sign, which is a bit baffling. 

The Hindhead Commons and Devil's Punch Bowl Scone

Unusually for me, I was very optimistic that I'd get a scone today. When I went to HCADPB in 2014, the cafeteria was quite big (which is always a good sign) and they did actually have some scones in the oven. I cannot for the life of me remember why I didn't just wait for one. But today I didn't have to wait at all, as they had loads of scones, along with lots of other food.

Devil's Punch Bowl Scone

My heart sank, though, when I cut into the scone. It was quite hard, it fell apart and I wasn't convinced that it was fresh. I was ready to give it a three and just be glad that it was an improvement on zero. 

But it turned out to be delicious. It had probably been baked for a bit longer than necessary, which meant it was slightly dry as well as a bit hard, but it was really tasty. I actually did wonder if it deserved a five but it was just a tad too crusty. 

It's somehow even nicer to find a scone in a place where you failed the first time, so I'll hopefully enjoy these extra few bonus trips.

I'll end with a quote from Hugh Grant. (Well, not Hugh Grant exactly, but the character he plays in Love Actually.) In the voiceover he says "Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport." Let me tell you now: you don't need to go to an airport. Just find a National Trust open space on a sunny day and watch all the people and dogs as they arrive by car, or by bike, or on foot. So much happiness. Especially when you get a scone. 

Hindhead Commons and the Devil's Punch Bowl: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
Dependability of me always having the wrong footwear in January: 5 out of 5

Friday, 30 December 2022

National Trust Highlights of 2022

You have probably gathered by now that I am all about the scones. Anyone who has ever accompanied me to a National Trust property will have turned to me at some stage and said "Shall we have a look around first? Before we have a scone?", at which point they will have seen the look on my face and answered their own question with "OK, we'll have the scone first."


BUT! I visited 30 National Trust properties in 2022 and you don't visit 30 National Trust places without having additional adventures beyond the scone.

So, having already announced my National Trust Scone of the Year, I decided to highlight some of the other lovely things that I found on my NT travels this year.

Non-NT Bonus Attraction of the Year - Winner

It takes a lot of sacrifice and self-discipline to be a National Trust scone blogger. You have to be completely focused and not allow yourself to get distracted. But this year, I did permit myself to go off the NT track to achieve a life's ambition: while I was in Keighley visiting East Riddlesden Hall, I stayed overnight in Haworth, home of the Brontë family. Due to Storm Eunice, I finally reached the museum in the Brontë Parsonage very late in the day but they were still open and let me walk around for ages. The bonus to the bonus was that I then spent a night in Wuthering Heights country with a storm battering at the windows. Highly, highly recommended.

Haworth

Bronte Museum

Non-NT Bonus Attraction of the Year - Runner Up

I love my 19th century literature but you should never turn down the opportunity to meet a 1980s television icon. The Albert Dock didn't disappoint. I went there after my trip to the Beatles' Childhood Homes and it looked almost exactly the same as it did in the days of Richard & Judy, minus the weather map. It was so good.

Albert Dock

National Trust Useful Advice of the Year

The National Trust has given me quite a lot of good advice this year: Don't feed the wild ponies on Lundy Island. Don't allow hateful, homophobic liars to go unchallenged. All very useful. But this, spotted on the wall at Knightshayes in Devon, was my favourite. "Keep Thy Tongue & Keep Thy Friends" - the best advice you'll get this year, or any year. If anyone knows someone on the NT Merchandise team, let them know that I'm in the market for this on a mug, tea-towel and baseball cap.

National Trust Frieze Knightshayes

National Trust Hero of the Year

The easiest award of the year, which is shared by two excellent people. First up: a man who made Twitter brilliant in 2022. In April, Huw Davies set off on a National Trust odyssey that blew my mind - he attempted to visit every single NT property in one year by bike. He talked about his project at the NT AGM in November - you can hear what he had to say here - or you can scroll through his Twitter feed, NTByBike. Amazing work.

But Twitter can also be an absolute hellhole, which is why my joint National Trust Hero of the Year is Celia Richardson, the NT Director of Communications. If she ever gets invited on Who Do You Think You Are, I fully expect her to discover a family tree that includes Viking warriors, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, jazz-hand waggling tap dancers, and stand-up comedians. A total hero.

