Day out: The Orchard Tea Garden, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire
Sit back and relax in the dappled sunlight of an aged orchard, in the comforting company of delicious cakes, wholesome scones and intriguing tales of old
Grantchester: not just a popular TV series, but the destination for generations of Cambridge students in search of a slice of history with their tea.
Just opposite the village Church of St Mary and St Andrew – parts of which date from the 12th century – you’ll find Granchester’s Orchard Tea Garden, which began life accidently back in 1897.
One late spring morning – so the story goes – a group of scholars asked the owner of Orchard House, a Mrs Stevenson, if she would serve them tea beneath the shade of her blossoming trees. She obliged (happily) and a tradition began, with university alumni including Virginia Woolf, economist Maynard Keynes, philosopher Bertrand Russell and even HRH Prince Charles among those subsequently making the pilgrimage across Grantchester Meadows.
Follow in their footsteps today and you’ll find a landscape little changed since Rupert Brooke – a former lodger at Grantchester’s Old Vicarage – immortalised it in verse. This is a place of ‘Great clouds along pacific skies’, with the dreamily meandering River Cam unscrolling beside you as you walk. Of course, you could also make your way from the historic centre by punt, another Cambridge tradition.
Either way, you’ll find an irresistible scene awaiting you at The Orchard: circles of green deckchairs clustered invitingly beneath fruit trees humming with bees. Equipped with your cream tea (add Champagne, if you’re feeling fancy), fall back into the canvas and succumb to the spell of dancing leaf-shade and spring breezes. But don’t forget to keep an eye on your cakes – portly woodpigeons are on constant patrol, and you might find your scone catching the eye of a cautiously curious cock pheasant.
Having chased the last crumbs from your plate, wander over to The Old Vicarage itself, a handsome 17th-century building owned since 1979 by Jeffrey and Mary Archer. Then continue on out of the village to Byron’s Pool, where the poet is said to have bathed while a student at Trinity College. Now a nature reserve, it offers a delightful sampling of spring’s colours: white wood anemones, yellow lesser celandines, common violets and, later, frothy cow parsley. Meanwhile, down by the river, there’s a chance to spot little grebes, grey wagtails and even the jewelled dart of a kingfisher: a fittingly poetic end to the day.
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Open every day, 9am–6pm (Tue–Sun, 9am–4pm in winter),
The Tea Rooms, The Orchard, 47 Mill Way, Grantchester, Cambridge CB3 9ND.
Stephanie Cross is a Norfolk-born author and journalist.
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