Lots of Steam, A Modicum of Speed, No Rain

September 30, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Posted in Travel | Leave a comment
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Gosh, I do love old trains. And I don’t think I’m alone in this based on the number of people who turned out a few weekends ago to a) ride on b) stand in a field/at the end of their garden to watch a magnificent old steam engine chug its way through the Norfolk countryside. Not all of them could be trainspotters in the traditional sense of the word. Long-term readers of this blog (thank you, you know who you are) will know that I’m a little bit partial to journeys by train – second only to bicycle as the way to travel –  so spending a Saturday morning on the mid-Norfolk railway from Dereham to Wymondham  (pronounced ‘Wyndham’) and back was my idea of heaven.

There is something quite magical and impressive about a steam engine. Being in the presence of one is a bit like being near a very large and powerful horse –  beautiful, awe-inspiring and a tiny bit intimidating. Edith Nesbitt captured this, of course, in The Railway Children, and there are several good train journeys in the Famous Five: the long and hot journey to Polwilly Halt in Five Go Down to the Sea stands out, and who could forget the sinister ‘spook’ trains of Five Go Off to Camp (pictured right)?

The smell, sound and sensation of being pulled along by a steam engine is a world away from the depressingly bland trains of today and the fixtures and fittings of old carriages are, in short, just lovely. Wood! Yes! So much warmer and nicer than horrid plastic. Here is a picture of the excellent striped carpet and checkered seating fabric on board.

Dereham station is beautifully kitted out too. There are displays of old maps, original station clocks, signs and objects from the glory days of the railways, and a shop where you can buy old British Rail mugs (my granny bought me a green one). There is also a great little tea room that is nicely done without being overly twee. You can get a decent cafetiere of coffee, plus a decent range of snacks, hot meals and home-made cakes, all at reasonable prices.

Steam trains only run during the summer, I think, but there are a number of diesel ‘specials’ coming up, first for Halloween (a ‘spook train’ perhaps?) and then in the run up to, and aftermath of, Christmas when there will be carol and mince pie specials. A full event listing and timetable can be found here.

Does anyone else have any good steam train recommendations?

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Drop scones, or what?

October 30, 2009 at 12:04 am | Posted in Dick, Eating and Drinking | Leave a comment
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‘”Look at that cream cheese,” marvelled Dick, quite overcome. “And that fruit cake. And are those drop scones, or what? Are we supposed to have something of everything?”‘ – Five Go Down to the Sea

What are drop scones? Dick’s delighted question got me pondering. I checked out the trusty Be-Ro cookbook and concluded they were something like Scotch pancakes – a suspicion which has since been confirmed by a short article in the Guardian family section. Drop scones are currently the food du jour in my household, despite it being a long way from Shrove Tuesday. They nicely suit the current weather – they’re comforting without being too hearty – and are especially nice spread with Tiptree ‘Tiny Tip’ Raspberry jam.

drop scones

Here’s a recipe for drop scones. It makes seven nicely sized ones.

1 egg

125g plain flour

150ml milk

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp caster sugar

pinch salt

Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a bowl. Crack in the egg and stir into the flour with a whisk, while slowly adding the milk. The mixture will be quite thick – thick enough to spoon into the frying pan or to slowly gloop out of a jug. Leave the batter to sit for 20 mins (or longer), then heat a non-stick frying pan (I’m sure Joan the cook would approve even if such devices were not available to her). When the pan is quite hot, add a little butter or sunflower oil, let this get hot and then add spoonfuls of the batter. Cook the drop scones in batches of 3 or 4. They are ready to turn when bubbles start to form on the top side of the drop scone. Flip over and cook for another minute or so. Serve hot or cold, spread with jam.

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