Scone Companion of the Year

And finally, we come to my Scone Companion of the Year. I had a lot of help in 2022. My family came to the rescue for Sandilands near Mablethorpe. My friend Justine came to Dunstable Downs, while Kathy helped out loads, especially with our trip to East Soar in Devon. Sarah-Jane and Steph stepped in several times, especially for the far-flung properties like Plas yn Rhiw, when I would often lose hope that I would ever finish. I thank them all for their support.

But there's only one man who can win National Trust Scone Companion of 2022, and that is Ole the dog. Ole is like a celebrity to me. His happy little face cheered me up so much back in the tough times of 2020, when his devoted family shared photos of him celebrating VE Day or doing a bit of DIY (see my summary of 2020). I am so grateful to Corinne and Simon for coming to meet me at Dinefwr in November and bringing Ole along - it was the perfect end to the year.

Below is a photo of me excitedly holding Ole's lead with Corinne and Simon. As you can see, Ole took it all in his stride:
National Trust Scone Blogger

And that's it for 2022! Stay tuned for my final visit to the Giant's Causeway in February, after which this National Trust Scone Quest will be complete! In the meantime, a very, very Happy New Year to you all! 

Tuesday, 27 December 2022

National Trust Scone of the Year 2022

It's back! National Trust Scone of the Year is back, back, BACK! I didn't choose a scone of 2020, as I'd only visited a few properties and couldn't face it after ten terrible months. And then I only managed one single scone in the whole of 2021, so any awards that year would have been rubbish.

But I made up for it in 2022. I visited 30 - yes THIRTY! - new National Trust places and found a scone at most of them. I now have only one - yes ONE! - National Trust scone to go and then this project will be complete.

And so, without further ado, here are my top five National Trust scones of 2022, in reverse order:

5. Castle Drogo

At number 5 for 2022: it's Castle Drogo in Devon. It was the last stop on a mini road trip and the clock was showing 3pm by the time I arrived. I'll tell you now that 3pm is basically the witching hour in scone world, as you never know what you're going to get: you might find a scone, or you might be faced with a pile of crumbs and some heartfelt apologies from cafe staff who look like they've fought off a plague of locusts. Anyway: Castle Drogo is a proper tourist attraction with a big cafeteria and the scone was lovely. 

4. Godolphin

I absolutely LOVED Godolphin in Cornwall. There are many, many reasons for this - you can read all about them in the blog post - but to summarise: the scone was top-draw and the cafe is called The Piggery as it used to be a pig sty. 

3. East Riddlesden Hall

I was so desperate to finish this project in 2022 that I went to East Riddlesden in Yorkshire during Storm Eunice. This gave me the added bonus of spending a very atmospheric night in Brontë country listening to the wind absolutely tearing at the windows. It also meant that I probably purchased East Riddlesden's first scone of their entire year, which was a bit of a risk. But it turned out to be delicious.  

2. Ormesby Hall

Ormesby Hall near Middlesbrough gets second place on my list because of its excellent scone. But I loved the place - from its train sets to the down-to-earth brilliance of its former owner, it had so much to offer. It was completely worth the 500-mile round trip - it was one of the longest I've attempted in a single day (only Crook Hall Gardens in Durham, another excellent scone also covered this year, was further).

1. Ilam Park

But my National Trust Scone of the Year for 2022 has to be Ilam Park, Dovedale and the White Peak in Derbyshire. My first outing of the year is usually a complete catastrophe so I'm very pleased that this final year proved to be the exception. It was a fantastic scone that got a unanimous 5 out of 5 from the panel. Well done to Ilam!

Ilam joins an illustrious group of previous winners of this coveted title:

That's almost it for 2022. More importantly, that's also almost it for this entire project. I only have one more scone to go - the Giant's Causeway in Co Antrim will be my 250th National Trust property and will mark the end of this 10 year odyssey. I'm really looking forward to that trip but I'm also really sad that it's almost at an end. 

As usual, my heartfelt thanks go to everyone that has supported this quest this year. I am beyond grateful to everyone that has read the blog posts or been part of the National Trust Scone community on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. Thank you all!

Sunday, 20 November 2022

Dinefwr

So we've come to the penultimate mission of this National Trust Scone Odyssey. Dinefwr (pronounced Din-ever) was left til almost last for one good reason: it was really hard for me to get there. 

But the time had come and I was READY - ready for the 5-hour train journey to the Brecon Beacons, and even more ready for the unavoidable overnight stay, looking forward to the many things I don't get in London - fresh air, total darkness while sleeping, people you don't know saying "morning!" to you etc.

