Renovation 2018…..Countdown to the middle of July

After 18 years of Bed and breakfast guests at Crake Trees the hard worked bathrooms and shower rooms are feeling the strain.

So for the past 3 months we have been busy with renovation and alteration to the “facilities” and added on a few extras.

Our contractor, Mace Construction from Kendal is pulling together all the different trades to get the job done by mid July.

Joiners from Crosthwaite, plumbers from Kendal, electricians from Orton, builders from Endmoor, plasterers from Selside and tilers from Carlisle mean that the yard at Crake Trees is a busy place with sometimes 10 or 12 workers all eating their bait around the enormous table in our courtyard. The sunny weather for the past few weeks has certainly helped.

Breakfast Granola

As well as Muesli that I mix up myself  I make a regular batch of Granola. Its unique flavour of roasted nuts, honey and oats really perk up thick yoghurt and give fruit an unusual crunch.

The recipe is an adaptation of a local recipe from the special cookery book produced to celebrate Newton Rigg College centenary in 1995. I always thought Granola to be very 21st century. But maybe Cumbria is way ahead of some trends after all.

I went to Newton Rigg Agricultural College in the 70’s. Firstly to do a ‘young country-womens’ course when I had left school and could not decide what direction to head in. My Dad had just died and that put paid to my leaving home to study like my sister.

Anyway I so enjoyed the short course mix of advanced cookery, craft and gardening skills (as well as having a great laugh with a new bunch of friends) that I decided to do a National Diploma in Dairy and lowland Agricultural management.

Again, the course was a great success as I was able to spread my wings, meet loads of new people, learn the proper way to be a progressive farmer and generally misbehave out of sight of my mother! Yet I was still be able to get back home in half an hour to do weekend milking or lambing duties.



1 cup runny honey

1 cup hot water

1 cup rapeseed oil

1 tsp vanilla

4 cups jumbo oats, 4 cups ordinary oats

2 cups mixed seeds

2 cups nuts (pecan hazel and brazil)

1 cup of trial mix

1 cup maple syrup

Mix all dry ingredients. Add the oil and honey to the hot water and mix in. Spread onto 2 large flat baking trays and squeeze into odd clumps.

In the oven, second oven of Aga , or about 160 c for 1/2 to 3/4 hour. Keep an eagle aye on the tray as the stage between perfectly crisp and burnt is very small !

Add the dried fruit and pour on the maple syrup, mix well and leave to cool. It keeps well in a sealed glass container for about 3 weeks then the flavour disappears.


Snow Pancakes


Years ago, probably when I was a small girl, my mother found an old recipe for ‘Snow Pancakes ‘. We religiously used the recipe each year whenever we had a few days of snow,

Whilst Laura & William were also very young there seemed to be short bursts of snow each January, but it’s been neither here nor there for the last 15 yrs so we seemed to lose the tradition of making snow pancakes.

At Crake Trees we have had a proper snowfall last night  and woke up to a beautiful silence and sunshine that surrounds the countryside for a short time on that first morning of winter snow .

The sheep are happy, the horses want to be out straight away without rugs and the jack resells go mad rolling over and overrun the snow.

Apart from all exposed water pipes being frozen at the cattle sheds life suddenly seems good again

The grandsons Bill and Ted wanted to make pancakes for supper, the snow is crisp but fluffy  and just right for that important task of being the premier ingredient for the pancakes

What is there about snow? who thought of using snow in the pancake mix? I do not know, but they certainly taste wonderful and have a strange texture that the frozen air molecules create.

When following my recipe be careful where you gather your snow, not where the dogs have had a wee or any other suspect area.

I collected it from the top of our Oak seating blocks from the front garden, where no birds have been hopping about on either.

We had the snow pancakes with left over Rum Butter from Christmas and a squirt of lemon to sharpen them up a little.

Mix 9 oz of Plain flour (I used half plain and half Spelt flour) with 4 beaten eggs and about 2 oz of melted butter and a drop on vanilla essence

Slowly beat in ½ pt of milk (with a wooden spoon) and then the ½ pt (by volume) of fresh snow

Make the pancakes with a very little extra butter and oil used to grease the pan

Layer up and keep covered and warm

Remember the first pancake is the cooks perk, which can be eaten whilst the second is cooking

The Shepherds Hut…..A short history

Its creation from an idea to completion.


Thwaites engineers at Morland tackled the job of engineering the skeleton of The Shepherds Hut.

Jan  made drawings and calculations  to scale from my own and mikes artistic efforts with a few alterations to get it in proportion.

With a sprung base and articulated back wheels the frame looked enormous.

What a struggle to get it back to Crake Trees

After winter we managed to find room none of the lambing sheds so that the body work could progress whatever the weather.

But progress was slow as other more pressing jobs got in the way

It was not until we had a booking that Mike had to change up a gear and enlist Malcolm’s help to get completed by August

The galvanised sheeting cladding went on fine, but the curved roof caused a lot of brute force, and the internal insulation and boarding a frustrating amount of waste.

The next hut will be altered slightly to allow more economic use of the timber

When the lovely oak floor went down, it all began to look rather smart.

