Floral fantasies with a festive flavour

PUBLISHED: 20:29 17 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:42 20 February 2013

Carol Dixon creates a festive floral arrangement

Carol Dixon creates a festive floral arrangement

The second North East Life Readers' Lunch was a resounding success, not just for the people who came along to the event at the lovely Morritt Hotel in Teesdale, County Durham, but for the charity the hotel supports.


More than 50 people arrived at the Morritt at 11am for coffee in the hotel's warm and comfortable lounge before being invited through to the beautifully-appointed ballroom where delights of a different kind were to be displayed. It was good to see a smattering of gentlemen in the audience this time, as the last event was attended entirely by ladies - but then again the demonstration that day was about make-up techniques.

Guests were formally welcomed by North East Life co-editor, Sue Campbell, and Morritt owner, Barbara Johnson introduced the demonstrator for the event. Carol Dixon, of Rainbow's End in Teesdale, has been creating stunning floral displays for ten years and gave her time to show the assembled guests how to put together wonderful arrangements, particularly for a festive table.

Although it looked deceptively simple, Carol managed to make her creations look fabulous, while talking the audience through the way in which to build up a display and answering questions about her art and her experience. Her eye for form, shape and colour was admired by all - even those in the audience who already had skill in floral work.

Carol created traditional and contemporary displays to suit every taste and gave tips and advice on how the audience could do the same at home. Some were already very knowledgeable, but even those that weren't could see how cleverly put together the displays were. Carol, who gave her time free of charge, then gave the arrangements as raffle prizes, which along with others on the lunch tables, raised an excellent 268, which has gone to the Butterwick Children's Hospice.

The Morritt supports the Butterwick, which cares for children with life-limiting illnesses and has adult hospices at Stockton and Bishop Auckland as well as the children's hospice at Stockton. After the demonstration, guests were treated to a glass of mulled wine before lunch. It was delicious and there was much clamour for Chef Lee Stainthorpe's mull recipe, but guests were called to lunch before all could be revealed.

Lunch was taken in the Morritt Garden Room, which almost feels like sitting outside - not that you'd want to in December - but the garden is so close and the sun shone in. All the tables had been individually festively dressed. Christmas is a very special time for the Morritt. Barbara collects Christmas decorations and personally made each table look very special. She said: 'The festive season is special and we wanted to make this a perfect start for people's celebrations. Carol's expertise is second to none and I think everyone was amazed at how beautiful her creations were.'

North East Life co-editor, Andrew Smith, spoke about the magazine's success over the past nine months of its existence and thanked everyone for their support.

Lunch with wine started with a beautifully-textured terrine of smoked and potted salmon with dill oil and horseradish - a lovely fresh taste . The baked chicken with leek and pea risotto come next and was quickly polished off by the assembled guests. Hardly a thing left on the plates and thoroughly enjoyed. Rum bavaroise with Christmas pudding ice cream was the delectable festive dessert, which also received many plaudits. A lovely change to the traditional Christmas pudding.

Barbara Johnson drew the raffle at the end of the lunch, and the winners went away very happily with the lovely displays Carol had produced. At the end, Sue Campbell thanked Barbara and the Morritt staff for their hard work during the day and for the effort put into make the event such a success. All guests also went away with a Morritt Hotel gift bag, with lots of goodies to remember a very enjoyable and seasonal day.

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