It’s That Time Again: Easter, Tea and The NT.

The NT for the Brits needs no explanation. The National Trust. We just love it and Easter sees this glorious and beloved organisation throw open it’s stately doors up and down the country. For anyone who is still struggling to comprehend, the National Trust is one of the country’s largest and most successful charitable institutions. I won’t bore you with statistics, as I will only have plagiarised them from the official website, but the basic deal is that quite a number of the country’s stately homes have been and continue to be bequeathed to the NT to be maintained, for a variety of reasons but mainly financial, which are then opened to the paying public, from Easter to October. The said public look around the houses, picnic in the gardens and take tea in the obligatory NT tea shop, run by very capable NT staff, usually located in a recently converted stable block. The Charity is also bequeathed coastal paths, other chunks of beautiful land, gardens, small islands, light houses in fact all manner of historic or picturesque property and I’ll mention it again, the one thing they invariably have in common is a tea shop (car parks and toilets aside). Arguably this IS the major attraction for most people as the catering is fantastic on the whole and something I shall return to very shortly.

We visited one of our favourites, in fact, our overall favourite NT spot over the weekend, The Banks Estate, which takes in Studland Beach. We adore this strip of coastline, hire a beach hut on it every year for a week, BBQ in their designated areas, sign up for nature trails, avert our eyes if we pass through the naturist section (we don’t ‘pass through’ much), play cricket after everyone has gone home, try to keep off the sand dunes, pedal furiously in their hire-out pedalos and dig gigantic holes in the endless golden sand. The weather this time was verging on miserable, but we don’t care. Here are some pics taken at various times including this weekend:

Taken in 2008, one of the beach huts we have rented with sand dunes and Ballard Down Ridge in the distance

off the end of Ballard Down are Old Harry’s Rocks which can be seen in the second to last image. Above, too much sea air it seems?

Seeing as it is Easter, a time for treats, I thought I would treat everyone to a tiny round-up of some of the NT properties we have visited in the ‘West Country’ (Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and probably Wiltshire) since I have owned a digital camera….

Palladian Bridge, Prior Park Grounds, Bath

Montecute House, Somerset, Cute door

Utterly beautiful Stourhead

More from Stourhead

Stunning Great Chalfield Manor

St Michael's Mount, Cornwall

Picnic at Avebury, Wiltshire. Should we be sitting on these 5,000 year old stones?

So back to the tea shops. The NT have in their time published recipe books detailing the range, breath and local variations of cakes and other baked goods sold by them, but I suspect the confection that features without much regional variation throughout the entire country is the Scone. Scones are typically a component of ‘West Country Cream Teas’ (pot of tea, scone, jam and clotted cream) but the Nation has taken them to their hearts and they have wide appeal.

However scones are actually quite tricky to make. I’ve never really had much success despite being the item of choice for me if available. The following recipe seems to have turned all that around. These are so wonderful I cannot find the words, so if you are struggling with the sickly sweet of cake, chocolate, marzipan and the like this Easter, give these a try, they should be warm from the oven and really only require a smear of butter and jam in such circumstances. But you could go the whole clotted creamy hog if you wish….

The Best Scones Ever at bbcgoodfood.com, write this down somewhere, you’ll be heartbroken if it vanishes.

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