March 2014

March 2014

Monday, October 8, 2012

A weekend 'Up North'.

It seems ages ago that I received a message from Lynn Hill – founder of the Clandestine Cake Club – with an invitation to join others at An Organiser’s Group (AOG) day in her hometown of Leeds, but the summer sped away and the date, 29th September, came around swiftly. Hubby Bernard and I planned a long weekend away around the date and we set off with our ‘things to do’ list and the trusty satnav pointed us in the right direction.

Our first stop on the agenda was Hardwick Hall – of ‘more glass than wall’ fame – and we were not to be disappointed. This Elizabethan National Trust property, near Chesterfield, is a stunning house set in the most beautiful countryside. It was Bess of Hardwick’s masterpiece of an idea to construct the building and, to this day, it is a living memorial to such a formidable woman who died centuries ago. We toured the various upstairs rooms  – with walls covered from ceiling to floor in the finest of tapestries – before, finally, venturing ‘below stairs’ to the servants’ working areas and my particular interest - the kitchen. It was so interesting to be able to see and touch the huge ranges which must have cooked the most sumptuous meals of their day. What sweet creations were produced? The glorious copper pots and pans gleamed in the sunlight that streamed in through the windows, and I wonder whether these cooking vessels looked so magnificent and untarnished in the 1600s?
On Saturday morning, at the Queens Hotel, I joined approximately 60 other CCC organisers for the first ever joint meeting. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I was given a ‘full to the brim’ goody bag filled with items donated by Kenwood, Steenbergs, Renshaws, Kitchen Craft, Eddingtons, George-East and Creative Party, before making my way to a vacant space. Thanks to my new table companions - organisers from Lancaster, Cottingham East Yorkshire and Newark & Sherwood - the day passed quickly in a blur of cake chat and cake eating. It was a real pleasure to meet Lynn Hill in the flesh - we had only emailed each other up to this time. She is such a hard-working inspiration and I am so pleased that her baby of an idea has grown into a fully-fledged and thriving community of bakers.  It was a huge success and I hope it will be repeated in 2013.
Sunday took us to Harrogate – a town that has long been on my wish list of places to visit. It was a blustery, rainy sort of day but we enjoyed walking around the town and diving into the various shops to miss the showers. Of course (can a duck swim!), we couldn’t miss the opportunity of sampling afternoon tea at Betty’s.
We were shown to our pre-booked table which looked out to the park below. Outside, passers-by looked like Lowry characters as they leaned into the wind with their umbrellas almost blowing inside out but we, warmed by the aroma of tea and cake, felt particularly pampered. A pianist played whilst we were served the most delicious finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, together with small morsels of delicate patisserie to follow. Pots and jugs of tea and coffee flowed in abundance, brought by ever-helpful staff – just a perfect and delightful treat of an experience.

Homeward bound the next day we detoured a little and visited Chatsworth in Derbyshire, which also has a connection with the Countess of Shrewsbury, i.e. Elizabeth (Bess) of Hardwick. Yet another magnificent stately pile that has survived the test of time and continues to be a ‘home’ for the present Devonshire family.
I wonder where the love of all things cake will take me next?

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