Monday, 28 December 2020

Best National Trust Scone of 2020

It has all the elements of a Greek tragedy: I announce in January 2020 that I am going to finish the National Trust Scone Odyssey in the next 12 months. It's taken me seven years so far and this will be the year when I visit the final 30 properties on my list. Several people politely ask if this is a little over-ambitious. "Nooooooo!" I tell them. "I am going to TRIUMPH in 2020!"

Well, we all know how that ended up. But the motto of the National Trust Scone Blog is "NEVER MIND" and we ploughed on together, facing the ups and downs with as much cheerfulness as we could muster.

But when I sat down with a heavy heart to write up the obligatory review of the year, knowing I'd only managed to eat three official National Trust scones so couldn't even stretch to a top five, I realised how many lovely things had happened in 2020. And it's all thanks to the Sconepals.

So here it is - instead of Scone of the Year, here's the National Trust Scone Blogger's List of Seven Lovely Things That Happened in 2020:

7. The Year of 100% Five-Star Scones

The silver lining to my only managing three proper National Trust scones in 2020 is that all three of them scored 5 out of 5 to deliver my first annus hundredpercentus. I started off at Lavenham Guildhall in Suffolk in January for a perfect scone. I then made it to Wentworth Castle Gardens near Barnsley shortly before everything closed down, before making a bold dash to Stackpole in Pembrokeshire when things opened up again in the summer.  

This is how I will remember the scones of 2020 - they were few but they were memorable:

6. The Year of the National Trust's 125th Birthday

Did you, like me, have times this year when you had to sit quietly just to contemplate the magnitude of the utter disaster that was unfolding in front of you? For me, not getting to see Brentford's last game at Griffin Park was such a moment, as was the National Trust's 125th birthday. The one bright spot here is that the NT hadn't actually sent out the invitations confirming which lucky members had had their names drawn out of a hat and would be going to a celebratory Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. (To all of my friends and family who received WhatsApp messages at 3am reminding them to apply and that they would be taking me as their guest if they got through; thank you anyway.) We'll never know who missed out and I'll never know what the scones at BP taste like. 

I received many pictures of the Sconepals' substitute garden parties and they were all brilliant - I'm not sure the Palace could have lived up to some of them, frankly. Special mention goes to Fussy the Explorer (top left below) and to our man Sconepal Ole of the Canine Division. Like Kate Moss getting spotted at JFK airport, Ole's dedication to appropriately regal attire got him noticed by the editor of the National Trust magazine and we were all starstruck to see him in print.

5. The Year I Tried to Bake 50 Scone Recipes in One Day

I am no stranger to the question "What were you thinking?" but I outdid myself in April. I decided to emulate Kristen Wiig in the film Bridesmaids, where she bakes and decorates one cupcake, then eats it. I, however, decided to try and bake one scone from every recipe in the National Trust Book of Scones...and there are 50 recipes. I tweeted the experience, which obviously ended in abject failure. You can relive it here: 50 National Trust Scones in One Day.

4. The Year of the Sconestice at Sconehenge

I must be clear that I didn't invent the Sconestice and Sconehenge. But seeing as I had a fairly large window in my diary in late June, I decided to bake my own prehistoric monument, get up early and experience a Sconehenge sunrise. My efforts, of course, turned out to be rubbish compared to those sent in by the Sconepals that also found themselves with a spot of time on their hands at midsummer. I particularly loved the one that looked like it might transform into a squadron of police cars and the one in a wheelbarrow:

3. The Year of Not-The-National-Trust House Tours 

This one still makes me laugh: several bored Sconepals sent in Not-The-National-Trust tours of their own homes. My own effort included an unkempt lawn, a very poorly stocked shop, and my star attraction: a spectacular water feature, which I have helpfully compared to that at Cliveden to give you some idea of the general theme: 

If you do a search for the hashtag #notthenationaltrust on Twitter you can still enjoy many of the Sconepals' efforts. A few highlights:

2. The Year Sconepal Ole Kept Our Spirits Up

You know when actors win an Oscar and they shout "I love you man!" at a co-star during their acceptance speech and you think 'oh for God's sake stop being so ridiculous'? Well, when the Book of Scones finally wins the Nobel Prize for Literature I will be shouting "I love you dog!" at Sconepal Ole because he has kept me going this year, quite frankly. His marvellous assistant, Corinne, has shared photos of him on Twitter throughout the year, celebrating VE Day (middle top below), doing a spot of DIY, going to Scotland before lockdown (middle centre and bottom), enjoying the summer, enjoying Christmas, not enjoying a bath, and getting his deserved moment of fame in the National Trust magazine. He has never failed to make me laugh. To Corinne and her husband: a heartfelt thank you for sharing Ole with us. 

1. The Year of Amazing Sconepals

Which brings us to the biggest highlight of 2020: the enthusiastic home-baking of scones that took off during the first lockdown. You can see pictures of all 275 scone bakes here. Every single picture was brilliant but three stuck out for a special mention:

The Moomin scone from Catherine:

The Googly-eyed Chocolate scone from Jo:

And finally, my favourite picture of 2020. Sent in by Dr Joe Flatman, I named it "The Green, Green Grass of Scones" as it evokes so much: the sun so bright yet casting prison bar shadows onto a lawn this is actually a carpet. The scones looking spectacular, yet served with gin jam because, well, coronavirus. The perfect picture for a year that promised plenty, denied us all so much, and yet we persevered.

In all seriousness, I know this has been a very difficult year for many of you. To all affected by redundancy or work shortages, this will not last forever and brighter times lie ahead. Here's to a happier 2021.

Until then, I say a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone that is part of the National Trust Scone Community. Thank you for sharing your pictures, thank you for making us all laugh and for laughing at each other (in a good way), and thank you for the scones. You have helped to make 2020 bearable for everyone else.

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Your Best Christmas at the National Trust?

What's the best Christmas experience you've ever had at the National Trust? I've decided to do a festive retrospective because, frankly, I can't face doing a Sconepals' Poll Winners Party this year. 

Below are my favourites but it's yours I'm interested in - please add them in the comments below or tweet them to me. 

Flatford Bridge Cottage, 2013

I went to Flatford in November, but it still counts as a festive experience because they let me bake Mince Pie Scones. I remember getting the email inviting me along and thinking that the properties allowing me behind the scenes to do baking/meet the chefs was going to potentially compromise the integrity of the blog. I needn't have worried as I remain untroubled by any similar invitations, which is hilarious. Actually, Greys Court did invite me to do baking but that was a bit different. Anyway. One of my best days ever.

Polesden Lacey, 2013

It was the first year of the blog and the Scone Sidekick and I arrived at Polesden Lacey completely unprepared for what we found: it was absolutely mobbed. They had gone all out for the festive season; a choir, Christmas lunches, mulled wine and a sleigh ride pulled by these two magnificent reindeer (ahem): 

Hughenden, 2014

We'd been to Hughenden the year before and they - steady me, someone - didn't have any scones. So we went back at Christmas time because I'd been told that they decked the place out in true Victorian style. It was beautiful and well worth the return visit (and they did have scones the second time round).

Treasurers House, 2014

I've told this story so many times: I'd heard that Treasurers House in York was doing Christmas Pudding Scones, so I schlepped up there in the fog on a cold late November day wondering what on earth I was doing. The rest is history: the sublime scone with brandy butter will probably never be surpassed. I even went back in 2019 and recorded a podcast with the wonderful team AND I created a full York Christmas Pudding Scone Itinerary (and I don't do that for every scone).

Please send me your Christmas National Trust memories - if you have any photos to go with them, even better. I'll add them to this blog.

In the meantime, what will 2021 bring?

