Wednesday, March 9

A spring morning at the Orchard in Grantchester

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Friday: It’s a cold rainy evening and we are having dinner with some friends. Recenty back from a backpacking trip across China they are full of stories. As the waiter starts serving green tea, John tells us about tea gardens in China. Sitting for hours in a garden sipping tea, as your cup is topped with hot water. He considers these gardens the epitome of civilization. Poles apart from the drink and dash culture in the western coffee shops. There people have the sense to sit and reflect, laugh and talk with each other. You won’t find such a thing here, he says. Here people only like to show off the Starbucks logo on their coffee cup, who is interested in actual conversation.
Well actually we have a tea garden in Cambridge too, Jamie says – The Orchard at Grantchester! Everybody laughs, but I am intrigued. Let’s go to the Orchard I say to H as we drive home. No, let’s wait for summer! It is much more beautiful then, he replies.
Sunday: It is the second last day of February and the chill is refusing to go away. Little daffodils are valiantly trying to stand up straighter against the cold wind. Then one morning the sun decides to listen to the daffodils, and shine! In the morning we wake up earlier than usual, rubbing our sleep filled eyes in surprise. The entire room is awash with sunlight – bright, sharp and cheerful.
It is simply not a day for breakfast in bed! H and I scamper into our wellies and out of the house. It is a nice day to go to the Orchard he says, as we get on our bikes. I just raise my head to the sun and smile. Grantchester has decided to call me to itself!
So off we go, cycling along the river and across the meadows. I cannot honestly say that it was at its most beautiful. Two days of continuous rain had made the path muddy and slippery. The fields looked worn and tired but there were signs of spring everywhere - swatches of purple and orange daffodils and flashes of forsythia brightened the way for us.
The orchard itself is ideally located at the end of the cycle track, providing a perfect spot to rest after cycling all the way to Grantchester. And what a grand resting point it is! They have a collection of mouthwatering pastries, cakes and the famous scones baked fresh every day and served with an assortment of jams or honey. I decided to sample a fruit scone with Morello cherry jam.
Then of course there is tea, for which the orchard is famous in the first place. Taking tea is an old tradition at the orchard, started in 1897 when a group of Cambridge students made the excursion to Grantchester and asked Mrs. Stevenson to serve them tea under the blossoming apple trees. Unknowingly on that spring morning, they had started a great Cambridge tradition. It might have looked exactly like the picture below.
But the actual credit of making the orchard famous has to go the poet Rupert Brooke. He took up lodging at the Orchard House in 1909, wanting to escape his hectic social life in Cambridge. However, Brooke was so good-looking and popular that he attracted a regular stream of visitors. Adding further appeal to the orchard was its mention in his poemThe Old Vicarage, Grantchester which he wrote in a homesick mood in Berlin while remembering his idyllic time in Grantchester.

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