Only three weeks ago I sat by a roaring fire on a miserable day, enjoying the biggest, moistest slab of carrot cake I’ve ever rejoiced at. I was at Barter Books in Alnwick, one of Britain’s largest second hand book shops, situated in a restored Victorian railway station. After a prolonged browsing session, the old buffet and waiting rooms are the cosiest place imaginable for a light lunch or comprehensive tea. I was torn between scones, cupcakes, traybake, and various fresh home-made cakes including fruit cake made to a secret family recipe. My companion suggested we share the carrot cake but I scoffed mine to a background of rain hammering on the glass roof, then polished off his remaining flapjack. Cake and books – a sublime duo. Kindles to be parked at the door. (I wish!)
Howick Hall was the home of Earl Grey, former prime minister and tea supremo. Although the hall is closed, the gardens are open to the public and are perfect for a wander in late spring. They include wild flower meadows, the woodland garden, rockery, herbaceous borders and bog garden. After a pot of Earl Grey tea in the old Ballroom, we like to finish by taking 'The Long Walk' through the arboretum which leads down to the beautiful Northumberland shore.
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