Life has a curious way of taking you to interesting places around the world. Like the time that Peter and I visited Blanchland, Northumberland in the north Pennines - an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' in England.
Blanchland is built around a medieval abbey and church, founded in 1165. It's a picture postcard English village, with rows of stone walls and cottages, sprawling meadows and woodlands, a pub, a river and even a babbling brook. Free range chooks forage in amongst the wild flowers under the trees, while snow-white sheep with sweet black faces dot the surrounding hillsides.
Had Peter not been researching his family tree, we may never have known about Blanchland. He happened to find a family from the area that may have been related. When he looked into contacting one of the family members (who lived in Blanchland), he found that he and the man looked so much alike, they could have been brothers.
Ergo, we added Blanchland to the itinerary and were so pleased that we did. Although we did not cross paths with the fellow Peter had originally contacted, we were delighted to have discovered the village. Among its many gems, the Lord Crewe Arms in the heart of the village, which was once the abbott's priory.
With its 21 bedrooms, the Grade-II-listed Lord Crewe Arms has been refurbished to the tune of 1.5 million pounds (GBP) under the management of Lord Crewe's Charity (formed in 1721 under the terms of the will of Nathaniel a.k.a. Lord Crewe) in partnership with Calcot Hotels.
The interior is quite stunning. An 'escape to the country' feel, with furnishings designed to reflect the soft colours of the surrounding landscape. Our bedroom was so cosy and comfortable that I almost didn't want to leave. Rest assured, we will be going back (in 2017)... and I can hardly wait.
There are two restaurants at the Lord Crewe Arms: The Larders, also known as The Hillyard and The Derwent, and the Bishop’s Dining Room - which looks out over the rose garden and nearby meadows. The view from the dining room is spectacular at sunset. There's also the Crypt Bar, set in a medieval vaulted room with thick stone walls and Lord Crewe ale on tap.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the kitchens are headed up by Australian-born chef, Simon Hicks (ex-Hix Soho in London). At the time of our visit, Hicks had been with the Lord Crewe Arms for about 18 months. Raised in Adelaide, he trained as a butcher and then turned his attention to cooking - working at the Sofitel in Melbourne, then going overseas to work at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh, Le Caprice and Scotts in Mayfair, and, finally, Hix Soho in London.
Hicks sources much of his produce locally, including mushrooms that are foraged from the surrounding forests. There is a large vegetable garden on the grounds of the Lord Crewe Arms, and Hicks has built a smokehouse out there too.
The menu has a seasonal focus and the dishes are deliciously uncomplicated. To give you an idea, I enjoyed a bowl of pea, lettuce and lovage soup; followed by lamb shoulder potato cake with grilled loin chops and samphire; and finished with a sea buckthorn (Elaeagnaceae) posset. The dessert was accompanied by a glass of Campbell's Rutherglen Muscat from Australia. Perfection, as my self explanatory postcards below will show.
Come, let's explore The Lord Crewe Arms...
How to get there...
Blanchland is on the River Derwent, which effectively forms the border or boundary between Northumberland and County Durham. It is located on the B6306, an hour from Newcastle, on the road between the market town of Hexham and Edmundbyers.
The Good Things team travelled to the United Kingdom and stayed at the Lord Crewe Arms in Blanchland, Northumberland, at our own expense. This is not a sponsored post.
Watch this space for my upcoming article with postcards and morsels about our visit to the village of Blanchland.
Now tell me dear readers, have you ever been 'led' to visit a wonderful place, like Blanchland in Northumberland? Do tell me your story.
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.