With the weather being as glorious as it has been of late my other half and I decided to explore somewhere new to walk the dog. We headed up to Milton Keynes (the land of round abouts) to enjoy a picnic by Willen Lake. Amidst the sprawling housing estate that is Milton Keynes is this oasis where you can do as little or as much as you choose. There is an array of water sports on offer on the lake, from rowing to wakeboarding and most things in between, but as tempting as the swan pedalos looked we kept our feet (and paws) on dry land!
The park is vast and once within in you soon forget that you are in the middle of suburbia. We walked around the lake trying our hand at some of the exercise pit stops along the way (this challenge came to an abrupt end when I beat my other half on the monkey bars!). So to keep the peace we kept moving, meandering along the banks enjoying the sunshine.
In contrast to the sporty, fast paced South Lake the North Lake is home to a Buddhist temple and the first peace pagoda to be built in the western world. We clambered up the hill beyond the pagoda and found the “one world tree”, its branches heavy with messages of hope, photos of loved ones who have passed and ribbons of remembrance. We took a moment in this peaceful place, surrounded by cherry trees, to read some of the messages.
Just a short stroll took us to the perfect spot to sit and unwrap our sandwiches, overlooking the labyrinth and the lake beyond. The dog was content playing fetch and returning in hope of a spare crust to keep his energy up. Hours could be spent enjoying this clean and open space but cake was calling our name and I had found somewhere nearby to satisfy this urge.
Just across the road from Willen Lake North and the car park for the peace pagoda is a wonderful place called the Camphill Cafe. Camphill is an organisation that offers support and development for adults with learning difficulties or disabilities. They run a community where residents live as independently as possible whilst being supported for their individual needs.
Co-workers live alongside the residents assisting them with day to day activities and as many of the workers visit from abroad the residents, in turn, assist them in practicing their English language skills. It is a partnership throughout and the residents are encouraged to take part in various activities and workshops that are available on site on site.
One of these workshops is the cafe where residents develop their social skills, customer service and food preparation knowledge. Serving seasonal lunches, hot beverages and cakes baked on site in the Camphill bakery. The bakery and gardens are other areas where residents can learn about growing plants and vegetable or making bread and baked goods, all of which go on to be sold in the cafe. The pickles and preserves the residents are taught to make are also sold in the community shop. It’s a hands on environment making the site essentially self sufficient, its great to be able to meet those who have hand made many of the products on offer.
As we arrived it was like entering a small village, peaceful and slow paced. The gardens are exquisite with the residents clearly taking pride in the pruning and planting. The shared accommodation wraps itself around a small green area, with residents milling about running errands or off to their scheduled workshops. The cafe is modern in it’s decor, pine furniture and simple table dressings. Every wall filled with art work for sale and murals of the community, the space is filled with colour and light. We took a seat outside in front of the lawns to enjoy the sun.
Our dog attracted a lot of attention as numerous residents came over to enquire about him and take an interest in our day. With our order taken we welcomed the interactions, finding out more about the residents and how they fill their days. Some, it seems, have a preference for working in the cafe whereas others like to mix it up by spending each day doing something different. It is clear that they all get a lot of satisfaction out of what they do and a real sense of independence.
The cakes and scones on offer all looked delicious and the slices were generous to satisfy the appetite we had worked up walking around the lakes. Today my slice of choice was coffee and walnut. Not being a coffee drinker I am often cautious when it comes to this flavour but to my delight the balance of coffee to cake was perfect; soft sponge with just a hint of coffee, complimented by the sweet icing and bitter walnuts. My partner in cake ordered the Victoria sponge which was equally healthy is size with a generous layer of icing in the middle.
We selected a pot of mint tea to accompany our cakes, I always find this brew more refreshing on a warm day as it is still palatable as it cools down. I was impressed that the cakes are baked on site and the residents should feel a great sense of pride in the products they produce. I am not encouraging you to visit Camphill out of obligation or to feel good that you have contributed to those who require support in day to day living. I am encouraging you to visit because the cake is delicious, the produce is fresh and seasonal and it is the epitome of locally produced. The fact you’ll meet some amazing people and support this fantastic charity is just the cherry on the cake.
Camphill Cafe, Japonica Lane, Milton Keynes MK15 9JY TEL: 01908 308738