A cafe lovers take on the meaning of life while enjoying a cuppa.

Tag Archives: tea rooms

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The eponymous tea rooms sit in the heart of the historic downland village of Ditchling just across from the ancient church.  If you’re looking for somewhere cosy and comfortable for a pot of tea then this is your place. It may be  slightly worn around the edges, a  bit confused in its sense of decor and with a rather lived-in feel like a comfy pair of slippers but it’s the home of the giant scone.  I wonder if this USP will be enough to  brave off the stiff competition for a cuppa in a world where latest styles and trends hold sway.

All within spitting distance of the tea rooms there’s the recently opened Mr Magnolia’s coffee shop right on the crossroads as well as the brand new Ditchling Art and Craft museum’s cafe by the pond.  For such a tiny village it’s become a bit of a cafe hotspot all of a sudden. Is there a bun fight for the competition or will they all attract their own particular clientele?

We’d taken the train to Hassocks and walked along the small lane past the restored Oldland windmill and then the contour-following footpaths  with views to the South Downs before dropping into the village. It’s a restorative 50 minutes  walk and and an easy way to escape the city, breath in lungfuls of  fresh country air  and soak up loads of Sussex village charm.

The original beamed tea rooms have a bakery attached with many of their cakes and a wicker tray of  their famous giant scones on show in the period bow window. There’s a lovely aroma from the log fire burning slowly in the grate in the back room. During the summer the walled patio garden is my favourite spot but on a cold winter’s day inside was a preferable  warm and cosy choice. They’re very much  traditional tea rooms and seem as if  they’ve always been here. Although no longer called Dolly’s Pantry, long-standing regulars like myself occasionally slip up in its nomenclature. You can tuck into soups, toasties, jackets and specials of the day and absorb some of its old world allure while facing off the inclement weather outside and refueling for the afternoon’s return walk.

The tea rooms have braved off competition before but the two new kids in the village come with their shiny stylish interiors and the vigour of just-opened new businesses. Only time will tell if there’s room for all three cafes in Ditchling.  So even if it’s not buns at dawn there’s bound to be at  least a battle of the cupcakes or maybe those giant scones will flatten any challengers.

Ditchling Tea Rooms


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It’s all change again in my household with my teenage daughter back home again after her first successful year at University.  I have to adjust to having a teenager around and she has to adjust too to living in a family home rather that in halls amongst  her newly made friends.  Teenagers are known for their ability to sleep long and sound.  So by mid morning, after being up a couple of hours myself,  I left a sleeping daughter behind to cycle further into  Hove.

100_3124At the corner of Pembroke Gardens and New Church Road sits Hove Museum and Gallery.  Their tearoom has had a bit of a makeover since my last visit so while I had a look at the menu I took time to  see what changes have been made to this  classically  traditional favourite.

There are still some lovely oil paintings from the museum’s collection hanging on the walls.  Chosen and positioned with some care to reflect the tearoom surroundings and  overlooking the museum’s gardens. There are some food still lifes and  picnic scenes portraits as well as some Sussex landscapes. There are also collections of  decorative teapots,  jugs and teacups and saucers  in  glass  display cases around the room.

Immediately I recognised the blue colour on the walls as being the same hue as that of  my hallway at home. It was a colour inherited on purchase  of the house and one we’ve kept as there seemed no reason to change it. I was told by the waitress that the  paint colours  used  are Farrow & Ball Cook’s Blue and Cooking Apple Green.  With the dual south and west aspect there’s loads of natural light and the colours work really well to give a warm yet fresh feel.

The shaker style counter is artfully topped 100_3131 with ceramic cake stands laden with  a tempting range of cakes and cookies which seemed different from other selections  available in local cafes.  My tea comes served in an  unusual  black  cast iron teapot with integral strainer chosen from a large selection of loose leaves.   The selection of teas include  Snow Queen White tea, Pu’erh 9 year,  Green Jade Pear amongst many so this is a stop for the  tea connoisseur. Other drinks are sourced too from artisan producers like the Chapel Down Curious Brew Lager and the Dittsham Plum Fruit Liqueur.

100_3134Looking onto the Museum Gardens through the large windows in this quiet and leafy suburb of Hove,  I noticed that the absence of music also contributed to the relaxed feel and allowed  a rare appreciation of the sounds around instead.

On my return home my student daughter was up and ready to go out with friends. Staying at my home now  for her is just a transitory phase until she returns to her University town.  So Farrow & Ball paint colours in the hallway or not, there’s not a lot to entice her to hang around for long. And that was something we’re both  just starting to get used to.

