Bachelors Buttons and Alfred’s Cakes

Bachelors Buttons and Alfred’s Cakes

Alfreds Cakes-618

Bachelors Buttons-618

Sally Hall plays the clarinet: she’s also my boss who works as the Senior Guide at Dove Cottage where she deals with the day to day running of the house and gardens – where we often find ourselves working alongside each other.. I tend to the grass, trees, paths and drains, while she plants and weeds the beds. Much of my time is spent alone dealing with the general estate and I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate the times we spend together in the D.C garden.

The Wordsworths created the garden over two hundred years ago. They believed that when gardening you should work within the spirit of nature, with the invisible hand of art: it should be subtle not ostentatious. It’s a principle and philosophy we try to adhere to today.

In many ways it’s harder to make a garden look natural than it is to make it cultivated just as equally there’s a very fine line between natural and unkempt. It’s something we’re very much aware of and try not to cross. Sally knows the names of all the flowers and I’ve always appreciated how imaginative people were in naming them: Bachelors Buttons, Dogtooth Violets, Turks cap Lilies. Ladies Mantle etc. The colloquial names are far more vivid and sensual than the Latin, which I always forget.

A stretch of woodland lies on the far side of the perimeter wall and the other day while out checking the deer fence I came across a cluster of combustible mushrooms called Alfred’s Cakes.  Bulbous or conical in shape with a scorched appearance they form in clusters on dead ash trees. They are remarkable in that when dried and lit they can retain heat for up to four hours. Ancient nomadic people placed them in horns and used them to carry fire between camps. They burn from within like a coal; blowing on it turns it into a glowing ember that can be used to start another fire.


It never ceases to amaze me how resourceful our ancestors were.


Sally’s recipe for Walnut and Cinnamon Scones


1lb flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2oz’s of butter

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

1 egg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Milk to mix

Pinch of salt


Make a light scone mixture. Roll out quickly. Sprinkle cinnamon, sugar and nuts over it. Fold in three then roll to required thickness: cut into shapes and bake in a hot oven on an un-greased baking tray for about ten minutes, or until done.

Delicious spread with rum butter.


Next week. Dem bones, dem bones . . .


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *