Review Number Seven

7) Lydford Gorge – National Trust

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There are many things my boyfriend and I have a mutual passion for; cooking absurd amounts of food, watching our childhood programmes, rambling down country lanes and championing castles.

So it comes as no surprise that my darling boy thought it a grand idea to take me to Lydford Gorge to enjoy a long walk together.

A long walk isn’t even close to what I had to endure!!!

I am not a seasoned walker and I had nothing but a vague idea of what I was letting myself in for. It wasn’t until I reached the front desk to hand over my membership card that the realisation struck hard. The kind lady behind the counter issued instructions to us; suggesting pit stops and recommending a variety of routes that weren’t quite so steep. I was stunned.

‘It’ll take you about 2 to 3 hours to finish the entire walk’ she signed off.

WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

I ran to the toilet to take a breather before my gallant knight dragged me off to begin our journey down the one way track. I was hesitant and could but think of the halfway point where my darling said we would be stopping for a tea break.

But my body surprised me and for the first leg of the trail I was mostly alright, the valley was beautiful and I only really struggled with the uphill parts. We took no pit stops except when we spotted a view that was camera worthy (which was often) and I felt triumphant every time I passed a bench feeling well enough to trek on. The constant gush of water created a mystical atmosphere and it felt as if we had stepped into a Peter Jackson movie. The stunning views were accompanied with the potent smell of wild garlic and a consistent drilling sound from a covert woodpecker; I was enthralled and healthily out of breath.

I wasn’t expecting the waterfall to look as serene as it did; you are used to seeing these great walls of crashing water but the White Lady (so it is aptly named) simply skidded down the valley like a children’s slide.  When we reached this halfway point we had a difficult decision to make; stay and dine? Or press on and earn a well deserved treat at the finishing line?

We chose the latter and continued on our expedition.

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We soon realised, however, that I seem to have a cut off point; a point where I rapidly lose the ability to speak and become irritably desperate to just give up and go home. I had found the end of my tether after an hour of walking. I was an uncommunicative zombie who could but grunt and moan at the views being presented to me by my fresh faced exuberant companion. The devils cauldron zapped the final ‘awes’ I had in me and mumbled notions of dinosaurs scampering about the horizons of the valley ridge (I speak truth my Bandicoot caught it on camera). I had meant to say that the scene had a Jurassic essence about it and that I could easily imagine a T-Rex leering over the crest of the gorge; I guess the roaring noise of the cauldron drowned out my senses.

I dragged my feet into the tea room and near collapsed on the cashier. He was a very very very nice man and was understandingly sympathetic of my exhaustion and fatigue. We found a park table outside, away from some ghastly loud children and waited for the kind man with a feathery blonde beard to bring us our well deserved prize.

Even in my zombified state I was still able to consider the cream tea that was presented before me with a respectably critical eye.

No I lie. I’m sorry …

I was so thankful and desperate for them that any serious evaluations of the subject were lost, forgotten and discarded. I ate with the primeval instincts of one who had nothing left to focus on.

So here, my review, in the words spoken at the time of consumption;

‘Icing sugar?! What?! Amazing! Raspberry jam?! Yum! Omg it looks like tadpoles, no you know what I mean … frog spawn! Tasty frog spawn! Wow there is SO much cream! Look at those nipples! Omg this is so good. Awe and the buns are warm! Man I needed this, I’m drinking this tea like its water, agh you know when you are just thirsty and tea is like water? It quenches my thirst just as much as water! Aww no! The icing sugar is all over my leggings! Ketchum did you notice the jam and cream is local? Look the jam has won awards, tasty frog spawn though it’s a little sharp … maybe that’s why they gave us icing! Cream is so good though. Wow. Just. Nom.’

So yes they had sprinkled our buns with an unconventional layer of icing sugar and were presented to us on charming oval plates. They were warm, fluffy and substantial. The generous amounts of cream and jam enabled us to greedily mount the buns with several layers of the stuff. I had immaturely made my scones to look like nipples and childishly giggled at the icing sugar mess I had made on myself.  The jam did, admittedly, look like frog spawn, but it tasted as fresh and as fruity as if we had picked the berries ourselves and had placed them on top. The fact they gave us a choice in jam won bonus points in my eyes and they had NO fruity scones, not one …

BANG ON THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!

There was a generous pot of tea for us with an added topper of hot water, which I was most grateful for, because I downed my first cup of the milky brew instantly and was in need of plenty more.