Hove Museum Tearooms


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Us townies have a particular view of the countryside. The green space beyond our city boundaries  we see as for leisure and recreation. For centuries the countryside was a place of  heavy labour and food production, and still is,  but to a much smaller proportion of the population.  To stride out  along time-worn  pathways and  through ancient tiny villages is to converse with the  narrative of the landscape.

100_3075Not far from Hampden Park station we took a steep path signposted to Jevington. The climb was worth the exertion with  fabulous views from the top  near the old trig point overlooking Eastbourne and the coast.  You could see the Brighton & Hove bus number 12 trundling along the Beachy Head road in the far distance. An easy downhill followed along  the well worn track of the South Downs Way   into the sleepy valley below and the village of Jevington.  When I come across places like this I often wonder if I really am living in the crowded south-east so as the setting is  so  peaceful and deserted.  A picnic stop by the centuries old church in shade of a beautiful tree in full pink blossom set us up for the next few miles of walking.

Just one more climb up out of the 100_3085 valley passing woodlands   pungent with  sweet wild garlic.  Then we crossed over Lullington Heath with its  golden yellow gorse bushes in full bloom, one of the last remaining heathland areas on the Downs. Downhill again towards the village of  Litlington  sitting in yet another tranquil valley and  on spotting the church spire from the top of the hill we knew we were reaching the end of our walk.

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Apart from the feel-good factor of being in the great outdoors, the other reason for all this rambling was   Litlington Tea Gardens.   These quaint tea gardens were established around 150 years ago and still retain much of their Victorian charm.  The large gardens are surrounded by mature trees and have loads of  little nooks and crannies so it’s worth having a bit of a look around before choosing your spot.  As well as the tables and benches on the lawn there are plentiful summerhouses surrounding the gardens  providing bountiful private  seating areas.

Litlington are proud of their cream teas and home made cakes.   We  sampled some of their chocolate cake and  apple and blackberry pie with ice cream washed down  with pots of tea served at the table on huge trays.  Its the perfect spot on a sunny day.  Litlington also have a nursery, crystal shop and gift store all worth a browse before catching the  Cuckmere Valley rambler bus  back to Berwick station for the return train to Brighton.

I’ve just finished reading That Summer at Hill Farm by Miranda French which tells brilliantly through fiction the dichotomy of living in the Sussex countryside and it’s not all rosy down on the farm.  The countryside will always remain  for me a place for walking and cycling and not for living in as I’m a city dweller at heart.  Though I love to know that the rural idyll is just on my doorstep.

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The weather in Britain has been so dreich recently,  a Scottish word meaning damp and grey and miserable, that when one sunny day comes along you’ve just got to get out in it.  We took the number 2 bus to Steyning, a bustling ancient  village  listed in the Domesday book,  with its main street lined with mainly timber framed buildings. It’s tucked just behind the South Downs so is a great place for walks. We headed west along  Mouse Lane out of the village and then on to the footpath that cuts behind Wiston Estate.

You never know quite what you’ll come across when out walking.  We’d been along this route a few times over the years and were fairly familiar with it so we weren’t expecting to see anything unusual.  However, we came across  an old carriage  sitting in the long grass which on closer inspection we discovered to be an old tram car. The notice on the window explained that it was the last surviving Brighton tram car and the owners are hoping to  renovate it and bring it back to its original condition.  We had a good nose around and found the vehicle  intriguing and rather incongruous just sitting there in the countryside.  I wonder where the owners  found it and got it here and what inspired them to undertake such a venture.

The wooded chalk path that takes you up to the ridge of the South Downs Way is steep and a good power walk will take you to the top in about ten minutes.  Now out from beyond the trees the land opened up and we were on the ridge-way with fantastic views as we turned round to walk back eastwards. There were white and blue fields of linseed flowers and the Channel sparkled in the distance. All the recent rain has brought out the green of the Downs and the views around us were  archetypal Sussex calendar shots.  Walking on ridges is probably my favourite type of walking as the path is easy to follow and you get a    sense of  accomplishment at being up on the highest point.

A few miles later we took the descent down to  the village for tea and something to eat. Steyning Tea Rooms is one of the many cafes and tea rooms that dot the main road through this pretty village. One of my favourites is the Tea Rooms to the easterly end of the high street.  Its on a slightly raised pavement with gorgeous flower boxes and hanging baskets with summer flowers of pink, red, white and purple. Inside its got a retro feel with its rose patterned wall paper, original fireplace and colourful bunting. Food and drink is served on a variety of  floral patterned bone china.  The small counter heaves with giant locally made cakes and its hard to  make your choice.

As it was so busy inside we opted for sitting out at one of the few pavement tables and were quick to order the special of home-made rhubarb scones with rhubarb jam and cream along with the prerequisite pot of tea of course. The sun was still shining and what a braw day, a Scottish expression for a lovely day out,  it was turning out to be.



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