This is one of my favourite eating places - on Earth!
In short, it is a small room (with tables outdoors at the back) in an ancient building next to Dorchester Abbey, which from 3pm to 5pm several days a week from about Easter (possibly earlier when Easter is later?) until the end of September every year is transformed into a delightful tea room, run entirely by volunteers who bake and serve delicious cakes to raise thousands of pounds for the charities supported by Dorchester Abbey.
This is more than just a tea room with out-of-this-world cakes, it is "an experience" and people return again and again. It is also a very popular detour for walkers on the nearby Thames Path (about 10-15 minutes from Little Wittenham Bridge / Days Lock). As someone else has said, it is "quintessentially English" and you feel transported back to the land of Agatha Christie (who lived nearby) and Miss Marple. I often take foreign guests there and they love it! It was started in 1977 by a formidable lady called Miss Lettice Godfrey (sadly no longer with us) who had just retired from teaching. Miss Godfrey won the British Empire Medal for this and for other services to the community and even by the time she retired as "proprietress" in 1999, it had already been featured by reviews on the radio and other national media.
Those who are lucky enough to get a seat indoors (if you sit outside do not get to see the full range of cakes or appreciate the whole experience) are welcomed to join other people at one of two large tables. You are asked to help yourself to cake, while tea or coffee are served to you (additional cups decrease in price). Prices are incredibly reasonable and you are asked to calculate your own bill on an "honesty" basis, which no doubt means that people tend to round up their bill and be generous as they know it all goes to charity.
It is a tremendously sociable place (I would quite happily go there alone) with an infectious atmosphere of friendliness and politeness and you inevitably fall into conversation with people as they ask you to pass the jam or to recommend a cake.
The cakes are delicious...and go quickly (I am tempted to say "like hot cakes!") As it is run by volunteers, a lot of pride, special effort (and no doubt competitiveness!) goes into baking.
They also sell a recipe book, aptly called "Heavenly Cakes", which features old favourites like their Lemon Drizzle cake, Dorset Gooseberry cake, Blackcurrant Streusel cake, Elderflower cake, Coffee and Mocha cake... and variants on the ever popular scones.
Looking forward to the start of the new season...
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