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I admit that my state of fatigue may have acted as a ‘rose tinted glasses’ effect and made me perceive the scones in a much better light than I might’ve done, had I not just undergone a 3 mile walk. After a ‘stroll’ like that I doubt anyone could look at them in any other way. You will certainly not be disappointed when you enjoy them at the finish line and that I can bet my life on.

My only advice to Lydeford Gorge would be to add markers on your map of where all the benches are during that walk; would be great for those who are less robust than my Aladdin; using them as motivators to reach the next rest stop!

We did the walk in approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. My legs didn’t thank me for it but it was well worth it in the end; the sights were magnificent and the cream teas were, well … like I said well earned and damned tasty.  Hoorah.

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Review Number Five

5) A La Ronde – National Trust

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My stomach has often been compared to that of a horse or a pig or… a black hole. I can pack away most things and can keep up with any man and his platter. Eating vast quantities of food has never been a challenge for me. My body’s ability to pack the food around my thighs and my arms has always been a quick and effortless process; much to my displeasure and shame. I am always hungry. So, you can imagine how shocked and appalled I was towards my stomach when It struggled to consume two gigantic scones.

You don’t believe me? Neither can I to be honest!

When I went to A La Ronde National Trust property I asked my boyfriend, with bundles of confidence, to purchase a pot of tea and two scones, EACH, after our jaunt around the round house. I had sat down with not a fear in the world. The tearoom itself was small, crowded and charming; the only concern I had up to that point was whether we were going to find a table and whether I’d be able to hear my Ketchum over the racket of our nearby diners.

I like to add that though the tearoom was completely crammed it didn’t feel overbearing; it felt homely and lively. The tables were arranged in varying angles and dimensions so although it wasn’t ‘organised’ it wasn’t cluttered. This particular tearoom has won awards for its creamy jammy buns so my expectations were high and hungry, so the fact that the room was packed out didn’t bother me too much. I was just excited to pack as much in my mouth as that room.

HE RETURNED TO THE TABLE… and we waited for our food to be delivered; unaware of the perils about to befall us.

Our table turned into the centre of all social interaction. We were in the way of the cutlery and the communal water jug. I became the master of the jug and the passer of utensils due to the fact that our table, and other’s, had fenced off access to them. I enjoyed being their liberator. I found their apologies amusing. They had no reason to feel guilty, it wasn’t their fault they were stuck between tables, in fact, I was actually grateful for the distraction.

I was failing.

The giant buns had me stumped.

Filled.

Stuffed.

In Devon… we do Cream Tea’s right. We are generous in every capacity; size, taste and serving. So generous in fact that even my greedy stomach could barely manage. It was embarrassing. My belly protruded out of my shorts and winced every time I took a bite out of my heavily clad scone. My darling Bandicoot cast me many bemused and mocking expressions; he wasn’t struggling like moi. He had even managed to cut one scone into three parts… thats how big they were!

I considered him, in that moment, severely out of favour. My eyes narrowed and I was determined to finish them both even if I’d be immobilised for the rest of the afternoon. Indigestion could ravage my body as much as it wanted; I wasn’t going to give up.

The property itself was remarkable. So unique and shockingly bizarre. I definitely recommend a visit; they were one hell of a creative family. I shan’t delve any further for it deserves a chance to surprise and astonish you, without me giving you any spoilers.

Ahhhhh still struggling.

Communication between Aladdin and I had ceased. My attention was no longer lovingly looking at his face; it was humiliated, angry and focused on the last slab of scone. He teased me to give up, I scowled.  He offered to eat it instead, I glared.

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I FORCED IT INTO MY MOUTH.

And the torment was over. I relaxed into my chair and remained motionless while I chewed and then, finally, swallowed. My brain was triumphant but my stomach groaned as the last morsel was engulfed and forced inside. Bandicoot still had an amused expression on his face, my puffed out cheeks and swelling belly was obviously not as attractive as I had envisaged, but my victory was glorious and beautiful. I cared naught for his look of ridicule.

I LOVED WINNING.

So if you too are up for a challenge, go forth to A La Ronde in Exmouth. If not, just buy one scone and save yourself an embarrassing hobble back to your car and from an evening of outrageous indigestion.

A Confession at 14:19

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I have been extremely girly this week. In fact I’ve been rather ‘anti-feminist’ for the past year… why? How? You ask? Well since I am in Devon, where not much really happens because I am severely lacking in friends and have been working part-time for a company that needs not my intellect, I have found time to dwell on frivolous thoughts. Spanning from the outrageously neurotic, where I truly believe my friends hate me, to the profound, sensible thoughts about the future and of…

MY wedding.

