Saturday 19 October 2019

Horsey Windpump

The late, great Whitney Houston said it best; I believe that children are our future. Teach them well about National Trust scones and hopefully they'll remember to come and visit you in the nursing home and take you out for a cream tea every now and again (I'm paraphrasing a bit there).

I've been taking the education of junior scone fans very, very seriously over the past few months. I'm nearing the end of the National Trust Scone Odyssey (I have to be finished by December 2020) and before I collapse over the finish line in a clotted cream coma, I'm hoping to have inspired the next generation to start a similar project. Otherwise what are we all going to read?

I decided that a field trip was in order. Luckily, I've spent the last twenty years working in marketing so I was able to create a tantalising itinerary for several of my youngest friends; we would get on a boat and sail down the Norfolk Broads to the National Trust property with the very best name (Horsey Windpump), we'd carry out a thorough review of the scones, then we'd head into nearby Great Yarmouth where we'd spend several aeons putting £5 of coppers into a slot machine in the hope of winning a unicorn keyring worth about 10p. There would potentially be doughnuts and a lot of chips. Were they in? Readers, they were in.

Horsey Windpump

An early start was needed, so I booked accommodation. I was insanely pleased with myself here; back in the day, I would spend many a Friday night drinking alcoholic beverages with my school pals in a pub called The Cherry Tree. And now here I was, on a Friday night with those same school pals drinking alcoholic beverages and saying things like "did anyone bring any toilet rolls?" in a static caravan on the Cherry Tree Holiday Park! See what I did there? It was completely lost on everyone but I remain delighted with myself.

ANYWAY - let's get on with the tale of Horsey Windpump. If there had been a Carry on Farming film, then the Kenneth Williams character would surely have been called Horsey Windpump. It's such a great name. When I first started this quest, HW didn't serve scones and so I had resigned myself to never visiting. And then earlier this year I got the nod that scones were now on the menu. Usually this kind of news causes me all sorts of trauma, as I have to add another property to my endless list, but in Horsey's case I was overjoyed.

Here are some historical facts:
  • There has been a drainage mill on the site since the early 1700s
  • There are similar mills dotted all around this part of Norfolk - by draining the land using wind power, landowners could make more area available for farming 
  • Drainage continues today - there's an electric pump doing all the work these days, but if it wasn't there then the area would be flooded:
  • The area used to be an island used for grazing or keeping horses (hence the name), with one access road that regularly flooded
  • The current windpump structure was built in 1912 on the foundations of the 19th century mill
  • Horsey Windpump was working until 1943 when it was struck by lightning 
  • It was acquired by the National Trust and has been restored - its sails were set in motion for the first time in 76 years in May this year, which must have been a great moment
  • As with all mills, it's not the most accessible property - there are several floors and 61 steps to negotiate to get right to the top, most of which are very narrow (I can report that the young sconepals cared not a jot about this and were scampering up the stairs like squirrels)
  • If you have time and the right footwear (it goes without saying that I didn't), there's a three mile walk from the windpump down to Horsey beach where you might be able to see grey seals
We had taken full advantage of the windpump's location on the Broads by hiring a boat and arriving in style via the water.

Amalia demonstrating some exceptional, possibly genetic, sea-faring skills
John also showing considerable sailing expertise 
We were also treated to a bizarre Rawhide moment when a herd of cattle suddenly appeared and came running down the road. Maybe they'd heard that we were in town and eating all the scones. Whatever - I was just glad that I was safely inside the windpump at the time or I'd have run screaming down the path, pushing small children out of my way as I went.
Rollin', rollin', rollin'
But let's move on to the Horsey Windpump scones. The tea room at Horsey is tiny but the staff were very friendly and tasty beverages and scones were soon served to the team:
Horsey Windpump Tearoom
The young apprentices hard at work - from L-R: Olivia, Amalia, John, Amy and Lara
The scones weren't home-made:

Horsey Windpump scone

But everyone enjoyed them - below you can see Olivia and Amy demonstrating their advanced scone preparation skills, which were honed on a previous outing to Overbecks back in the summer:

And so our National Trust scone field trip came to a close and we headed off to the Pleasure Beach in Great Yarmouth. It had been a resounding success though, and five young sconeoisseurs have moved closer to their black belts in National Trust scone appreciation.
Lara raising funds for the next field trip

Horsey Windpump: 5 out of 5
My scone score: 3.5 out of 5
Average scone score from my young apprentices: 3.8 out of 5 (I've trained them well)
Average scone score from their mothers: 4.2 out of 5 (way off - embarrassing really)
Arriving by boat: 500 out of 5 - I highly recommend hiring a boat 

A special thank you goes to eight year-old Sconepal Amy, who also provided some lovely photos of Horsey Windpump from her collection. I'm thinking of making her my official photographer.

