Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Pentire

I have been very successful so far on this National Trust Scone Odyssey. I have very rarely failed to find a scone. I had a few near misses earlier this year, what with bad weather forcing early cafe closures and good weather forcing other people to buy all the scones before I got there, but it has always worked out OK.

My luck ran out today though. I was planning to visit Pentire in Cornwall on Tuesday but noticed on the website that the tea kiosk was going to be closed. I probably tempted fate by enthusiastically praising my own cleverness for avoiding disaster, because I moved the visit to Wednesday...and it was still closed.

Pentire Cafe
You can't win 'em all

But the sky was blue and the sun was shining so I set off for a lovely walk towards Pentire Point. 

Pentire in Cornwall

It was only when I got home that I realised the war poem 'For the Fallen' had been composed by Laurence Binyon while he was sitting on the cliffs between Pentire Point and The Rumps. There's a plaque that I completely failed to see, which features the most famous verse: 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

The National Trust once again providing surprises where you least expect to find them. 

Be reassured that I did get a scone today - I had added Carnewas at Bedruthan to my itinerary as a bonus stop on my mini road trip and the scones were delicious, even if they weren't strictly National Trust. Plus I'd had a fantastic NT scone at Godolphin on Monday. So all is not lost as we head into the final straight of the scone quest!

Pentire: 5 out of 5
Scone: 0 out of 5, as there wasn't one
Inspiration for poets: 5 out of 5

Carnewas at Bedruthan

I had originally decided not to include Carnewas at Bedruthan in this project. Although the NT website mentions a tea room, I had heard that it wasn't actually NT-run. The Ancient Rules of the National Trust Scone Blog (written last month) dictate that any tenant-run cafeterias are not mandatory to the quest and so I'd ruled it out on the basis that I probably already had enough on my plate.

Bedruthan

However, Carnewas is near Padstow and I'd never been there, plus the 2022 National Trust Scone Tour of Cornwall (see also Godolphin and Penrose) took me very close by. It seemed rude not to call in, so I added it to my list and headed off. My enthusiasm for a bonus scone was tempered somewhat by the pouring rain but I figured I'd manage. 

The NT website had informed me that the steps down to Bedruthan beach are currently closed due to a rock fall. I won't lie - I was actually quite relieved when I saw them. It was windy and wet, plus it was also early, so there was no-one else around. I imagined myself being blown off the cliff and the Mystery of the Missing Scone Blogger making page 22 of the local paper, until I was found in the sea, wearing my flimsy coat and trainers, at which point all sympathy for me would have eroded.

Anyway, putting my mad imaginings aside, the views from the cliffs were spectacular. The sun came out and I wandered along the well-marked footpaths feeling very pleased that I had made the extra stop.

Carnewas at Bedruthan

The tea room was also worth the detour. They go big on breakfasts, so I felt a bit weird asking for a cream tea at 10.45am. They delivered though, and I got two excellent scones with loads of cream and jam (I also got two plates, so I assume you're only supposed to share the serving between two people). 

Bedruthan Scones

The scones were light and quite bready - they weren't Cornish splits but they were split-ish. They were perfection on a plate.

I then drove on to Padstow for a fish and chip lunch before heading to Pentire. The tea room at Pentire was closed, which I was sad about, but my arteries were probably overjoyed.

Carnewas at Bedruthan: 5 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Sunshine on a rainy day: 5 out of 5

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Penrose

Someone asked me at the start of the year how I was planning to celebrate the completion of the National Trust Scone Quest. I was a bit confused: surely eating 200 scones is reward enough? But I never turn down an opportunity to treat myself and so I decided that my self-prize would be a trip to a National Trust holiday property.

It's possible that you didn't know about National Trust holiday accommodation. There's loads of it: the NT has about 470 holiday cottages, as well as bothies and camping grounds and even hotels, all around the UK. 

I love the thought of staying on a National Trust estate. In 2016, we did just that, when we went to Boscastle in Cornwall and stayed in an old pilchard cellar. They'd taken the pilchards out, thankfully. The building contained our holiday apartment as well as...big drum roll please...the Boscastle tea room. This was, and still is, extremely exciting to me. Some people dream of swimming with dolphins; I dream of living with National Trust scones. 

So I scouted around for a treat destination and up came a holiday apartment on the Penrose estate, again in Cornwall. The apartment was in the old stables. I checked and the Penrose tea room was also in the old stables. I figured it probably wouldn't have two old stables - and I was right! I could BE AT ONE WITH THE SCONES. Then I thought: why wait until I've finished the quest to reward myself? I could claim my reward early AND visit my final Cornwall properties!