However, I cannot tell you how relieved I was when Corinne, a member of the much beloved National Trust Scone Twitter community, said they'd come with me. By 'they' I mean Corinne, her husband Simon, and my favourite dog in the world, Ole (pronounced Olly).

Dinefwr Castle

Before I get on with the history and the all-important scone, I have to tell you that I set off from my little AirBnB in Llandeilo feeling a lot sadder than I expected. I will 1000% continue to visit the National Trust once this project is finished but this was my 243rd visit and it felt like the end of something.

And then, as I walked up the drive towards the house, I was overtaken by Santa. And then another Santa. And then another, until a whole pack of Santas was streaming past me on a fun run. All that was missing was for them to link arms and start singing Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and I'd have thought it was a set-up.

Santa Fun Run Dinefwr

Anyway. Having been reminded not to take things quite so seriously, let me tell you a bit about Dinefwr:

Dinefwr played an important role in Welsh history
Dinefwr in medieval times was the capital of Deheubarth, one of the largest kingdoms in Wales. Deheubarth had been created by Hywel Dda and included Pembrokeshire, the Gower and other parts of South Wales. It was disbanded in 1197, when Rhys ap Gruffudd (otherwise known as the Lord Rhys) died and split his kingdom between his sons. The Lord Rhys had been one of the most powerful figures in the history of Wales, strengthening his power base during times of Anglo-Norman aggression and building trust with Henry II. That all collapsed after Rhys's death.

The ruins of Dinefwr Castle remain   
The castle was built in the 13th century. It's thought that Rhys Gryg, grandson of the Lord Rhys, built the round tower and curtain walls. The ruined castle today is not National Trust - it's owned by Cadw, the Welsh version of English Heritage - but you can wander round areas of its ramparts.

Dinefwr Castle Inside

Edward I took possession of Dinefwr in 1277
During the conquest of Wales, Edward I took ownership of Dinefwr. Rhys ap Maredudd, the Lord Rhys's great-grandson, tried to take it back but failed and was hanged, drawn and quartered for his efforts.

Gruffydd ap Nicolas acquired Dinefwr but then it went wrong
Gruffydd ap Nicolas took on the lease of Dinefwr in 1440. His grandson, Rhys ap Thomas, sided with Henry during the War of the Roses and the family continued to prosper. But Rhys's son died young and his grandson (also Rhys) made some powerful enemies and ended up being executed for treason. The property was taken by the Crown again.

Walter Rice bought Dinefwr back
Executed Rhys's son, Griffith Rice, was brought up in England, hence the anglicisation of the family name at this point. He started the effort to restore the family's reputation and he succeeded, as his son Walter was knighted by James I. Walter bought Dinefwr castle in 1635. Around 1659 his grandson, Edward, started work on what was to become Newton House: 

Dinefwr Newton House

George Talbot Rice became Baron Dynevor
In 1756, the latest Rice heir married Cecil Talbot, the daughter of Baron Dynevor (the anglicised spelling of Dinefwr). Their son, George Talbot Rice, therefore became the 3rd Baron Dynevor.

Richard Dynevor loved the arts
The ninth Baron Dynevor founded a publishing company, the Black Raven Press, and the Dynevor Arts Festival in the 1960s. He also began negotiations with the National Trust but they proved unsuccessful. The house was sold off before eventually being acquired by the NT in 1990, while Cadw took on the castle.

The Dinefwr Scone

The cafe at Dinefwr is lovely. It's inside the house, with plenty of tables and a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It also has a serving hatch, for anyone looking for a cup of tea on the go. The scone itself was tasty - it wasn't fresh and it fell apart a bit but it had been well-baked. 

Dinefwr Scone

Ole, of course, has been pursuing his own project over the past few years, namely National Trust Ice Creams. I'm pleased to report that he wasn't disappointed today and tucked in with great enthusiasm:

Ole Ice Cream Fan

It was great that Corinne and Simon were part of today's mission because it gives me a chance to thank them. I think I said it all in my National Trust Scone 2020 Review but I'll repeat it: Ole has been the happiest, loveliest presence in the National Trust Scone Twitter Community for years but in 2020 he upped the ante and basically became my virtual support dog. The photos that Corinne shared of him (Ole doing some decorating, Ole celebrating 75 years since VE day etc) made us all a bit more cheerful during a challenging year. I'm very grateful to Corinne and Simon for sharing him with us, and for coming with me today.