Yes, that’s right I think about MY wedding…

Because it’s going to be AWESOME!!!! And my Bandicoot has no idea what I have been cooking up for us… I have thought of all the things we like and have thrown them together in a cauldron of confetti and champagne. Imagine Pokemon, Cream Teas, Cougar Town, Thomas the Tank Engine, Life of Pi, 12 Angry men and John Wayne all meshed together at a National Trust property… ahhh what an idea… haha don’t worry it’s not really that crazy… or is it?

So you guys are engaged?

WHY GOOD HEAVENS… NO! Silly, I’m just a day dreamer. I sometimes imagine I am actually marrying Hugh Jackman… Captain America or the cookie monster… ahum… because well, I don’t really have the money to pay for this wedding, yet, and we’ve agreed to not get engaged until we can. That way I won’t have to be a fiancé for decades… I want to be a fiancé for as little time as possible… just seems like purgatory otherwise.

So yes that’s my dreadful little secret… I’ve even made a scrap book of all my ideas… from stationary, dresses and table decorations… but not the cake. THAT IS ALREADY SORTED!

I’d share some of my ideas with you but I have this fear that whatever I plan will be copied by my cousin. A girl who, for some reason, seems to know all the things I want and copies them without even realising… its infuriating. It’s like we have a mental connection; whatever I ooh and ahh at she will inevitably have, even if we are in different counties and I have her in my restricted section on Facebook… If she has anything the same as me I go berserk and if I find that she has copied any of my wedding ideas I will die.

I will rip her cake apart. I will claw at her dress. I will go all primeval on her guests and then I will look at my scrap book with hopeless longing.

That’s not petty is it?  

Or perhaps if I state my ideas now it’ll be proof that I thought of them first…

No that won’t matter to her… she’s not compassionate enough to understand…

OK it is super petty… but living with this mimic has led me to this irrational need to be different from her. I have done so much to escape this clone. My hair has suffered from all the times I have had to dye it a different colour when I’ve noticed she’s had the same hair cut as me. It’s like trying to run away from your own shadow, your own mirror image; its hard work. Trying to be different is hard work and at times I have never felt myself or natural all because she can’t get her own image.

To me my wedding is a sacred concern, a precious delusion that I will protect with the maternal instinct of a lioness; defending her cub.

If she gets a cake made by Choccywoccydoodah I will kill her.

Review Number Four

4) Sissinghurst Castle – National Trust

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On Sunday the 17th of March my Bandicoot and I did our usual; we went to a National Trust property for a cream tea. I had worn a skirt because the weather had duped me into thinking it was going to behave and shine like a good little sun ball, but, I should’ve know better. British weather is as reliable as a drifter, as deceptive as a spy and as cruel as a child. Colloquially speaking… IT CHUCKED IT DOWN and it made my middle finger on my right hand go numb… I even put gloves on my feet when we finally found the sanctuary of the onsite restaurant just to warm up my tootsies that bit quicker.

We had a rushed viewing of Sissinghurst but from what I saw from the restricted view from my hood was rather beautiful. Though I am not really sure how it qualifies as a castle… maybe if I had been able to look around longer a notice board may have told me… but for now I am left baffled. It was quaint and homely nothing like a domineering and overbearing castle should be. Its gardens were playfully hidden by mazes and were still delightfully picturesque in spite of the rain beating down. However, it was a most hurried affair and I was more anxious to get inside the restaurant than look at the estate so we’ve agreed to go again when the weather is in a better mood.

So yes, the cream teas were a long-awaited comfort we desperately needed and I was impatiently pulling my boy towards our destination. He was infuriatingly slow because he wanted to take pictures so steps were quickly taken; I glared and then threatened to run off with the brolly which effectively got the message across. The glare should’ve been enough though… my powers seem to be waning… We were damp and severely chilled by the time we reached the counter, the lady behind it looked rather bemused as did other customers around us who had escaped the downpour and were waiting it out. The lady behind the counter was exceedingly friendly and was in agreement with us that raspberry jam is far superior to strawberry. We also got to pick which scones we wanted, two plain for me and one of each for Bandicoot. I felt absolutely positive by the time we sat down. So happy in fact that I stuck up two fingers to the view of misty fields and draping rain from our window seat. He brought over the tray and I prepared to TUCK IN!

All in all they were good. There was plenty of jam and both of my scones were glazed and plumped to perfection. However, one complaint I do have is that when they provide us with the pre packaged pots of Roddas clotted cream… there’s just not enough. Obviously it’s not National Trust’s fault, some of their tea rooms in other properties provide generous pots of self scooped local varieties but Roddas… Roddas… just because you are one of the biggest brands for clotted cream doesn’t mean you can get away with being… STINGY!!!