Except it didn't quite work out. The tea room at Penrose isn't open at the moment. The website said something about it not being ready for Easter, but I had taken the optimistic view that maybe they just hadn't updated the website recently. But no. The doors were closed and the oven was off.

Penrose Stables
The Penrose Stables. No scones today. But a great holiday apartment.

I'm sure the closure had its benefits. The people that had stayed at Penrose before me had left a note in the visitors book saying "It's our third time here and it was so lovely and quiet this time without the tea room! But we missed the cake and sandwiches." Which probably sums it up. 

But! The motto of the National Trust Scone Blog is 'NEVER MIND', and I was lucky enough to be doing a mini road trip, which meant I had Godolphin and other spectacular successes to make up for a small set back.

After I had stared forlornly at the tea room for 5 minutes, willing someone to open the door and say "Oh hi! We decided that 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon was the perfect time to reopen - how fortunate that you happen to be passing! Come in!", I realised that I didn't know anything else about Penrose at all. I had got totally distracted by my Hotel Sconeifornia and I was now at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. There's a big house on the Penrose estate but it isn't open to the public. 

There were a few signposts to Loe Pool that pointed me along the path, so I set off. I soon found myself walking alongside a freshwater lake that is actually the largest natural body of water in Cornwall:

Loe Pool

What is highly unusual about Loe Pool is that when you reach the far end of it, it is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a very narrow strip of sand and shingle beach called Loe Bar. Below you can see Loe Pool on the left, then the strip of beach, then the Atlantic Ocean on the right:

Loe Bar Beach

It was about 5pm when I finally got down onto Loe Bar, so there was hardly anyone else there. It just blew my mind that I could stand on the Bar and face one way towards a lake and lush green estate leading up a hill, and then turn 180 degrees on the exact same spot and be facing the flatness of the wild Atlantic Ocean:

The view from Loe Bar facing the ocean

The view from Loe Bar, on the exact same spot, but facing Loe Pool and the Penrose estate

It's a beautiful spot, but back in the day Loe Bar was extremely dangerous for ships and sailors. In 1807, a 44 gun frigate called HMS Anson sank with over 100 fatalities. 

The Rogers family, who had bought the estate in 1771, had the "rights of wreck" up until 1881. This meant that any cargo belonged to them if a ship was wrecked in the area - this could (and did) include expensive wine among other things.

Before the Rogers family acquired the estate, it had belonged to the Penrose family. When their male line failed, the Rogers bought the place and built the stables and extended the house. By 1876 it was the 15th largest estate in Cornwall. 

In 1974, the estate, along with Loe Pool and 4 miles of foreshore, were given to the NT by John Peverell Rogers. He retained the house and it passed to his son Charles in 2012. When Charles died in 2018, he appeared to have left no heir but his son Jordan Adlard Rogers (who had always known that Charles was probably his father) came forward and, following a DNA test, has now inherited the place.

Penrose is absolutely worth a visit for the highly unusual Loe Bar experience - although maybe wait until the tea room is open again and you can post one to me??

Penrose: 5 out of 5
Scone: 0 out of 5 - the tea room is closed 
Loe Bar Beach: 5 out of 5 


Monday, 9 May 2022

Godolphin

To borrow a phrase from the great Brian Clough, Godolphin in Cornwall isn't the best National Trust property in the world but it's in the top one. That's obviously not quite true, as there's no such thing as 'the top' National Trust property, just as you can't really have a top song or a top book or a top Brentford player for the 2021/22 season (they're all Player of the Year as far as I'm concerned). But Godolphin is undoubtedly a fantastic place.

Godolphin

Where do I even start? I'm going to break with National Trust Scone Blog tradition and start with the tea room, as it gives you a good sense of the place. I actually walked right past it initially because a) it doesn't look like a cafeteria and b) there wasn't a sign for it. I later found out that there are very few signs at Godolphin because they're trying to keep the place as simple and uncluttered as possible. The house also isn't open very often, so check before you go.

In dire need of a cup of tea and my all-important scone, I consulted the map and saw "The Piggery", which is hands-down the best name for a National Trust tea-room. What makes it even better is that the building genuinely used to be a pig sty. In fact, you don't need a ton of imagination to actually picture that, as you'll see from this photo. You can probably understand why I walked straight past it. It's absolutely lovely inside, I promise:

Piggery
The tea room. If these walls could talk...they'd say 'oink'.

And that experience set the tone for the whole place: a very quirky, impressive and fascinating property with lots of history. So let me try and tell you a bit more about Godolphin.

The Godolphin estate can be traced to the Bronze Age!