I set out so full of bravado back in January. I was sure I was going to finish this National Trust Scone Odyssey in 2020. I made it to Lavenham Guildhall and Wentworth Castle Gardens before the world closed down. I later managed to escape my house and make it to Stackpole before the world closed down again. 

Rest assured that the very day my vaccine 'sets' (or whatever vaccines do when you have to wait for them to kick in), I will be getting in my Fiat 500 and roaring off down the motorway to Castle Drogo, Dolaucothi, Ilam...all of the places below. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Colby Woodland Garden

If yesterday's trip to Stackpole was a highpoint in the annals of the National Trust Scone Odyssey - my first post-lockdown scone, 199 days in the waiting - then today was...well, let's just say it wasn't a highpoint. Anything that involves sheeting rain, no scone, and an AA man fixing your hired Toyota Aygo in a car park is unlikely to be a highpoint of anything.

But! Our motto here in NT Sconeworld is NEVER MIND and, anyway, I didn't actually need to visit Colby Woodland Garden in Pembrokeshire at all - it was a bonus. The Bothy tearoom is tenanted and I took the decision ages ago that tenanted cafes would not be a mandatory part of this quest. But I was in the area and I'd heard great things about the place so I decided to drop in.

Colby Woodland Garden

The first mistake I made was to save the scone until after my walk. I never, ever do this - it's Rule 1 in the Scone Blogger Handbook: Eat Scone As Soon As Possible. The second mistake I made - and this is the one that I believe angered the Scone Gods - was I bought a cup of tea and a piece of apple cake to sustain me. WHY? Why did I break with years of best practice? I don't even like apple cake.

It all went downhill from there. I trudged off into the torrential rain, noting the signs about keeping two metres apart. I needn't have worried; there was hardly anyone else there.

National Trust Two Metres Sign

There were other signs advising that a one-way system was in place. This troubled me immediately. I had no idea how long the woodland walk was - what if it stretched for 20 miles and I was stuck on it for days with no way of legally turning back? It turned out I was right to be worried; I stuck to it so diligently that I soon found myself walking out of the estate altogether and down to the nearby seashore at Amroth. 

On the plus side, Amroth had a bus shelter,
which came in handy while I spoke to the AA

There had been no phone signal on the Colby estate and as I walked down into the village my phone suddenly burst into life with voicemails and texts. I sat in the bus shelter while I spoke to the car hire company - the light that kept flashing on was indeed potentially a problem so the AA were on their way. I beetled back to the car park and spent the next 20 minutes sorting out tyre pressure.

I could, and should, have gone back for my scone but I was soaking wet and extremely miserable. I'm not giving up though! I will claim my bonus Colby scone before the week is out!

Part Two...The Return to Colby Woodland Garden

True to my word, I made it back to Colby Woodland Garden on my final day in Pembrokeshire. The rain was (just about) holding off and I was 100% clear on what was needed: I went straight into the Bothy tearoom and ordered my scone.

Things didn't bode too well: a microwave was involved and when I tried to cut the scone it disintegrated into about 12 pieces. However, I have stopped worrying about microwaves ever since my niece asked for her scone to be heated up at Croft Castle. It must be very tiring working in a National Trust cafeteria.

But in fact the scone was delicious. Just the right amount of fruit, sweet and tasty, it was well worth the return trip.

Colby Woodland scone

Colby Woodland Garden: 4 out of 5
Scone: 4.5 out of 5 (a bit crumbly but very tasty)
Worthwhileness of the return trip: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, 29 September 2020


2020 was supposed to be the final glorious year of the National Trust Scone Odyssey. I'd visited 208 properties over the previous six and a half years, with 30 NT cafes still to go. Seven years felt like a suitably noble amount of time to be labouring on a quest. And even though concerned viewers were asking "Are you sure you can do this? Maybe give yourself a bit longer?" I was very confident - I'd completed 26 visits in one single barnstorming month in 2019, so I knew victory was within my reach.