The cream to jam ratio therefore was severely imbalanced. Not good for me but my Ketchum wasn’t bothered; the ratio was perfect for him.

What also surprised me was how floury the scones tasted… I assume that because my scone was so lacking in cream my tongue had more chance to appreciate the bun vessel. It was floury yes, but not crumbly, it clung together nicely and was fittingly warm. It was a treat I enjoyed but knew I’d had better.

What ruined the experience completely for me was that Aladdin and I had gone there to relax and take our time because we were in no rush to return to the rain but hovering over us was a group of four elderly people waiting for us to leave. There were hundreds of tables to spare yet they insisted on creating an uncomfortable atmosphere by waiting for us to move. I hate being hurried or forced out of a seat and I couldn’t fathom why on earth they wanted our spot. Other tables were clean ours was covered in crumbs and sugar residue, other tables had four seats like ours but didn’t have us in them and other tables were FREE GODAMMIT!! So abominably rude, one tried to turn it into a joke by saying ‘yes we are waiting har har, I know it’s a bit obvious har har, slightly embarrassing har har’ YES YOU’RE RIGHT YOU ARE BEING OBVIOUS AND BEING RUDELY EMBARRASSING. THERE ARE PLENTY OF OTHER TABLES TO CHOOSE FROM.

I glared. A lot. I took my time putting my coat on, removing my gloves from my feet to put them on my hands and shook my umbrella to make sure it was dry for a good few seconds. They were like vultures as soon as we were an inch away they swooped in with our tray and mess still on the table. I felt no remorse leaving them there either. I continued to glare at them until we were out of the door, but, like I said my glares seem to be weaker than usual and they just laughed at each other as if victorious that they had driven us out. I was fuming. All the comfort and warmth I felt from my adequate cream tea was ruined. The rain continued to storm upon us and all I wanted to do then was snuggle up back in bed… with another cream tea.

The best Cream Tea’s I’ve tasted so far…

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There is nothing I love more than to go for a walk around a beautiful National Trust property and afterwards share a Cream Tea with my lovely boyfriend… the best part being is that he usually pays! ;D nah I joke, the best part is definitely when I have my first bite of a delicious scone smothered in cream and jam! Haha!

I have a very high opinion of how I believe a scone should taste and how it should be served. I have had some dreadful scones in my time – some that have tasted of soap or have been so crumbly that before it’s even reached my lips it has fallen back down to my plate in a million pieces splattering cream and jam everywhere. The worst thing is when you drive all the way to a property and find that the restaurant is only selling scones with sultanas in them. No plain ones… my heart sinks to my stomach and comforts it because it knows the poor thing will remain unsatisfied.

There are many factors I consider when eating a proper cream tea and I believe I judge fairly when I do so.

So here they are! These are the questions I usually consider whilst I scoff away like a beast in front of my beloved –

How big is the scone? Big Bodacious Buns please!

How does the Scone taste? Score from 1-10 (One being – WHY THE HELL DID I PUT THAT IN MY MOUTH?! DDDDD: and 10 being – ORGASMIC!!! : DDDDD)

How much Jam and Cream do you get? Better be enough to spread on all my halves… (yeah I cut them in half and eat it that way.. my mouth isn’t big enough to consume it whole!!)

Are they even proportions? My boyfriend prefers more jam than cream and I am the opposite so if there is an even amount of both we like to share… nawww… if you saw us pillaging away at the sauces you really wouldn’t think it’s that sweet… more like a feeding frenzy.

How many cups of tea do you get out of the tea pot? Less isn’t more.

And if you do not get a teapot how big is the cup? Again, less isn’t more.

Is the Jam and Cream cool? preferably cool.

Do you get a choice in Jam? I love raspberry, not traditional I know but I would rather have that to strawberry.

Is the Cream proper clotted or whipped? FYI whipped is gross but some may disagree.

Is the Scone warm? Love it when the cream melts a bit. Drool!

Do they have Plain and Fruit scones? If they only have fruit ones they are void. Gross. Immoral. EVIL. I leave the place immediately. Yeah, I only like plain Scones… Was that not obvious before?!

Do you get one or two scones? LESS ISN’T MORE!!

Free tea refills? DEFINITELY A BONUS!

Think I have covered all the crucial areas… So far the best places I’ve been to for a decent scone is Killerton House in Exeter and the Royal Pavillion in Brighton – huge pots of cream and jam, perfect fluffy fat scones and a generous pot of tea. So if you have ever been to those places and have tasted their scones please let me know if you agree or (hopefully not) disagree!