There is a plentiful supply of tin and copper within the Godolphin estates. Tools have been found linking the area to the Bronze Age of 2000-850 BC.

The present house is the third one built by the Godolphins!

The first reference to a house dates to 1166, but it was Alexander de Godolghan who built a fortified house and formal gardens around 1310. What was left of that building was demolished in 1475 by John Godolphin, who used the materials of the old house to construct his new abode. 

The present house - looks smaller from the outside! 

I have to confess that I couldn't really work out where the missing rooms should have gone and how the whole property would have been laid out. This is despite a human guide explaining it and me reading the guide book about 10 times. What I do know is that from the outside the remaining house looks quite small, but inside it feels big. I know. It's simply astonishing that the Architect's Journal hasn't offered me a job.


The Godolphins died out!

Francis, the 2nd Earl and owner of the famous horse mentioned below, married the Duke of Marlborough's daughter and had three children. His only son died young, however, and a cousin died childless, so the male line came to an end when Francis died in 1785. One of his daughters married the Duke of Leeds and the property passed to him. He was happy to keep the income from the tin mines but was not interested in the house.

The house fell into disrepair!

With no-one using the house, the usual thing happened: the pigs moved in. Tenant farmers started to use the decaying buildings to house their livestock and potatoes. 

Sydney Schofield saves the day!  

Sydney Schofield was the son of Elmer Schofield, an American painter. Sydney also painted but had decided to become a farmer. He bought Godolphin in 1937 and he and his wife devoted themselves to restoring the place. The National Trust acquired part of the estate in 1999 and then the rest in 2007.  

It's now a holiday home!

I knew that the National Trust owns hundreds of holiday homes and apartments around the UK, but this is the first time I've visited a property that you can actually rent. It really is impressive - it must be great to spend a few days here imagining that you own the place.

Godolphin Living Room

Godolphin Bedroom

Godolphin - The Home of 'Godolphin'

I was vaguely familiar with the word 'Godolphin' before today, but had just lazily assumed it was the name of one of King Arthur's lesser-known knights or something like that. In fact, one of the uses of the word that I recognised - the Godolphin & Latymer school in Hammersmith - has connections to the family. One of the Godolphins died and his money was used to found a school. The school has changed location and shape over the years but the name has persisted.

The other use of 'Godolphin' that I had come across is in horse racing. The hugely successful Godolphin stable is owned by the Maktoum family but it turns out that this, too, is connected to the Cornwall estate. The stable is named after a famous horse, the Godolphin Arabian, who was one of three stallions from whom all modern thoroughbreds are descended. He was owned for a time by Sir Francis Godolphin, hence the name.

The Godolphin Arabian. A lovely horse. Named after his owner, the 2nd Earl,
making the Godolphin name synonymous with thoroughbred success.
 

Polly, The Milkable Cow

Until today, if you'd asked me for the most unexpected thing I've ever seen at the National Trust, I'd have said either the Dalek in the stable at Tredegar or the honesty box for sherry at Goddards

But today I discovered Polly, the milkable cow. I can confirm that she isn't real, life-like as she may look. But it's a great idea and a very clever use of the area. 

Polly the milkable cow

Polly the milkable cow

The Godolphin Scone

Another first today was that the assistant in the tea room took my order and then offered to bring it over to me when it was ready - I know it doesn't sound like much but tiny things often make a difference. The large scone looked unusually golden when it arrived, and it was warm. I had the usual 'is it a weeny bit underbaked?' conversation with my internal Mary Berry (this always happens when a scone is warm) but the scone world's version of VAR (or Video Assistant Referee to anyone not interested in football) ruled in favour of perfection. 5 stars to the Godolphin scone!  


The best thing about Godolphin is that it just feels like a wonderful place. It has fascinating history, beautiful rooms, and lovely gardens and outbuildings. It has a Piggery. But more than anything, it's a lovely, calm but upbeat place and I highly recommend it. 

Godolphin: 5 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Milking lessons: 5 out of 5

Friday, 29 April 2022

Ascott

I've seen a lot of changes at National Trust properties during the nine years of this project. One thing that hasn't changed is the criticism that the NT gets for the 'Disneyfication' or 'dumbing down' of history and heritage. It was there when I started this blog and it's still there now, mainly in the Daily Telegraph, but it's there, depressing the living daylights out of most NT members.

Ascott, near Leighton Buzzard, is to my mind what the Daily Telegraph wants the National Trust to be. It's a stunning estate - it's maintained beautifully, with not a leaf out of place. But there wasn't much to bring the place to life, or to explain its history, or to provide details of the people who have lived there over time. 