We had much discussion over the size of the windows and the placing of the door.

Then, adding a verandah and getting it balanced and looking ‘right’ was the next hurdle.

I sometimes thought we had too many opinions , as the construction was certainly creating a lot of interest in the village. People walking the footpath that goes down by the yard stopped to chat, inspect the unusual construction, and add their pennyworth of advise !

But, at last it was time for me to paint the boarding , scrub the windows and floor and try to get the Shepherds Hut pulled to just the right place, by the pond, with the best view and level of course!

The Shepherds Hut certainly looks the part, as you drive up the track it looks like its always been down by the pond, looking right down over the farm to the Eden Valley.

Mike then had to build the Oak bed and the special slate stand for the tiny wood stove.

I have had some simple blinds made, with old handmade crocheted rugs, a local made peg mat and some wonderful locally forged candle holders, all is warm and welcoming.

So… the first guests came to stay one balmy August evening and we were relieved to hear next morning, when I took down their breakfast basket,that the night had been a great success.

Westmorland Oatcakes     

Here is something to try from my “breakfast specials” selection.

The Westmorland Oatcakes are popular, mainly because they are not what folks eat at home everyday

We use Oatmeal from the Watermill at Great Salkeld

, and sometimes Spelt instead of Wheat Flour,

which means the oatcakes can be tolerated by folks with a wheat allergy

12 oz Medium and Fine Oatmeal

8 oz SR Flour or Spelt plus baking powder

1pt Milk and plain Yoghurt mixed

1 pt Water

½ tbsp Salt

½ tbsp Sugar

Mix with a wooden spoon and soak overnight

Re mix well and maybe add a drop more water

Cook the oatcakes as you would cook pancakes

Using a few drops of melted oil/butter mix to grease the pan

It’s quite a job that requires a lot of patience, and the skill of a good oatcake comes with much practise

I can never make them as well as Agnes, who used to work for me.

Polish people have a natural talent in the pancake department

When you have a good stack of oatcakes, freeze them interwoven with greaseproof.

They are served at Crake Trees Manor with 2 slices of smoked bacon and a tot of maple syrup…


At  dinner- time.

Serve with a grating of hard ewe’s cheese from the Appleby Creamery or Winter Tarn Keverigg and homemade apple & date chutney.

Days Out and Happy travels from Crake Trees

An easy dip into the delights of The Eden Valley means a 10 minute drive, or a half hour bike ride to Acorn Bank, Temple Sowerby.
 National Trust owned, but somehow escaping the corporate image of that grand organisation.

Acorn Bank is a distinctive red sandstone mansion set in farmed parkland with the most wonderful gardens, woodland walks to a working mill. All in all a wonderland of contrasting nature and architecture.

The Eden Valley is a feast of unorganised fun for children. But you need to do some research as all our stuff is not really targeted at the children’s market. Meaning that children and folks of all ages can enjoy the delights of say, Acorn Bank Gardens, Brougham or Brough Castle, The Watermill and Long Meg Stone Circle at Little Salkeld, Lowther Castle and gardens or indeed The Railway between Appleby and Settle.

So, we shall start with Acorn Bank.

Park up and pay your entry (free to Nat Trust members) in the house. There are very short tours to explain its history as a Base of The Knights Templar to the plans for restoration.

Through the shop, a mix of National trust standards to some local delicacies, to the café. Eating in the tiny courtyard sun trap is the best bit, especially for little ones, as often a hen will join you at the table!

We generally rush through to the gardens, as Bill and Ted need to check out the newts in the round pond and the tiny frogs in the fountain.

The gardens could take a full afternoon, with the largest herb garden in the north, the experimental  vegetable growing, the Penrith beekeepers aviary and the apple orchard with literally hundreds of varieties all looked after so well, named and looking glorious.

Now through the walled garden gate that reminds me of Alice in Wonderland to the Cowdundle beck and woods below. Enter another world, a total escape as you follow paths to the river, find tiny woodland people’s houses, and at last reach the roar of the mill and the mill farmyard.

So much to see, however long you spend here, you will leave feeling refreshed and relaxed.

Brougham Castle Lady Clifford Penrith

Its a wonderful unexpected castle that pops into view as you speed northwards along the A66.

English Heritage is in charge. But there is very little presence of wardens, guides or such like.
You just turn up, pay the entrance fee and explore the grand ruins.

The castle was founded by Robert de Vieuxpont in the C13th and passed by marriage by the end of the century into The Clifford family, who also owned Brough, Skipton, and Appleby Castles.

Our most famous feminist, Lady Anne Clifford, eventually gained her rightful inheritance in the C17th and started a massive scheme of restoration and philanthropic development of castles, estates and churches. All along the route of her mid and later life wanderings between her estates in Westmorland and Yorkshire.

There are interpretation boards dotted around the castle and keep, but really basic so your not overloaded with information. The tiny shop has some good local history booklets , ice cream and a coffee machine.

So fetch a picnic, keep a eye on the children as they climb the hundreds of steps up the towers and relish the views of your domain right up the Eden Valley.