The year started well - too well - with a successful outing to Lavenham Guildhall in January. By then, news of a virus coming out of China was starting to build. When I suddenly fell ill in late February, with a high temperature and a bad cough, my boss surprised me by suggesting I ring 111. "Have you been to China recently?" they asked. "I haven't been to China at all?" I replied. "Then you don't need a test." I recovered and a few weeks later made it to Wentworth Castle Gardens just before the lockdown shutters descended.

You can read the 'What We Did During The Lockdown' blog post here - in brief, we acquitted ourselves extremely well in NT Sconeworld.

Nonetheless, June 12th is marked clearly in my memory; it was the day that the first real National Trust scone was spotted in the wild (at Mottisfont). NT scones were BACK. 

But although they were BACK, things had changed. If any of us had been handed a National Trust scone in a cardboard box eight months ago, there would have been uproar. "In a BOX??" we'd have boomed, like Lady Bracknell and her handbag. And yet here we were: sightings of scones in takeaway cardboard and cellophane wrappers were being greeted with mass rejoicing.

Unfortunately, I was too busy at work to go and find any NT scones for myself. So I made the decision that, when the time came, I would go all out. I picked a property that was furthest away; 240 miles away in fact, in Stackpole in Pembrokeshire. 

Was I rewarded for my efforts? YES I WAS. I bought my scone from the Boathouse Cafe at Stackpole Quay and carried it reverentially outside. I knew with one glance it was going to be good. It was also warm, as I'd eagerly turned up 10 minutes after the place opened.

Stackpole scone

It was a divine scone. It was also a brave scone - it was dangerously unsweet, relying on the fruit and the jam to provide the sugar. But it worked. It was unusual, delicious and very memorable.

It started raining but nothing short of an earthquake was parting me from a scone I'd waited 199 days for. I defiantly put my hood up and kept going. A woman nearby said "well, it's not SUPPOSED to be raining" and everyone else stayed put too. They're made of stern stuff in West Wales.

And that's where my first visit ended. I'd decided to walk to Stackpole  - not the full 240 miles, I hasten to add, just 2.5 miles from Freshwater East where I was staying. Regular viewers will know what's coming; the Scone Blogger's boots were made for London. I soon found myself slipping down muddy gradients in a pair of completely unsuitable trainers as I huffed and puffed along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk. (Other tales of walking disaster are available at Lydford Gorge, Longshaw, and Saltram.) 

Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk

This meant that when I reached Stackpole I had absolutely no interest in going any further as I knew I had to trek the 2.5 miles back.

Luckily I was staying in Pembrokeshire for the week, so a couple of days later I went back. The Stackpole Estate is very large so you either need to park up and walk for the day or be prepared to drive to a few different spots. 

Here are the highlights:

Stackpole Court

Here it is, folks - a picture of what the world would look like without the National Trust:

I'm vastly oversimplifying things here. However, in a month when the Trust has come under huge amounts of criticism, it felt very apposite that I'd get the chance to walk up a grand set of steps to see...absolutely nothing. Stackpole Court was pulled down in 1963. Built in 1735, it had fallen into disrepair after the Second World War, like so many stately homes, and was demolished, like 1200 others. You can read about other lost houses at Clumber Park and Fell Foot.

Without the Trust, a lot of other houses, buildings and estates would have gone the same way. And while everyone should have the right to raise concerns if they don't agree with how things are being run at the NT, cancelling your membership will achieve two things: a) you don't get to go to National Trust properties anymore and b) the Trust has less money, so is even less likely to do the things that you think are important. So on balance, I'm not sure it achieves very much at all. 

Bosherton Lakes

The lakes were built between 1780 and 1860 as a focal point of the estate. Today they're known better as Bosherton Lilyponds. I mean this as a compliment but the area felt more like a swamp in the Florida Everglades than a lake on a National Trust estate in Wales. I genuinely expected to see a gator sunning itself among the greenery. A very beautiful spot. 

Bosherton Lilyponds

Beautiful as they were, though, my visit to the the lilyponds was accompanied by a very incongruous soundtrack of machine guns firing away in the distance - I assume it's from the Castlemartin Training Area owned by the Ministry of Defence.  

Stackpole Beaches

There are three beaches on the estate - Barafundle Bay, Broadhaven South and Freshwater West. I'd seen a sign for Barafundle Beach at the cafe on my first jaunt, although when I looked it up on Google Maps it was billed rather rudely as a "modest bay". But I couldn't resist going back to the Boathouse Cafe again, so I decided to pick up a scone and a cup of tea and wander off over the clifftop to see what it was like.  

My advice to you: ignore Google Maps. Barafundle is a stunning little spot. I made my way down from the clifftop and ate my scone by the sea. I risked everything to take the picture below, by the way; I could see a dog doing the maths to work out if he could run up to me, snatch the scone, and get enough purchase on the sand to make his getaway. He wisely decided against it.

Barafundle beach scone

So there you have it: a fantastic scone to restart the National Trust Scone Odyssey. Obviously I won't be finished this year but it feels like a step in the right direction.

Stackpole: 4 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Scone Blogger's performance on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Walk: 1 out of 5 

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Best National Trust Scones 2013-2020

Happy Birthday to the National Trust Scone Blog! Seven years old today!

  • 210 properties visited!
  • 83 have delivered a 5 out of 5 top-rated scone!

National Trust Scone Blog Birthday

It's seven years since I decided that enough was enough: we had joined the National Trust but failed to actually use our membership. If I write something down I remember it, so I decided to document each visit and reward myself with a scone.

I had decided that 2020 would be my final hurrah - seven years seems like a suitably noble amount of time to spend on a quest. But then the small matter of a global pandemic came along and thwarted my plans. I still have 28 properties left to visit (I'm only visiting the ones with a cafeteria) and I'm hopeful of fitting a few in but I think 2021 will need to be my year instead.

But let's not dwell on the bad! In time-honoured fashion, here is the National Trust Scone Blog Birthday Honours List - the 83 properties with 5-star scones, in reverse order of when I visited:

  • Wentworth Castle Gardens - little did I know when I set off for Barnsley in March that it would be my last National Trust scone for months. Lucky I ate two.
  • Lavenham Guildhall - it hasn't always had the happiest of histories but the scones made me very cheerful indeed. Absolute perfection.
  • Fell Foot - my attempt to eat three scones in one day in the Lake District got off to an promising start at Fell Foot. It subsequently won Scone of the Year 2019.
  • Cotehele - here's a top tip: it always bodes well when the property has a mill that produces flour for the scones. 
  • Buckland Abbey - previous owner Sir Francis Drake might have a bit of a questionable history but there was nothing questionable about the scones.
  • Antony: I loved Antony. I loved the name, I loved the house, I loved the scones, and I loved the fact that there's a street called Sconner Road nearby (check the photos).
  • Florence Court - located near a mountain where a legendary horse appears every July to talk to people (and have a scone I hope, as they're good).
  • The Argory - you can get there by canoe but however you get there, make sure you have one of their superb scones. 
  • Dudmaston - there was a wand workshop going on when I visited and the scones had  indeed been touched by magic.
  • Arlington Court - see the house, visit the National Trust Carriage Museum, but definitely don't miss the excellent scones.
  • Dunster Castle - a very old estate with a working water mill, a leather room, and very good scones.
  • Watersmeet - the beautiful place that inspired me to keep going with the National Trust Scone Blog did not disappoint. Excellent scones.
  • Mottistone Gardens - Benedict Cumberbatch wasn't there but we did find some very superb scones.
  • Kinder, Edale, and the Dark Peak - the Pennypot Cafe is next door to Edale station. Kinder Scout is not. But we all know which part of the property is most important.
  • Erddig - donkeys, a thief housekeeper who stole £30,000, and fantastic scones can all be found at Erddig.
  • Oxburgh Hall - everybody loves a moat and everybody good scones. Oxburgh has both.
  • Croft Castle - Owain Glynd┼Ár may be buried under the floor but they don't bury the scone baking talent at this cosy castle.
  • Nunnington Hall - I went to try and solve a mysterious peacock murder case and found some very excellent scones.
  • The Workhouse - I was certainly tempted to say "please, sir, I want some more" but I restrained myself, although the scones were excellent.
  • Shugborough Estate - the ancestral home of society photographer Patrick Lichfield was a picture! Ha ha!
  • Chirk Castle - murder, scandal, adultery, violence, great's all going on at Chirk.
  • Mount Stewart - its one-time owner, Viscount Castlereagh, was none too popular, but the scones were certainly popular with me.
  • Peckover House & Garden - Lonely Planet has just announced that a cream tea at Peckover is one of the top eating experiences in the world! I concur!
  • Clumber Park - it might have lost its house to the demolition men but Clumber offers beautiful gardens, a beautiful lake, and beautiful scones!
  • Wicken Fen - home to 9,000 species of wildlife, flora, fauna and a first class species of scone! Bravo.
  • Berrington Hall - even Capability Brown couldn't improve the scones at Berrington Hall - they were berri-good!
  • Tyntesfield - maybe one day someone will describe Tyntesfield without saying "the man who built it made his money from Peruvian bird poo" but that day isn't today. The scones were a bird poo-free zone.
  • Sudbury Hall - a great house AND the Museum of Childhood starring Sooty and Sindy AND an outstanding scone! What more do you want from life.
  • Melford Hall - famed for its celebrity resident, the original Jemima Puddleduck! Her views on scones are not known.
  • Wallington - the former home of Charles Edward Trevelyan, the third most hated man in Ireland (after Oliver Cromwell and Thierry Henry), who was name-checked in The Fields of Athenry.
  • Belton House - the kids book and 80s TV show, Moondial, was set at Belton! And when I tweeted that I'd been there, the actor who played Tom responded! Fantastic.
  • Felbrigg Hall - poor old William Frederick 'Mad' Windham - all he wanted to do was dress up as a train guard and blow a whistle on the station platform at inopportune moments. Instead he ran up huge debts and lost Felbrigg. Amazing scone. 
  • Hidcote - a beautiful garden built by "a dull little man" according to James Lees-Milne but we loved it AND we loved the scones!
  • Plas Newydd - a fantastic scone on Anglesey! We only really went there to see the Victorian dude who dressed like Noddy Holder 50 years before Nodders was born!
  • Dyrham Park - superb scones AND free 17th century hot chocolate (the recipe is from the 17th century, not the actual hot chocolate)!
  • Trengwainton Garden - the 5th NT scone we'd eaten in 48 hours during our Tour of Cornwall and it was FAB!
  • Trerice - a quiet little manor house near the not-so-quiet town of Newquay, with AMAZING scones!
  • Trelissick - the house may be relatively new to the NT but they've certainly got to grips with the scones!
  • Boscastle - a little Cornish fishing village that was almost washed away in 2004 - unusual scones but absolutely top-rate!
  • Acorn Bank - the third top-class scone on the Spring Tour to the Lake District!
  • Wordsworth House - I was moved to compose a poem about the Wordsworth House scone - I expect a call about being Poet Laureate any day!
  • Saltram - everything went wrong on our first trip of 2016, apart from the scone!
  • Fountains Abbey - it was in the video for Maid of Orleans by OMD! And it had fantastic scones!
  • Lanhydrock - our first foray into Cornwall and we were not disappointed! Fantastic scone!
  • Biddulph Grange Garden - they had a singing tree and a golden water buffalo but nothing could upstage the scones!
  • Nostell Priory - one of the best properties EVER with THREE types of scone!
  • Coughton Court - 7 of the 13 Gunpowder Plotters were Throckmortons! Somehow they kept hold of Coughton and are still there today! 
  • 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!
  • The White Cliffs of Dover - I really was inspired to ransack the Vera Lynn back catalogue and sing "we'll meet again" to the WCoD scone - it was that good. 
  • 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? 
  • Treasurer's House, York - they had a Christmas pudding scone with brandy butter that I literally still dream about!
  • 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!
  • 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 - a very understated place - not a fridge magnet to be had - but serving fantastic scones!
  • 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!  

