Monday, May 3, 2010

Tea in Grantchester

It's a sunny but cold May Day bank holiday here in East Anglia. I am enjoying the first of my "never in Canada!" bank holidays, and I finally have time to write about our idyllic day in Grantchester. There is a Cambridge tradition, from the last century, of taking tea outdoors in the orchard at The Orchard, so we decided to avail ourselves us this on the first sunny Saturday in April.

It is about a 4 mile walk from our house to the Orchard. As we'd never been there before we walked through town and along Grantchester Road. This involved a detour through the Clare Gardens, my first visit to them (beautiful!) and a chance to see the outsides of some colleges. Then city gave way to college-owned gaming fields, which in turn gave way to farm land, and we found ourselves in the English countryside.

It was a beautiful day for a walk—the sun was hot, the air was fresh, and the ground firm & dry. Eventually we got tired of dodging cars on the narrow road so we trekked across a farmer's field, with David making jokes about angry farmers and their guns. Just when I began to wonder how much farther we had to go (and curse our lack of water bottle), we saw the GRANTCHESTER sign. We paused for pictures, as it is not every day that one walks to a neighbouring town. Just after David took my picture we heard a gunshot hear our heads. "I say, is someone shooting at us?" I assumed it was a farmer, angry that we trekked in his tractor tracks, so we walked very swiftly toward town. Just as we neared the first building we saw a farmer with a gun in one hand and a pheasant in the other. We relaxed our pace back to stroll.

The town was picturesque, with actual thatched roof cottages. We strolled toward The Orchard, which was entered by a little path through the trees. Then unfolded acres of grass, budding trees, and people sitting at low tables in canvas deck chairs, enjoying their afternoon tea. The line-up for the tea house was long, and once inside it was a cafeteria-style set up (reminding me strongly of the BC ferries!), although they give you this blue plastic square that vibrates and flashes with red lights when your lunch food is ready.

Soon we were settled in a corner of the orchard, resting weary bodies in the comfortable chairs, and presiding over our first English High Tea. Cranberry & brie, and cheese & bramston pickle sandwiches; elderflower soda (it tastes like someone bottled the essence of spring); scones with clotted cream and jam; flavourful tea. It was perfection. We must have lingered for at least an hour, slowly eating and just enjoying the fresh green air. How lovely to picnic in a land where one is not troubled by wasps or mosquitoes! How wonderful to consume a rich lunch with the true hunger of a good mornings walk!

We decided to walk home by following the Cam. We passed picnickers, campers, punters, kayakers, and even a couple of canoes. Everywhere I looked were the lush grasslands and willows of the riverside, happy groups of friends & families enjoying the April sunshine, and people moving by on the water. Then, in the distance, we saw the first of the Cambridge church spires, and I experience the thrill of seeing our town appear on the horizon as we walked towards it. It seemed so displaced from the 21st century, where you go so fast in your car that by the time you notice the town appearing you are already in it.

Home then, to rest weary feet and spend an evening of quiet rest indoors.


  1. it looks like a beautiful day! What fun! I want a bank holiday :)

  2. How delightful! I've encountered those strange space-ship food's-ready announcers. Apart from the novelty, which wore off quickly, I find them obnoxious. I love the photos! But my favourite part is your encounter with Pheasant Hunter. :)

  3. We found them obnoxious too once we discovered that they couldn't be turned off. I just sent David away to gather food at that point!

    The Pheasant Hunter reminded me of Beatrix Potter's "Fierce Bad Rabbit"--'This is a fierce bad rabbit. THIS is a man with a gun!"