Friday 30 December 2022

National Trust Highlights of 2022

You have probably gathered by now that I am all about the scones. Anyone who has ever accompanied me to a National Trust property will have turned to me at some stage and said "Shall we have a look around first? Before we have a scone?", at which point they will have seen the look on my face and answered their own question with "OK, we'll have the scone first."

BUT! I visited 30 National Trust properties in 2022 and you don't visit 30 National Trust places without having additional adventures beyond the scone.

So, having already announced my National Trust Scone of the Year, I decided to highlight some of the other lovely things that I found on my NT travels this year.

Non-NT Bonus Attraction of the Year - Winner

It takes a lot of sacrifice and self-discipline to be a National Trust scone blogger. You have to be completely focused and not allow yourself to get distracted. But this year, I did permit myself to go off the NT track to achieve a life's ambition: while I was in Keighley visiting East Riddlesden Hall, I stayed overnight in Haworth, home of the Brontë family. Due to Storm Eunice, I finally reached the museum in the Brontë Parsonage very late in the day but they were still open and let me walk around for ages. The bonus to the bonus was that I then spent a night in Wuthering Heights country with a storm battering at the windows. Highly, highly recommended.


Bronte Museum

Non-NT Bonus Attraction of the Year - Runner Up

I love my 19th century literature but you should never turn down the opportunity to meet a 1980s television icon. The Albert Dock didn't disappoint. I went there after my trip to the Beatles' Childhood Homes and it looked almost exactly the same as it did in the days of Richard & Judy, minus the weather map. It was so good.

Albert Dock

National Trust Useful Advice of the Year

The National Trust has given me quite a lot of good advice this year: Don't feed the wild ponies on Lundy Island. Don't allow hateful, homophobic liars to go unchallenged. All very useful. But this, spotted on the wall at Knightshayes in Devon, was my favourite. "Keep Thy Tongue & Keep Thy Friends" - the best advice you'll get this year, or any year. If anyone knows someone on the NT Merchandise team, let them know that I'm in the market for this on a mug, tea-towel and baseball cap.

National Trust Frieze Knightshayes

National Trust Hero of the Year

The easiest award of the year, which is shared by two excellent people. First up: a man who made Twitter brilliant in 2022. In April, Huw Davies set off on a National Trust odyssey that blew my mind - he attempted to visit every single NT property in one year by bike. He talked about his project at the NT AGM in November - you can hear what he had to say here - or you can scroll through his Twitter feed, NTByBike. Amazing work.

But Twitter can also be an absolute hellhole, which is why my joint National Trust Hero of the Year is Celia Richardson, the NT Director of Communications. If she ever gets invited on Who Do You Think You Are, I fully expect her to discover a family tree that includes Viking warriors, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, jazz-hand waggling tap dancers, and stand-up comedians. A total hero.

Scone Companion of the Year

And finally, we come to my Scone Companion of the Year. I had a lot of help in 2022. My family came to the rescue for Sandilands near Mablethorpe. My friend Justine came to Dunstable Downs, while Kathy helped out loads, especially with our trip to East Soar in Devon. Sarah-Jane and Steph stepped in several times, especially for the far-flung properties like Plas yn Rhiw, when I would often lose hope that I would ever finish. I thank them all for their support.

But there's only one man who can win National Trust Scone Companion of 2022, and that is Ole the dog. Ole is like a celebrity to me. His happy little face cheered me up so much back in the tough times of 2020, when his devoted family shared photos of him celebrating VE Day or doing a bit of DIY (see my summary of 2020). I am so grateful to Corinne and Simon for coming to meet me at Dinefwr in November and bringing Ole along - it was the perfect end to the year.

Below is a photo of me excitedly holding Ole's lead with Corinne and Simon. As you can see, Ole took it all in his stride:
National Trust Scone Blogger

And that's it for 2022! Stay tuned for my final visit to the Giant's Causeway in February, after which this National Trust Scone Quest will be complete! In the meantime, a very, very Happy New Year to you all! 

Tuesday 27 December 2022

National Trust Scone of the Year 2022

It's back! National Trust Scone of the Year is back, back, BACK! I didn't choose a scone of 2020, as I'd only visited a few properties and couldn't face it after ten terrible months. And then I only managed one single scone in the whole of 2021, so any awards that year would have been rubbish.

But I made up for it in 2022. I visited 30 - yes THIRTY! - new National Trust places and found a scone at most of them. I now have only one - yes ONE! - National Trust scone to go and then this project will be complete.

And so, without further ado, here are my top five National Trust scones of 2022, in reverse order:

5. Castle Drogo

At number 5 for 2022: it's Castle Drogo in Devon. It was the last stop on a mini road trip and the clock was showing 3pm by the time I arrived. I'll tell you now that 3pm is basically the witching hour in scone world, as you never know what you're going to get: you might find a scone, or you might be faced with a pile of crumbs and some heartfelt apologies from cafe staff who look like they've fought off a plague of locusts. Anyway: Castle Drogo is a proper tourist attraction with a big cafeteria and the scone was lovely. 

4. Godolphin

I absolutely LOVED Godolphin in Cornwall. There are many, many reasons for this - you can read all about them in the blog post - but to summarise: the scone was top-draw and the cafe is called The Piggery as it used to be a pig sty. 

3. East Riddlesden Hall

I was so desperate to finish this project in 2022 that I went to East Riddlesden in Yorkshire during Storm Eunice. This gave me the added bonus of spending a very atmospheric night in Brontë country listening to the wind absolutely tearing at the windows. It also meant that I probably purchased East Riddlesden's first scone of their entire year, which was a bit of a risk. But it turned out to be delicious.  

2. Ormesby Hall

Ormesby Hall near Middlesbrough gets second place on my list because of its excellent scone. But I loved the place - from its train sets to the down-to-earth brilliance of its former owner, it had so much to offer. It was completely worth the 500-mile round trip - it was one of the longest I've attempted in a single day (only Crook Hall Gardens in Durham, another excellent scone also covered this year, was further).

1. Ilam Park

But my National Trust Scone of the Year for 2022 has to be Ilam Park, Dovedale and the White Peak in Derbyshire. My first outing of the year is usually a complete catastrophe so I'm very pleased that this final year proved to be the exception. It was a fantastic scone that got a unanimous 5 out of 5 from the panel. Well done to Ilam!

Ilam joins an illustrious group of previous winners of this coveted title:

That's almost it for 2022. More importantly, that's also almost it for this entire project. I only have one more scone to go - the Giant's Causeway in Co Antrim will be my 250th National Trust property and will mark the end of this 10 year odyssey. I'm really looking forward to that trip but I'm also really sad that it's almost at an end. 

As usual, my heartfelt thanks go to everyone that has supported this quest this year. I am beyond grateful to everyone that has read the blog posts or been part of the National Trust Scone community on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. Thank you all!