Saturday 24 January 2015

Aberdulais Tin Works

I decided it was time to take the scone blog international, so today I went to Wales. 

I had my doubts about this, however. Is it acceptable for me to expect National Trust properties in Wales to serve scones? When Hollywood makes a film about the National Trust Scone Odyssey, will my trip to Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall have Angelina Jolie (playing me) riding a horse into the tearoom and saying "Tally-ho my good man, bring me two scones on the double, what-what" and then burning the place down when they don't have any? 

I hedged my bets in the end. I went into the tearoom, mumbled "do you have any scones?" before loudly ordering some bara brith when they said no. 

But before I get onto the bara brith let me tell you about Aberdulais (pronounced Aberdillis). 
Aberdulais Falls

The waterfalls at Aberdulais have been powering industrial activity for hundreds of years. Latterly, it was a tin works and there is a lovely video where interviewees talk about their memories of the tin-plating that used to go on. 

When the Welsh tin-plating industry started to die out, the works fell into disrepair. The wildlife moved in and now there are fish and eels and herons and wagtails and all sorts. 

The water wheel wasn't working today, so we didn't get to see it in full flow.

Aberdulais water wheel

But back to the cake. The bara brith (which is a spiced fruit loaf) was delicious, as was the tea. 
Aberdulais Bara Brith

But the fact remains that 2015 is turning out to be a worryingly lean year for the National Trust Scone Odyssey. I've visited two properties - I went to Leith Hill a fortnight ago - and neither of them has had any scones. Are National Trust scones dying out, like the Welsh tin-plating industry and blue whales? I'm getting worried. 

Aberdulais Tin Works - 3.5 out of 5
Scones: 0 out of 5
Bara brith: 5 out of 5

Other properties we've been to in Wales: Chirk CastleDyffryn GardensErddigPenrhyn CastlePlas NewyddPowis CastleTredegar House

Saturday 10 January 2015

Leith Hill

Did you know that Leith Hill is the highest point in South East England? Or that it's an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest)? Sadly for the purposes of this blog, it's also a NOSCONE (They Have No Scones). But more of that later.

Leith Hill Tower sits on top of Leith Hill. It was built in 1766 by a man called Richard Hull. He apparently adored Leith Hill and was so disappointed that it was just 35 feet short of 1000 feet that he decided to build a tower on top to make up the difference. It had rooms and furniture but he was keen to share it with other people - a Latin inscription explained that it was intended for the pleasure of Hull's neighbours as well as himself.

Unfortunately, after he died, some of his neighbours thought 'yeah whatever' and removed a lot of the contents. It fell into disrepair and eventually the National Trust took it over. Hull is actually buried underneath it.

Leith Hill Tower

If you climb Leith Hill Tower, you are apparently higher than you would be at the top of The Shard. Unfortunately I can't tell you much about that because I didn't actually go up the tower - it was too dark. I know. It was pitch dark though, in my defence, and as I literally couldn't see the steps, I feared for my life and gave up. Next time I will make the sidekick go up first in a high-vis jacket. 

Back to the scones. I honestly wasn't disappointed that there weren't any. The tea and cake at Leith Hill Tower is served from a little window at the bottom of the actual tower itself. It looks like something out of Beatrix Potter - I half expected to be served by a badger wearing an apron rather than a human. 

Leith Hill Tea Servery

Scone fiend that I am, even I will admit that a cream tea is not the easiest dish to serve as a takeaway. And there was an impressive range of other baked options - the sidekick had a tasty flapjack and I had shortbread with a really good cup of tea served in proper mugs. It was also the most efficient National Trust kitchen I have ever seen - the service was like clockwork, which was good as they were very busy despite the fact it was blowing a gale and pouring down.

And speaking of terrible weather; I feel a bit sorry for the National Trust properties that I visit on cold, grey January days. I know that they probably look really different in June. However, it can work to their advantage, as after 20 minutes of trudging about being cold I tend to fall on a cup of tea and scone as if I haven't eaten in three weeks. Morden Hall Park scored top marks last January on a cold, grey day and although they totally deserved those marks, me being very cold did not hurt their case at all.  So onwards and upwards to the next exciting visit in two weeks' time!

Leith Hill Tower: 4 out of 5
Scones: 0 out of 10 - there weren't any
My bravery in face of dark staircase: 0 out of 10