Ascott House

The reason for this is that it's still, in principle, a family home. Although Ascott is owned by the National Trust, the de Rothschild family still have use of it as a residence. You can look around the ground floor and peruse the collection of Ming porcelain and artworks. There were a couple of signs explaining the pictures and quite a few volunteer guides on hand, who were very pleasant and helpful. And for a lot of visitors, that's probably enough. For me, however, I love knowing about the people who built and lived in these places, and Ascott doesn't really offer that.  

So I did a bit of reading and discovered a few facts I can share:  
  • In 1873, Lionel de Rothschild (grandson of Mayer Amschel Rothschild, the man who started the famous European banking dynasty) bought a farm at Ascott for his son, Leopold. The architects took the original farmhouse and turned it into a hunting lodge and then a fashionable country house that Leopold could use for entertaining guests. He also had a successful stud nearby. 
  • Leopold's sister Evelina was the wife of Ferdinand de Rothschild, the creator of Waddesdon Manor
  • In 1947 the house and some of its contents were given to the National Trust. 
  • Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and his family still use the house on occasions and it is only open to the public at certain times, so be sure to book before you visit. 
Ascott Estate

The Ascott Scone

I wasn't entirely sure if the tea-room at Ascott was National Trust owned/run - according to the rules of the National Trust Scone Odyssey, a scone is only mandatory if it's officially NT. But I'm taking no chances at at this late stage of the project, so I went in anyway. And to be honest, I'm still not 100% sure - in some ways it was a very NT experience and it other ways it felt a bit different. 

The scone itself was fine. I did at one point wonder if it was a tad under-baked but concluded that it was just very cakey, with a lot of sponginess about it. It had a crisp exterior though, which was very good.

Ascott Scone

So that leaves just 19 properties left for me to visit. Today's trip made me realise that I probably shouldn't leave my final mission to chance - I have to make sure that it's a visit to remember for all the right reasons. I'm therefore adding one special place back on to my list and intend to close proceedings there in August. But for now - stay tuned as we embark on the final 19 scone expeditions!

Scone Map

Ascott: 3 out of 5
Scone: 4 out of 5

Friday, 15 April 2022

Brean Down

The most important piece of advice I can give anyone is simply this: never trust a bus timetable. There have been a few occasions during this National Trust Scone Odyssey when I have required the services of a bus and I can honestly say, hand on heart and without exception, that I have always been completely stunned when the bus actually turned up. And to be fair, they've turned up more often than they haven't. But I'm still always really surprised when they do.

And I will add to this, because there is one particular day of the year when you must NEVER trust a bus timetable and that is Good Friday. At least on Christmas Day you can be certain that there won't be a bus. But Good Friday? Just don't go there.

Anyway, today I went there, despite knowing the above. I checked the timetable for the bus service that goes to Brean Down from Weston-super-Mare and it clearly showed a service for public holidays. But there was no bus. Luckily, I knew the Brean Down Way provided an 8-mile walk from Brean to Weston. I'd been deliberating whether to attempt it, so the bus shortage made my mind up, while a taxi took me out there. 

Brean Down Fort View

The slight snag with doing an 8 mile walk after a visit to Brean Down is that Brean Down itself requires a bit of effort. A nice amble on the beach it is not. As I dragged myself up the steps to reach the top of the promontory, I found myself thinking "is this fun? I'm not sure this is fun", before I reached the summit and was treated to the amazing views that make a climb worthwhile. 

Let me tell you a little bit about Brean Down:

  • Brean Down is a promontory stretching 1.2 miles into the Bristol Channel
  • People have used Brean Down for thousands of years - a possible long barrow mound suggests Neolithic occupation, while remains of an Iron Age hill fort and Roman temple have also been found
  • In the 19th century, plans were drawn up to turn Brean Down into a harbour that could act as a transatlantic port. The project was beset with problems and it didn't materialise.
  • Brean Fort was built at the far end of Brean Down between 1865-1872 as part of a chain of forts designed to protect against the French.
  • The main building we see today (below) was the barracks for 50 men
  • The fort was refortified in 1941 during World War II 


For some reason it reminded me of the Alamo. This isn't so strange - they're both forts after all. But I've never actually been to the Alamo, so I'm not sure why I made that connection. Maybe the sun was getting to me.

The walk along the promontory to the fort had been quite tricky - the steep steps, then an uphill incline followed by a steep downhill section that I wouldn't want to do on wet ground. I thought sadly of the people with mobility issues who wouldn't ever be able to see Brean Down. On my return walk, I discovered that I'd taken the high road route and an alternative was available -  a mostly flatter gravel path that was being enthusiastically used by highly determined folk powering themselves up the hill in all terrain mobility trampers. Never underestimate the National Trust or its members. 

