Soaking up Somerset (and Dorset) (and sticky toffee pudding)

As it was a beautiful albeit chilly day today, the great outside beckoned. We journeyed to the Stourhead estate near Wiltshire, which contains a Palladian mansion, the village of Stourton, gardens, farmlands and a magnificent parkland, centered on an artificial lake. 

We first stopped at King Alfred’s Tower, a 165-foot-tall brick folly built in 1772. One could have many fantasies around this massive edifice. Or just bring your dog.

The path around the lake is meant to mirror Aeneas’s descent in to the underworld, or – should the references be too obscure for the average viewer – a general sense of the classical world comes to mind. The walk around the lake is incredibly picturesque, especially this time of year.

We had lunch at the Inn and a leisurely meal it was.

With the remaining sunlight, we returned to the lovely village of Trent, and spent the rest of the afternoon admiring the charms of this little Dorset village where we are visiting, starting at the Church of St. Andrew.

One of the most striking features of St Andrew’s Church is its beautiful, slender 14th century spire, one of only three ancient spires in the county. The tower houses a ring of six bells, four of which date from medieval times. Notable features inside include the medieval pew ends, the fan-vaulted screen, a pulpit with splendid carved wooden panels and an east window containing an interesting collection of stained-glass fragments.

Is this not the perfect English village, dripping with age and burnished by generations who loved their homes and gardens?

Don’s Food Corner

We had a choice when we were at Stourhead. Either go through the grand house after our stroll through the grounds or see what was on offer at the restaurant.  We went for the food.

The food profile was classic British, which we all embraced.  Two of our small group ordered the soup — parsnip and apple with ginger. A welcome relief from the standard orange vegetable soup of Portugal, the inherent sweetness of the parsnip and apple was offset by the zingy snap of the fresh ginger. Plus, it tasted as if  was good for you — loaded with anti-oxidants.

I tried the restaurant’s version of bangers and mash. The sausages were promised to have been homemade, but there was some confusion about what kind of meat was used (venison) and what other ingredients were in there. Whatever the contents, they were not overly spicy and the mashed potatoes where, as you’d expect, perfectly rustic without too much milk and butter in there.

Jo went with an order of “local” ham and fried eggs with French fries on the side. The eggs were properly cooked — set whites and runny yolks. The helping of ham was so generous that Jo had to get help cleaning her plate.

Also ordered was a platter of fish and chips. There is one very fine recipe for this dish in the UK and the restaurant here followed all the directions.

For a little dessert, we all shared a portion of sticky toffee pudding, along with a little pitcher of hot caramel sauce to pour over it. Apparently, there is only one recipe for this delicacy in the UK since the homemade version we had a few days ago was exactly the same as it was at the restaurant.  For some curious reason, Jo’s appetite recovered from her willingness to share her ham and she picked up the pitcher of caramel sauce and finished it off with a spoon – after all the pudding was gone, of course. I guess she didn’t want the chef to be insulted by leaving anything behind. And, no, she did not actually lick the inside of the pitcher, but there was a certain look in her eye that might have suggested that she would have under different, less public, circumstances. It was that good.

In fact, it was so good that taking a photo was completely forgotten. We all grabbed forks instead of the camera.


2 thoughts on “Soaking up Somerset (and Dorset) (and sticky toffee pudding)

  1. It is indeed a picture of what I imagine an English village should look like. A thached roof or two would top it off.

  2. There are several thatched houses! Bet they are darker than you are expecting. Trent is truly perfect – in the English village category.

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