Sconepal Ole

I have to say that Dinefwr was a perfect choice for one of my last National Trust scone visits. It gave me a house, a ruined castle, a large estate for walking, a scone, and a very complicated family history that had my brain twisted into knots - pretty much summing up my NT experience over the past 10 years. It was also a really enjoyable day out with lovely friends that I wouldn't have met without this project.

That's 243 properties completed. I now only have the Giant's Causeway to go. I'll be heading over there in the spring. In the meantime, I'm going to give the blog a winter tidy-up and do some looking back on my adventures so far.

Dinefwr: 5 out of 5 
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
Day out with Corinne, Simon and Ole: 500 out of 5

Saturday, 12 November 2022

Sandilands

I was scrolling through social media a few weeks ago when I saw the words "baristas" "training" "National Trust" and "exciting news next week". I don't want to say that I went into a panic but I went into a panic.

I discovered that Sandilands, a former golf course near Mablethorpe that the National Trust acquired in 2020, was opening a temporary tea facility. I went into Sherlock Holmes mode, examining the photos for any signs of scones. 

I couldn't see any. Surely a temporary tea kiosk wouldn't serve scones? The Rules of the National Trust Scone Blog clearly state that if there are no scones, I don't need to include the property in this quest.

But I was wrong. The ever-helpful Sconepals did some slightly more in-depth investigating and let me know that scones were indeed on the menu. There was only one thing for it - I had to go to Mablethorpe.

Sandilands Tea Kiosk
A National Trust tea room on wheels. A potential game-changer.
The National Trust is turning Sandilands into a nature reserve. It will cover 74 acres and will take years to complete. I have to say that although there wasn't much to see, it was interesting to see it in its formative state and know that in a few years it'll look totally different.

Sandilands

However, it does mean that there isn't a huge amount I can tell you about the place today. I can tell you that it was a links golf course with a par of 70 and a standard scratch of 69. I don't know what that latter part means but it might mean something to you.

It's a sad story though, as the golf club had almost reached its 125th year anniversary when it ran into financial difficulties and had to close. It's in a lovely spot though and it's good to know that the National Trust will be looking after it.

The Sandilands Scone

I decided to throw myself on the mercy of my family for this outing. They live in Northamptonshire, which was a blessing - Mablethorpe is one of their 'local' seaside resorts, even though it's over 2 hours away. 

Even so, I broached the subject with a heavy heart, wondering a) how I was going to sell a trip to the seaside in November and b) what I was going to do if they said no. 

But I was in luck, thanks to a very bizarre coincidence. It turned out that my sister's partner had had a dream many years ago that he went to Mablethorpe and journeyed around it on a monorail. He'd been looking for a reason to visit the place ever since and now I was giving him that reason. 

Sadly, I couldn't give him his monorail, as there wasn't one. But we did have the beach, 2p slot machines, a seal sanctuary, fish and chips and a lot more besides. 

Scone Blogger

The main event though was the Sandilands scone. It wasn't fresh but it was big and tasty. For the first time ever though, I found myself paying more attention to the toasted sandwiches that were on offer. In my defence, it was chilly and scones are not known for warming you up on a cold day. 

Sandilands scone

What I am worried about is that, in theory, the National Trust could drag this portable tea room around the UK, parking up near every parcel of land they own, and say "exciting news next week!" and I'd have to go there. I'll spend the rest of my life like one of those tornado chasers in Oklahoma, except with scones. I will never finish.

But let's think positive! With the curveball of Sandilands volleyed into the stands of success, I'm back to just TWO more National Trust properties to go! 

Sandilands: 3 out of 5 today 
Scone: 4 out of 5
Lure of the cheese toasties: 5 out of 5

Saturday, 22 October 2022

Leith Hill Place

Leith Hill Place in Surrey probably wouldn't win any awards for architectural beauty. But it would be a strong contender for the award of Highest Number of Famous People Connected to a Single National Trust Property.

Leith Hill Place

In one building, Leith Hill Place attempts to explain the lives and achievements of three highly distinguished people:
  • Josiah Wedgwood
  • Charles Darwin
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

The Wedgwoods
Let's start with Josiah Wedgwood. Josiah joined his family pottery business in 1744 but in 1759 he set up on his own, determined to do something different with ceramics. His first innovation was creamware (also known as queensware after Queen Charlotte ordered a set). Creamware became an acceptable alternative to porcelain.