The Brean Down Scone

It must be said that even the Brean Down cafe makes you work a little harder than your average NT property. I helped myself to a fruit scone and had paid for it when the assistant explained that I would find the jam and cream in the fridge and then I needed to pick up my drink from the counter in the other room. I ran around, collecting the constituent parts of my cream tea, feeling like I was on the Crystal Maze. It wasn't unpleasant - just different.

Brean Down Scone

It was worth it though, because the Brean Down scone was a lovely one - very big and even. It was fresh, full of fruit and very tasty, so it gets full marks from me.

And, despite the exertion, I can also recommend the walk back to Weston-super-Mare. The Brean Down Way is mostly flat and very well designed and maintained - once you get through Brean you don't encounter any cars for a few miles until you get to Weston itself. I did have the unexpected problem of sun (unexpected because it was April). I decided to buy myself a hat to prevent my face looking like a beetroot but the hat turned out to be a kid's baseball cap, so I had to walk along with a little hat perched on my head, looking like one of the Mr Men. 

As my weary legs carried me up the seafront in Weston, I was able to gape in awe at Brean Down in the distance. It looked like a sleeping crocodile about to glide down the Bristol Channel and I was inordinately proud of having walked all the way from the tip of its nose. 

Brean Down from Weston


Brean Down: 5 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Walking the Brean Down Way path to Weston-super-Mare: 5 out of 5

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Aira Force and Ullswater

I did some reading about the Aira Force waterfall before I set off for the Lake District. Maybe it's the law that every waterfall has to be described as 'dramatic' and 'thundering' but I will be very, very honest with you, viewers: I was expecting Aira Force to be, well, a bit more of a force? 

Aira Force waterfall

Due to a fallen tree, you can't access the viewing platform so you have to admire the falls from afar and then walk over them. This does diminish the impact a bit. BUT. It is very beautiful and the walks around the area are absolutely lovely.
  
Ullswater

William Wordsworth even wrote a poem about Airey-Force Valley (as he called it): 

—Not a breath of air
Ruffles the bosom of this leafy glen.
From the brook's margin, wide around, the trees
Are stedfast as the rocks; the brook itself,
Old as the hills that feed it from afar,
Doth rather deepen than disturb the calm
Where all things else are still and motionless.
And yet, even now, a little breeze, perchance
Escaped from boisterous winds that rage without,
Has entered, by the sturdy oaks unfelt,
But to its gentle touch how sensitive
Is the light ash! that, pendent from the brow
Of yon dim cave, in seeming silence makes
A soft eye-music of slow-waving boughs,
Powerful almost as vocal harmony
To stay the wanderer's steps and soothe his thoughts.

The Aira Force Scone

I certainly needed to soothe my thoughts as I approached the cafeteria at Aira Force. I have to tell you that I could write a very lengthy thesis on the art and science of purchasing National Trust scones. People think it is easy. It is not. 

The Aira Force scone is a great example of this. It was my second scone of the day, as we'd already stopped off at Claife Viewing Station. This means that two completely opposing things occurred at the same time: on the one hand, my stress levels were reduced because one scone was already safely in the bag, so the trip wasn't going to be a complete disaster. 

But! Because it was the second stop of the day, it was LATER in the day. I was now veering into mid-afternoon territory and that's a scary place for a Scone Blogger. It was also the warmest day of the year so far and the place was packed.

I joined the queue with a sense of foreboding and did a quick, subtle recce of the scone situation. In normal circumstances, the person with me is usually oblivious that we have now entered the critical moments of the scone mission. My friend Steph, however, is a very, very observant person. Within 3.5 seconds she had clocked the situation and turned to me and said "There are only two scones left".  

The queue was long. The person at the front asked for a cream tea. Steph looked at me. The next person in the queue was querying out loud whether she whether wanted a cream tea or not....did she? Didn't she? She did. Steph looked at me.

We finally made it to the front. "Two cream teas please!" I chirped confidently, as if by not even acknowledging that no scones was possible, I could stop it happening. "You're lucky," said the very nice man. "These are the last two."

Aira Force Scone

(I'd like to point out that Steph doesn't eat scones and there was no other food left so while I was gambolling triumphantly off across the patio with my baked items, she was making do with coffee. I probably wasn't empathetic enough about that, so sorry Steph.)

Anyway. It was a delicious scone and well worthy of 5 stars.

Aira Force and Ullswater: 5 out of 5
Scone: 5 out of 5
Food that wasn't a scone: 0 out of 5 (it was a very busy day)