You can marvel at all 183 scones on PinterestThere's also a National Trust Book of Scones, which is available in NT shops or on the internet.

My ever-lasting affection and thanks, as ever, go to all of the fantastic Sconepals that send in photos and show ongoing support and enthusiasm for this mad project. Keep sharing your National Trust scone sightings, either on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram. I love them. 

Sunday, 19 April 2020

50 Scones In One Day

It was my lockdown gift to myself: a challenge to bake one single scone from every recipe in the National Trust Book of Scones IN ONE DAY. 

Why? Why would I attempt such an audacious, some would say pointless, exercise? I was actually feeling quite confident about it. On the plus side, we were four weeks into COVID lockdown part one and I was very bored with lots of time on my hands. 

On the less plus side, there are 50 recipes in the National Trust Book of Scones and the country was facing a national flour shortage at the time. 

How did I get on? You can relive the experience below, using the tweets from my live Twitter stream, or read the Twitter thread itself.

We’re underway here at National Trust Scone Blogger Towers. We’re following in the path of Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids and baking one single scone from every recipe in the Book of Scones (until we run out of flour).

A weird feeling weighing out 5g of walnuts and then an even weirder one of seeing one single scone sitting on the worktop but we’re underway and motoring.

Three scones in and first measuring calamity; I put the zest of a whole lemon into the mixture for one scone. Never mind, I like them zesty.

So this is what happens when you put 10x the amount of lemon zest into the mixture for a single scone.

Four scones complete. I’m just off on a quick break to ask myself why I’m doing this, then I’ll be right back to continue the challenge.

We’re back. A quick summary of what we’ve learnt so far: 1. Scones are sociable. They don’t like to be baked alone. 2. Scones are impatient and do not want to wait for a completely different scone to be prepped to join it in the oven. 3. This is a challenge. Onwards.

I feel like I’m doing a marathon and you’re all waiting by the side of the road for me to appear, with increasing levels of concern as I stagger past with 20 miles still to go. Anyway. I’m still going. Stand by for the next four.

Four more scones! That takes me to...eight. *cries*

For anyone still following: 1. It is impossible to cut marshmallows with a knife. If you can’t get mini ones, pull large ones apart by hand. They look like used chewing gum in your mixture but you’ll still be sane. 2. Have a bomb disposal expert handy to handle the cocoa powder.

Four more scones make it to the podium, taking us to 12 (yay) out of 50 (gah).

Flour supplies are dwindling. I won’t lie to you - I tell you this with some relief.

Four more plucky scones are shepherded over the line! SIXTEEN!

And it’s all over! The flour supply is exhausted! The Scone Blogger gave it her all to get two final scones onto the scoreboard but she’ll be disappointed at having to finish on 18.

Team photo: Cheese, Fruit, Triple Choc, Lemon, Fig/Walnut/Orange, Apple/Cinnamon, Blueberry/Lemon, Maple/Walnut, Ginger/Treacle, Lemon/Coconut, Cherry/Vanilla, Choc/Orange, Raspberry/White Choc, Earl Grey, Hazelnut/Blue Cheese, Cherry/Almond, Stilton/Cranberry, Choc/Marshmallow.

I have sometimes found myself wondering whether I should try and complete the task by baking the other 32 in a single day. 18 scones was really quite pathetic and I'm sure I could do better. And then I come to my senses and realise that with a first tweet at 7.41am and a final tweet at 6.39pm, I'm not sure the flour was the problem.