Welcome to Hutton Cranswick

In Bloom

Britain in Bloom Finalists 2012

By the time you read this I will have had my fingers tightly crossed that the temperature has soared sufficiently for enough strenuous gardening to have been undertaken to warrant at least one visit to the osteopath. Alternatively we could be up to our fetlocks in snow! That kind of talk is the slippery slope (if you pardon the pun) towards becoming involved in the British obsession of discussing the weather which I refuse to get dragged into.    

Though it does remind me how lucky I am to live where I do, and not be a member of an Inuit community. There when you get a bit long in the tooth, or worse still have no gnashers at all, or are generally not pulling your weight around the igloo, the expected thing is to wander off into the night never to be seen again. The Inuits, however, are strong believers in reincarnation, and before taking the long walk, designate a pregnant family member in whose baby their soul is placed. I must admit to a sneaking admiration to this solution, and wonder whether it could be the answer to this Country’s over population, but I reckon I’ve got a good few years ahead of me, and with a following wind and regular visits to the dentist this may be put on hold for now.

I still can’t help imagining the scenario one winter evening, heading for the front door to make tracks for Centenary Wood, pausing only to murmur dramatically – “I’m going outside – I may be some time …”

I wonder which of my grandchildren would be the lucky one to find a mini-me in the Moses basket. Be afraid, you lot, be very afraid.

I was not in the least afraid to meet my victim this month, Ann Day, a most talented cake maker and decorator extraordinaire.  In fact I deliberately skipped breakfast on the day, knowing I would be offered samples of her delicious ware, and I was not to be disappointed.

I was warmly welcomed by Ann and her husband Mal into their delightful cottage which having been built in 1845 may be one of the oldest properties in Hutton. When Mal first bought the cottage in 1982 it was almost derelict, and I enjoyed looking through the photo album which catalogues the transformation to what it is today.

Although Ann lived in Ilkley, she was familiar with Hutton Cranswick because her sister ran the ‘top pub’ the Cross Keys, and it was there, in 1994, that she first laid eyes on Mal during a game of darts. Not a pair to let the grass grow under their feet, they married a year later.  It was the second time around for both of them as Ann was, sadly, widowed when her son Simon and daughters Rachel and Elizabeth were very young and Mal also has two daughters by a previous marriage. Having both taken early retirement, Ann was more than a little disappointed to discover that she could no longer look forward to receiving her pension aged sixty one and would have another five years to wait. But every cloud, as the saying goes, and last July her monthly Chocolate Workshops debuted in the village to the delight of many chocaholics.

During these events a maximum of six devotees are given two pre-baked chocolate cakes to decorate, and five hours later, emerge with something so beautiful and professional looking that it beats me how they can bear to eat it. A lot of fun is had by all during the learning process, and even poor Mal is roped in as general dogsbody and washer upper.

Ann seems to have inherited a love of baking from her mother, who to her dying day refused to share recipes for her Christmas and chocolate cake even with her daughters. It was only when Ann stumbled across a Children in Need cookery book sponsored by Radio York, that she found her mother’s name against a rich chocolate cake that the secret was out.  The Christmas cake turned up in a very old hand written book dated 1917 belonging to an aunt which has become something of a family heirloom, now rebound and added to by Ann.  She is very keen to stress that she is completely self taught, and the aim of her Workshops is to pass on her knowledge in a laid back, fun way. She did attend Beverley College in 2001, and went on to Graduate in a Creative Arts Foundation Degree at Hull University, and her talents also include upholstery, willow weaving, painting and ceramics, many examples ofwhich grace her home and garden.

The celebratory cakes that she produces are utterly amazing, often being given a free rein to let her imagination run riot, and the end results which I saw in her promotional album are unique and so cleverly developed. Anything from a many tiered wedding cake to a child’s birthday cake gets the special ‘Ann’ treatment and is guaranteed not to disappoint. As I said earlier how people cut into these works of art is beyond me.

Struggling with rheumatoid arthritis, Ann is one of those highly inspirational people whose achievements really make you think and put more minor aches and pains into perspective. Possessing an infectious laugh and great sense of humour, she is kept so busy with not only her business but also her family, which includes two grandchildren whom she adores, that I doubt she has time to feel sorry for herself.

I sincerely hope I’ve been able to pass on some idea of what Ann is trying to achieve with her Workshops and if the idea of working with chocolate (and who doesn’t like it?) and spending a day with others who are out to have fun while they learn a new skill appeals to you, waste no more time by contacting Ann on 01377 270020 or email her on malannday@btinternet.com

Get away from the family for a while, forget the fasting days and just ENJOY!!!

Ann Day