It was a strange sort of day. The world was my oyster and I found I couldn’t decide what to do with it. I knew I didn’t want to stay at home as there was a lot that needed doing there and I knew I wasn’t in the mood for chores. It’s funny but I very rarely am in the mood for chores. The weather was a bit drizzly and although I had toyed with the idea of a trip to the seaside I decided I didn’t want to travel that far.
I mooched around for a bit then took the dog for a walk.When I got back I decided that what I really needed was a tea room. Nobody was available to come with me. My husband was claiming to be too busy finishing up things before we head off to Italy at the weekend, which is what I should have been doing too, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Local friends were away or already doing other stuff, including tango lessons and other friends live too far away to enrole in a spontaneous jaunt. Undaunted I headed off on my own.
From the mists of time I remembered that my husband and I would go and have tea in a tea room in Woburn when we worked nearby many years ago. So that’s where I headed. The tea room however no longer exists so regrouping on the hoof I made my way to Woburn Abbey where I was sure I’d find a decent afternoon tea.
The drive into Woburn Abbey is glorious but do make sure that you head for the house rather than the Safari Park. You have to pay £6.75 to enter the grounds but that also gives you access to the gardens. The drive through the deer park is at least 2 miles long and the herds of deer are huge and very close to the roads. I could feel my spirits lifting in anticipation of a decent stately home afternoon tea.
As it was afternoon tea I was primarily looking for I immediately made my way to the grandly titled Duchess’ Tea Room. To be honest I was a bit disappointed. It’s really a cafeteria. Nothing wrong with that unless you had an image of ladies in white pinafores taking your order for a full afternoon tea while you sat at a beautifully laid table with damask cloths and pretty china. I had to pick up a tray, choose a freezing cold sandwich from the chiller, select a cake and tea from the counter and then collect my cutlery from a central serving point before making my way to a table. Not what I had been dreaming of, but to be fair the carrot cake was delicious and the upside was that I was now at Woburn Abbey, the sun was trying to come out and my entrance fee meant I could explore the gardens.
The gardens are lovely if a little unstructured, with mainly parkland interspersed with flowerbeds here and there. Huge mature trees that have seen many a sunrise, ponds full of fish, herbaceous borders that made me quite wistful for the one that I left last year, follies, pagodas and a hornbeam maze. Lavender in shades I hadn’t seen before, rambling roses and a sculptor of a man doing a cartwheel – it was definitely a man.
I had the gardens almost to myself. Not many people decide to visit gardens when it’s been raining for most of the day. I did see two ladies trying to escape the Hornbeam Maze which seemed to be rather surprisingly difficult given that the hornbeam is currently only about 4 feet high and therefore you can see over the tops of the hedges. I asked them if they needed help but they said they thought they would find the exit soon and indeed showed me that they had a plastic container with some sandwiches in for emergencies. Maybe they had eaten at the Duchess’ Tea Rooms before.
All in all, although the day had not really panned out as I had hoped, I did enjoy walking in the gardens at Woburn Abbey. The loos were magnificent, they have a small pottery with some very reasonably priced homeware and their hanging baskets were lovely.
On my way home back through Woburn itself I noticed a very fine looking ‘Coffee Shop’ which I had failed to notice on my way in and which I suspect is really a tea shop under another name. I will be back to explore it in September when I return from Italy.