But it's jasperware that is most recognisable as a Wedgwood innovation. Seen below, jasperware involved a matt finish in many shades, with relief decorations in white and other contrasting colours. The moral of the story of Josiah Wedgwood is perseverance - it took 5000 experiments to get jasperware right.

Jasperware at Leith Hill Place

The Darwins
Josiah Wedgwood was great friends with the physician and naturalist, Erasmus Darwin. Eventually, Josiah's daughter Susannah married Erasmus's son Robert. Their children included Charles Darwin (who married his cousin, Emma Wedgwood) and Caroline Darwin (who married Emma's brother Josiah). 

Caroline and Josiah bought Leith Hill Place in 1847 - it was Caroline who planted the rhododendron wood. The couple had several children who grew up at Leith Hill. One of those children was Margaret Wedgwood, who married Arthur Vaughan Williams. They moved to Gloucestershire, where Ralph Vaughan Williams was born, but Arthur died when Ralph was only three and Margaret moved her family back to Leith Hill. Margaret stayed at the house until she died in 1937.

Ralph Vaughan Williams
It's actually Ralph (pronounced Raif) Vaughan Williams who gets top billing at Leith Hill Place. 
  • He was born in 1872
  • He started learning piano at the age of five, composing his first piece at six
  • He studied at Trinity College Cambridge, and at the Royal College of Music
  • In 1901, he published his first composition, Linden Lea
  • The Lark Ascending, one of his most famous pieces, was written in 1914 but he decided to enlist in the Royal Medical Corps and went off to war. It was first performed in 1920.
  • He was awarded the Order of Merit in 1935, having declined a knighthood
  • He died in 1958 and his ashes are interred at Westminster Abbey
There's a whole room dedicated to his life and times, and his major works are all listed. I'd studied a piece of RVW music at school but I didn't recognise it in the list. I later worked out that we'd covered The March Past of the Kitchen Utensils, which he composed in 1909. I remain confused as to why we studied something that doesn't even warrant a passing mention at Leith Hill but it's not the first time my education has been found wanting.

His very unassuming practice piano has been returned to Leith Hill Place and if you're a professional pianist they might let you play it.

Ralph's brother Hervey inherited Leith Hill Place from their mother but when he died, it passed to Ralph who gave it to the National Trust. RVW's cousin and friend, Sir Ralph Wedgwood, lived at the property before it became a boarding house for a school. 

The cellar
The signs pointing down to the cellar were a bit ominous - 'go down if you dare' being the general message. But it was OK - the warnings referred to the lack of a handrail and the presence of a few spiders.

However, apart from the spiders the contents were very unexpected - it would have taken me 10 years to predict what I'd find in there and I'd still have failed. The walls are covered in murals painted in the 1960s by some friends of the Wedgwoods. The paintings are copies of those found at Knossos, an archaeological site on the Greek island of Crete. Coincidentally, I visited Knossos in October last year - you can read about that trip to Knossos on my other blog. 

Another item for the list of "Things You Really Didn't Expect to Find at the National Trust".

Cellar murals Knossos


The Leith Hill Place Scone

If it's a scone-with-a-view you're after, then Leith Hill Place is for you. The tea room is inside the house, in what used to be the kitchen, with beautiful views over Surrey. 

My companions today were my sister-in-law, Thelma, and niece, Fay, who have had mixed fortunes on this quest. They loved the town of Rye and Lamb House but were surprisingly harsh on the scones. Croft Castle got a unanimous 5 out of 5 for everything, as did Mottistone Gardens on the Isle of Wight. And then this year Fay was with me at Hatfield Forest for the rare no-scone situation that we won't go into here.

Leith Hill Place Tea Room

Today the verdict was unanimously positive once again. The tea was served in bone china cups, they had decaffeinated tea, the kitchen warmed up the scones as requested, and they were very tasty. A triumph in another property where the facilities are relatively limited but the staff do a fantastic job.

Leith Hill Place Scone

It's also possible to sit outside and enjoy your scones and tea, overlooking the spectacular view -  recommended although maybe not in a downpour like we had today:

Leith Hill tea patio views

I'm going to end with a big thank you to Laura, the brave Sconepal who contacted me on Twitter to tell me that I had missed Leith Hill Place from my list. I had been to Leith Hill in 2015 but Leith Hill and Leith Hill Place are different properties. If you know of any other hidden National Trust properties, let me know!

Leith Hill Place: 5 out of 5
Scone: 4.5 out of 5
Brave Sconepals saving the day: 5 out of 5