Sunday 5 January 2014

Morden Hall Park

I had a vision of my National Trust scone outings in January being full of snow-covered turrets, hoar frost-coated lawns and cheery tea-rooms serving hot beverages and warm scones. And then I woke up on the first weekend of the year to a biblical deluge, which just goes to show that the British weather is not to be trusted under any circumstances. 

We initially set out yesterday for The Vyne, which surely has the best name of all National Trust properties*. We got there and it was closed due to flooding. I can honestly say that I wasn't in the least bit annoyed - I pressed one boot toe into the murk and felt nothing but sympathy for all NT employees trying to protect properties at this time of year. No wonder most of them are shut.

The Morden Hall Park scone
I decided to put my wellies on and head to Morden Hall Park in South London. And boy am I glad we did, because I am pleased to report that the first scones of 2014 were amazing. They were warm, they were soft, and they were glazed, which was a first. In fact they were probably the prettiest scones I have ever seen. A complete triumph:

National Trust Scones at Morden Hall Park

From the tea-room, it's easy to imagine that you're in the middle of the country but step outside and the sirens and sounds of buses whooshing past remind you that you're actually in London. However, the park itself is pleasant enough, even in the depths of January, and it's unusual, for several reasons:

1. It's open 365 days a year and it's free. This was stipulated by Gilliat Edward Hatfeild who donated the estate to the Trust in 1941.
2. The Hatfeild family owned a snuff-milling business within the estate. This was powered by the River Wandle, which runs through the park.
3. When snuff became unfashionable, Gilliat Edward closed down the mills at Morden but very unusually kept the staff on, giving them new jobs on the estate.
4. He was indeed known for his generosity, throwing parties for local children and setting up a hospital in the Hall itself while he lived in the cottage.

River Wandle National Trust Morden Hall Park
The River Wandle, which runs through the park and used to power the snuff mills
So if you're looking for terrific scones and you want to know the history of snuff, then Morden Hall Park is for you.

Scones: 5 out of 5 
Morden Hall Park: 3 out of 5

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