The Great British Bake Off may be perfect cosy comfort TV but judge Dame Prue Leith has recalled a 'traumatic' moment from her childhood when she drowned a litter of kittens.

The Queen of baking, 82, who lives in the Cotswolds, included the episode in her memoir I’ll Try Anything Once.

She explained that her mother lowered a bag of baby cats into some water just hours after their birth.

She wrote: "My mother and I, then 11, had just drowned some kittens… and for weeks I imagined those poor dead creatures.

"Too many kittens was a frequent occurrence and there had come a day when my mother, unable to find homes for yet another litter, decided to drown the latest batch.

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"My protests were met with a firm, 'Darling, it has to be done. They are only a few hours old. They will hardly know it’s happening'."

She added that her mother said they only needed to hold the bag of kittens under the water for a short time to send them to 'sleep' but that they 'fought like the devil for life'.

Dame Prue said her mother then changed her mind but she told her they couldn't stop and she held the bag under until the animals 'stopped mewing'.

Dame Pure, who can be spotted on the back of a Harley-Davidson as she and her husband pub-crawl around the Cotswolds, used to live at Chastleton Glebe, near Moreton-in-Marsh.

She recently downsized to a modern barn she and husband of six years John Playfair designed together.

The South African-born businesswoman founded her company Leith's Good Food in the 1960s and went on to open numerous restaurants and training companies. 

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But in 2008 she told the Oxford Mail she is often happiest when up to her elbows in muck as she tended the grounds of Chastleton which has a lake, with tiny man-made island in the centre plus a bridge, summerhouse and even a boat, all designed by Prue and her late husband, the writer Rayne Kruger.

They were inspired by the famous willow pattern' design popularised by china manufacturer Thomas Minton.

Prue said then: "Gardening is a passion of mine. When I am here and it is not pouring with rain, I spend most of the day in the garden just pottering about.

"It is a bottomless pit you just throw money at and, as far as I am concerned, gardening is nearly as good as cooking."

  • The Great British Bake Off, which has returned to Welford Park in Berkshire, continues at 8pm on Tuesdays on Channel 4.



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