Photographer: Amy King

Photographer: Amy King

Tuesday 15 October 2019

The Christmas Pudding Scone Tour in York

If you're looking for an excellent National Trust day out in the run-up to Christmas, I have the answer for you and it's.....York.

To follow my suggested one day itinerary, you need to go Thursday-Sunday between 9 November and 15 December, as that's when you'll be able to pay homage to the eighth wonder of the modern world, the legendary Christmas Pudding Scone with Brandy Butter at Treasurer's House, AND fit in a trip to Goddards, home of the Terry's of York family and their all-conquering stocking filler, the Chocolate Orange.

However, if you want to take your time and fit in shops/the Christmas market as well (and I do recommend this strategy, because York is a beautiful and historic city), then you'll need the Premier Inn on Blossom Street for a night's sleep. 

If you only have eyes for the Christmas Pudding Scone with Brandy Butter, on the other hand, you can go pretty much every day between November 9 and 21 December as Treasurers House will be open and waiting for you (check the opening times though, just in case).

It's not National Trust and you have to pay to go inside but the good news is that a) it's right next door to Treasurer's House and b) you can join free guided tours, which come highly recommended by me. The Minster opens at 9am and the tours start at 10am so you can get an early start to your day.

York Minster

2. Head to Treasurer's House
Treasurer's House is five minutes' walk from the Minster and opens at 11am. I know for certain that they only serve freshly baked scones, so you don't have to worry that early visit = yesterday's leftovers. The tea room is in the basement and is very atmospheric, plus it's table service, so grab a nice table, order a Christmas Pudding Scone with Brandy Butter, and inform any travelling companions that you might need to eat in silence as words will fail you when it arrives. Remember the first rule of Scone Club: take a picture and send it to me BEFORE you eat it.

Treasurers House

3. Walk the City Walls
The Walls aren't National Trust either but they're really worth doing. Climb up the steps at Bootham Bar, which is right by the Minster, and walk along. There are a couple of stretches where you have to drop down to street level and pick up the wall again later on but it's never that far (although weirdly it's not that well signposted on the ground, so you will need your wits about you and/or Google Maps).

York Walls

4. Visit York Castle
There's actually not much left of York Castle - Clifford's Tower is pretty much the only remaining piece and it's run by another heritage organisation who shall remain nameless. However, when you come down from the Walls at Fishergate you walk past the Tower and it'd be a shame to ignore it. There's a museum and they're doing some Christmas stuff so keep an eye on their website. 

Cliffords Tower

If you get back up onto the Walls after the Castle Museum, follow the route to Micklegate. If you then disembark the Walls at Micklegate, it's a fairly straight 30 minute walk to Goddards on the Tadcaster Road. There you can marvel/weep at the history of the Terry's chocolate dynasty and have a second scone brought to you in their beautiful dining room cafe.


I need to point out that other good scone regions are available but York is just particularly good at Christmas. 

You can also listen to the podcast that I recorded at Treasurers House.

There's all to play for as the National Trust Scone Quest approaches its final year. York has admittedly delivered scone excellence but other contenders for Scone To Rule Them All have also emerged:
Remember to send me your pictures!

Wednesday 9 October 2019

Which National Trust properties serve the best scones?

This National Trust Scone project is nearly complete. I've visited 200+ properties, I have around 35 still to go, and I've given myself a deadline of December 2020 to bring the quest to its conclusion.

So it's time to start thinking about the big question: which National Trust properties serve the best scones? Please note that I'm not brave enough to face the biggest question - which is the scone to rule them all? - so we'll leave that one for now.

Almost 80 properties have delivered five star scones in the past six years. However, every Christmas I have shortlisted the real stand-out performers from the previous 12 months and named my scone of the year.

So here's a summary of those annual lists, giving you the Champions' League, the creme de la creme, the pantheon; basically, the scones that I still think about today.

The Champions' League of National Trust Scones (so far, and in no particular order):

Boscastle (Cornwall)
Croft Castle (Herefordshire)
Dunwich Heath (Suffolk)
Felbrigg Hall (Norfolk)
Fell Foot (Cumbria)
Flatford (Suffolk)
Longshaw, Burbage, and Eastern Moors (Derbyshire)
Nostell Priory (West Yorkshire)
Scotney Castle (Kent)
Shugborough (Staffordshire)
South Foreland Lighthouse (Kent)
The Argory (Northern Ireland)
The Needles Old Battery (Isle of Wight)
Treasurer's House (York)
Trerice (Cornwall)
Trelissick (Cornwall)
Trengwainton (Cornwall)
Watersmeet (Devon)
White Cliffs of Dover (Kent)
Wicken Fen (Cambridgeshire)
Winkworth Arboretum (Surrey)

Stay tuned for the final season of National Trust Scones: make sure you never miss a new review by following on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or signing up to the email on this blog. And remember to send me your National Trust scone pictures on social media too! We're all in this together.