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Friday, 12 July 2013

Is there honey still for tea?

I spent a really good day here at The Orchard Tea Garden at Grantchester, near Cambridge.
I was with photographer Lesley Anne and we were trying to get a cover shot for the August issue of the local magazine. This is the issue where I can stray out of my direct area to concentrate on days out and tourist attractions in the region.

The Orchard is a very special place. I don't think anywhere suggests Englishness to me as much as this, especially on a balmy summer day like today. The surrounding countryside is not particularly appealing, as it is quite flat and featureless, but there is something about these gentle green river meadows with the willows hanging down into the water and cows grazing in the pasture that is very evocative. The area was made famous by the poet Rupert Brooke, who moved in to The Orchard when he was a student at Cambridge University, and seeking some quietness away from his hectic and complicated social life.
It didn't happen. His friends sought him out and Grantchester was soon a hive of activity for Rupert and his Bloomsbury set friends.

They swam in the river and caroused on the banks - you can just imagine it. Today, the Tea Garden has a Bohemian air, with groups of slightly mildewy deckchairs under the apple trees. You can buy cream teas and lunches and sit in the shade to enjoy them. Next door is The Old Rectory, which I think is now owned by Jeffrey Archer. Rupert Brooke also lodged there and he wrote one of his most famous poems about it, The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. The last two lines are these:

"Stands the clock at ten-to-three
And is there honey still for tea?"

He also wrote these lines, which I love:

"I only know that you may lie
Day-long and watch the Cambridge sky,
And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass
Hear the cool lapse of hours pass..."

Here is the Vicarage garden:

And the Vicarage:

The village itself is very pretty:

Cottage gardens abound.

There are flocks of tourists in summer. I overheard an American tour guide trying to explain the concept of clotted cream to a group of Japanese people as tray loads of cream teas arrived at their table. "It looks a bit disgusting," she was telling them, "but if you beat it really hard with your spoon and put some on your scone, it is delicious!"
 Rupert Brooke died aged 27 on a troop ship bound for Gallipoli. He became ill on board and died from blood poisoning. He is buried in an olive grove on the Greek Island of Skyros, but there is a statue of him in the Old Vicarage grounds. As he once wrote prophetically:
"If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England." 


  1. I love his poetry after being introduced to it by my late Father who frequently quoted him. Funnily enough we have just been to Charleston another Bloomsbury meeting place very near to us. Lovely photo's.

    1. HI Karen,
      I love Charleston. I've only been once. I said the other day that it's one place I'd love to return to. Similar sort of atmosphere, you can almost feel the presence of the former inhabitants!

  2. How lovely it all looks and very peaceful too...we have many 'green hills' around here and I was only just the other day thinking of that beautiful line too....D x

  3. I so want to be sitting in that orchard with a delicious lunch and then be flower lulled whilst watching the sky! Great post - really evocative - think I'll go and make some scones! Jane x

  4. You have given us the essence of England....beautiful post!

  5. Yes, very English....looks beautiful in the sunshine! :) x

  6. How lovely this tea garden sounds. My husband's mother was born and brought up not far from here in Cambridge but I'd never heard of it. A definite place to visit this summer.