Sunday, 3 May 2015

Wye: Crown Lodge

A Bank Holiday weekend always involves a frenzy of afternoon teas for me and so roping in some willing mummy and daddy taste testers, we met up at the Crown Lodge just outside of Wye. Formally known as the The Devils Kneading Trough restaurant, it is now under new management as an events venue and has benefited from a complete refurbishment. Having links with The Secret Garden, it opens as an overflow for afternoon tea when The Secret Garden is fully booked. Luckily for us, the May bank holiday was one such occasion according to their Facebook page. A phone call in the morning to book the afternoon tea was made, however if it's just a cream tea you're after you can turn up without making a reservation.
On arrival the gravel drive sweeps into the large carpark surrounded by some mighty Beech trees. The amazing panoramic view is the first thing that catches my eye, even in the murky weather you can see for miles.
Wrestling prams and car seats along with our mini humans from cars, we dragged said prams through the deep gravel towards the building. It's a solemn looking place, huge tinted windows make it look very somber and it's tricky to see in. If I hadn't booked I would have thought it was closed and I would have thought passing traffic may think the same. Finding the right entrance door, we all piled in and were shown to our table by a friendly waitress.
The space is fully open plan with farmhouse style chairs and tables set up with vintage crockery. A few other tables were taken by fellow tea takers and music playing in the background made the atmosphere relaxing. Making our selves comfy and with tea choices made, we admired the breath taking view through the full length glass walls.
My Assam tea arrived quickly in a cute little metal pot along with fellow testers Earl Grey, English breakfast and apple juice. The sumptuous afternoon tea arrived shortly after displayed on a 3 tier vintage plate stand. The waitress took us through the mouth watering selection - 4 types of finger sandwich, fruit and plain scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam, chocolate brownie and meringue, lemon drizzle cake, vanilla and strawberry cupcake with fresh cream and fruit topping finished off with a lemon posset.
Starting off savoury, I devoured my dainty crustless finger sandwiches of egg mayo, cucumber, salmon and ham whilst washing them down with a good cup of strong Assam.
Next we moved onto the scones, loading them high with clotted cream and a topping of jam the Devon way. They were delish, fluffy and of perfect size washed down with more Assam. Next we tackled the rich chocolate brownie with light as a puff meringue. Our teapots refilled we moved on up the stand to the moist lemon drizzle cake, fresh cream cupcake and tangy lemon posset. It was all superbly tasty and I enjoyed every morsel.
Everywhere is clean and it feels fresh and modern. Being part way through a refurbishment they haven't yet got to installing a baby change unit but they were super helpful in putting a padded chair in one of the cubicles for us. Also at the time of our visit they didn't have card payment available so it was lucky that we all happened to have raided our piggy banks before coming!
The Verdict?
Even though this isn't a full time tearooms, they definitely know how to put together a knock out afternoon tea. Coupled with the friendly welcoming staff I will most definitely be keeping an eye out for their next opening. It was lovely to feel as though we weren't being a nuisance with our little ones and all the stuff which comes with them, which we've felt like at a few places previous to coming here. No one scowled at us when said little ones cried for milk and we felt comfortable feeding. Overall a super spot for a pit stop.
Wye Downs
TN25 5HE
01233 812212

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Ashford: Godinton House & Gardens

We want to apologise for abandoning our blogging for a while but I (Hannah) have a very good excuse in the form of a little human which has kept me busy! Now I am a mummy our blog will take a slightly different route and focus on baby/child friendly tearooms, coffee shops and cafes along with buggy friendly places for a relaxing stroll. The first review was on a lovely warm Friday when myself and my mummy friends along with our mini humans ventured to Godinton House just outside of Ashford for an afternoon out. Following the brown tourist signs we trundled along the lanes until the impressive entrance gate came into view.

Rattling over the cattle grids, the long driveway to the house winds its way through ancient parkland studded with magnificent Oak and Chestnut trees. Once the Jacobean house comes into view it feels like driving into a period drama.  A crisp clipped Yew hedge surrounds the impressive red brick house, as unobtrusive signs point me to the car park. It already has a feel of being a hidden gem, a bit like Ashburnham Place Orangery Tearooms. The estate extends to around 900 acres made up of farmland, forestry, houses and cottages.

The ticket office is housed in the old stable block with the old stalls set up with chairs and tables for when the tearoom is closed. Purchasing a good value season ticket for £18 (normal entry to the gardens is £5) we picked up a map and headed off to explore. The gardens extend to 12 acres and are surrounded by the ancient parkland, making it feel very tranquil.

Being a week day we pretty much had the place to ourselves and it felt very untouristy and quiet. The gardens are maintained to a very high standard with gravel paths cutting through freshly mown lawns with neatly trimmed box hedging.

Walking along the path with our prams, we went past a large lily pond flanked by some huge Weeping Willows, on past the Italian garden and into the wild garden. Magnificent Magnolia trees in full bloom and a blanket of Narcissus waft their sweet pollen on the breeze as we amble along the mown path through the wild grasses, spotting lots of welcoming looking benches where we could sit.

Access for pushchairs is decent, some of the gravel paths giving the pram pushers a bit of a work out but on the whole we could get to all areas of the garden. The gardens have been beautifully restored to Reginald Blomfield's 1898 design and are continually maintained by the hard working gardening team.

We spent a good few hours wandering around and admiring the unspoilt view with birds tweeting and wafts of blossom hitting our nostrils. It's hard to believe this place is a stones throw from Ashford and we are already planning on coming back very soon with a picnic so we can sit down and enjoy the peace and tranquillity.

The walled kitchen garden was my favourite part of the gardens with its huge greenhouse and lovingly maintained beds. Deciding to head to the tearooms, we trundled along the paths back towards the house. The tearooms can be found in the billiard room and following the signpost we headed in.

It's open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays with light refreshments being served in the ticket office the remainder of the week. The room itself is very grand with huge portraits on the walls and a magnificent chandelier taking centre stage.

Being a quiet day we managed to get four prams into the room and around a table. The staff were very friendly and accommodating and made us feel welcome. Refreshments on offer included hot drinks and various cakes and bakes, with a chocolate orange cake being that days special. Once ordered we chatted and tended to the little ones whilst waiting for our goodies to arrive.

We didn't have to wait long. A few of us went for the cream tea which was good value at £5 per person. Two plump warm scones with a dish each of strawberry jam and clotted cream were served alongside piping hot tea. The scones were delicious, I could have eaten it all again! After our pit stop we headed off to do a nappy change before heading home. The disabled loo functions as a baby change with a very good large fold down change station.
The Verdict? Hidden Gem
A good value and gorgeous place to come for an afternoon with or without the offspring. A season ticket (season is April-October) offers great value and will be our go to place for a chilled out afternoon. Staff are very friendly, we felt welcomed and enjoyed our first visit. On busy days the tearoom would be best tackled with a baby carrier rather than the prams but we will probably bring a picnic anyway. Overall my new favourite place to spend a few hours.
Godinton House
Godinton Lane
TN23 3BP
House and tearoom 3rd April - 4th October 1pm - 5pm Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays plus Bank Holiday Mondays
Gardens 1st March - 1st November 1pm - 6pm
House & Gardens £9 children under 16 free
Gardens only £5 children under 16 free

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Our Pick - 6 Top Vintage Vans January 2015

We thought it had been a while since we had done a post on our favourite vintage vans out there for sale at the moment. After scouring eBay, here are our top 6 - enjoy!

1. Austin J2
This is Dolly, a rare Paralanian camper van on eBay with starting bids of £9000. A cute and vintage looking van, she comes fully restored and ready to hit the road. Even has a loo!

A J7, our favourite type of van! This one is in rather a bad way but it sooo long. Originally a French school bus it was converted into a camper and is now for sale in this country. On eBay with bids currently at £1020, she'll need a lot of work to get her through a UK MOT.

This is a recent import from California and is on eBay for £4450. Not UK registered, it would need a bit of work to get her through a MOT but would make a unique and head turning catering or camper van. 

This is a 3.5t heavily built Czech van for sale on eBay for £3800. Regularly still used by the current owner, it does 38 mpg and comes with loads of spares as well as having had a new braking system fitted along with a winch. A large rear space makes this a very good option for either a camper of catering van for a reasonable price. 

I always think these little Estafettes look quite sweet. This 1972 one is on eBay for £3500, has a 1.3 litre engine and comes with UK registration and 12 months MOT. A great budget vintage van for any looking to go into catering but who wants a head turning van. 

This is a classic 1956 Peugeot van in its original paint. A spacious van ideal for catering or a camper, its on eBay for £10450 with an MOT. 




Thursday, 8 January 2015

Robertsbridge: Perch Hill Farm

Only open on selected days, Perch Hill is the garden run by gardener Sarah Raven whom you may have seen on various gardening related TV shows. Tucked away down a little lane near Robertsbridge quite near my mums, I am always scanning the website around Christmas time for shopping open days so I can visit the shop and have a cuppa in the greenhouse.

This photo was actually taken on a previous visit in the Summer
It was on one such open day in early November last year that myself and my mum came to visit. The farm does have garden and shopping open days throughout the year but I really like just coming in the Winter to browse the small shop with its Christmassey things and take a tea in the greenhouse. Winding our way along the lanes, a welcoming sign at the end of the lane invites us up the drive. Parking up, we first take a wander into the large barn housing a display of art and glassware - the reason for this particular open day. We then headed over to the shop for our annual browse of the Christmas themed goodies and general kitchen and garden related items.

Although only a tiny shop, the presentation and layout is done so well that you can take away some great ideas of how to display various jars or vases in a crafty way. On the other side of the shop is the huge greenhouse which houses some massive tables where you can take a light snack and cuppa. I love all the matching green metal chairs and even on a chilly day, there are some industrial type patio heaters to keep the chill off making it super cosy.

A small counter stacked with bright Emma Bridgewater mugs and some mouth watering looking cake sits amoungst the green foliage and flowers. The cake on offer on this particular visit was a substantial looking chocolate cake and a lovely looking lemon drizzle. Ordering and paying, we took our refreshments to one of the large tables to enjoy.

The generous slab of cake, as usual, was really delicious and washed down nicely with a cup of tea. Although not a tearooms or cafe, it is a great spot to come to when open for a wander and a sit down. The atmosphere is very relaxing and all the ladies that run this place are extremely friendly and welcoming.

Even though it's only open on select days, it was fairly quiet on our visit with a handful of other people doing the same as us. We stayed for a good hour, made a few Christmas themed purchases from the shop then headed off.

The Verdict?
I would definitely recommend this as a place to pop into on an open day for the chilled out shopping and lovely setting in which to have a cup of something hot with cake or even a light lunch. Check out the website here for up coming open days.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Wye: Biscuits Tearoom

A recent trip out spurred on by having my brother staying for the weekend found us venturing towards Wye in the Stour Valley for a spot of lunch at Biscuits Tearoom. Located at Perry Court Farm just off the A28, the farm itself is well known for its great farm shop selling a variety of homegrown produce as well as meats, fish and cheese.

Rows of Christmas trees greeted us as we swung into the car park and came to a halt in front of the farm shop. Although having been here before to use the farm shop and for the annual Apple Fayre in October, I have never ventured into the fairly newly refurbished tearooms. From the outside it looks very inviting, similar to the feel of The Gardeners Cafe at Marks Cross being in a wooden shed. If the weather had been warmer there is plenty of seating outside, making this tearooms a great spot for all seasons.

Upon stepping through the door we were greeted by the friendly lass in the kitchen along with nose tingling wafts of enticing baking aromas. After debating over which of the delicious delights we would try out - scones, mince pie tart, biscuits, flapjack and more, we placed our order and took a pew on the seats at the window.  

Our large pot of tea arrived quickly along with chunky white cups and saucers and a nice big jug of milk. We chatted whilst watching all the comings and goings out of the window on this family run farm. A couple of donkey foals were having a wander around much to our amusement whilst people deliberated over which Christmas tree to buy. Although similar to the set up at the Macknades Cafe with its farm shop and cafe at the back, Perry Court and Biscuits Tearoom feels a lot more rustic and intimate. 

Although there were only two other customers when we arrived, the atmosphere was still cheerful and buoyant with music in the background and the sound of the bustling kitchen in action. Matching tables and chairs with squishy seat pad cushions give the tearooms a homely cosy feel. 

Our nibbles arrived shortly after the tea, all served on wooden chopping boards rather like at the No. 12 Tearooms in Canterbury. He had a chunky cheese sandwich which came with salted crisps whilst we both had a slice of the delicious looking coffee and walnut cake. 

The cake was very good, moist and tasty with just the right amount of icing with great portion sizes. The sandwich was reported to be great too with nice fresh bread. The food menu has a good variety of light lunch choices such as a soup of the day, ploughmans, afternoon tea and an array of sandwich fillings all at reasonable prices. 

The Verdict?
Having been very disappointed by the Bay Laurel Brasserie that resides in the lovely little village of Wye, we had everything crossed that this tearooms on a family run farm just out of Wye would maybe make up for the lack of good tearooms in this area and it does. Really good tasty food made with local ingredients where possible makes this a great spot to call in for a light bite and cuppa. Although the interior and food is not as cool and trendy as at our favourite cafe Loaf in Sandgate, Biscuit's is now on our radar for when passing through this area.