Cake Diary: Camphill Cafe

Cake Diary: Camphill Cafe

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.

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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

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Cake Diary: Petersham Nurseries

Cake Diary: Petersham Nurseries

Being a foodie people regularly recommend places which I may enjoy visiting for food, drinks and, of course, tea. A colleague of mine had been urging me to visit London’s Borough Market for some time, with stories of street food and fresh produce from around the globe, eclectic backgrounds come together for the love of food and the vibe of our great capital city. Several months ago we put a date in our diary so she could share this amazing place with me but sadly it was not to be. Just one week prior to our planned visit 3 men took innocent lives in this vibrant market place and with the Police working hard to investigate it the market remains closed at this time.

Despite the inevitable fear and caution I felt inside I knew that acts of terror must not deter us from living our lives. The closure may have caused us to change our plans but London would still be our destination. Even during world war 2 milkmen made their deliveries, we are British and no enemy, near or far, will stand between us and a brew!

London milkman, 1940
Photo by Fred Morley – Learn more here

The weather was kind to us as we left the Shires and headed into the city, first stop Camden Town. The streets were heaving with rivers of people flowing in and around the market stalls and we were soon swept away. My senses over whelmed with colours and sounds from each of the stalls. Bespoke handmade jewellery, scarfs and bags through to antique books, records and clothing. Truly something for everyone which is reflected in the clientele.

Our noses lead us to the food stalls where you can travel the world in just a few paces. When offered the world on a plate where do you start?! Thailand or Mexico, America or the Middle East? In the end I landed in Greece with fresh falafel and halloumi wraps drizzled in yogurt dressing, crunchy salad and topped with pomegranate it was the perfect lunchtime treat.

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Leaving behind the white water pace of Camden we hopped onto the water bus to head west. The dockside was lined with swinging legs soaking up the sun, passing them we meandered through Regents Park to our next stop, Little Venice. Tree lined avenues radiate out from the Grand Union and Regents canals with ornate barges decorating the waters edge, city life slows down to just four knots. You can re-fuel at the quaint floating cafe before walking the tow paths to explore this picturesque area.

Despite tea and cake being on offer this was not our destination de jour. A short tube ride from Paddington took us to Richmond where it is hard to believe you’re so close to central London. We walked along the Thames which was littered with rowers and paddle boarders, passed meadows of grazing cows in search of a hidden gem called Petersham Nurseries. This is not your average garden centre as tucked among the roses and evergreens is a Tea House with a difference.

Welcomed through an ornate oak doorway you find yourself in a secret garden greenhouse where you can enjoy tea and cake amongst the flora. The metal furniture is beaten and worn as if hidden here for decades, painted bright colours it blends in with the surrounding plant life. Relaxed and open plan privacy between diners is provided by orange trees, shrubs and vines which scent the room with citrus and jasmine. As well as the Teahouse they also offer a more extensive menu in their cafe, although this should be booked well in advance

Although we arrived late in the day there were still plenty of cake options on offer. My partner in cake ordered the lemon and poppyseed which did tempt me until I spotted the elderflower sponge. Given the surroundings I felt something floral was appropriate. To accompany it, the Petersham afternoon tea blend.

I was disappointed the elderflower flavour did not pack more of a punch but the sponge was deliciously light. Scattered with almonds throughout it did not loose moisture and was topped with sweet Italian meringue icing. The loose leaf brew was a simple black tea, light and refreshing with a splash of milk. The perfect pick me up after a day of exploring new sites. We soaked up the magical atmosphere and enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon sun as it shone through the glasshouse.

It’s hard for words to do this place justice, I feel even my photos don’t convey the experience in full technicolour. I often find cities claustrophobic, with towering concrete, exhaust fumes and people – oh so many people! Petersham offers an oasis of calm where I could almost feel the fresh oxygen emanate from the plants all around us. Wandering back to the tube riverside the sky opens up above you and you can’t help but smile. Richmond is a place you want to be, on or off the water it’s somewhere to slow down and enjoy what we have, for it is magic and cannot be taken from us.

“Sometimes since I’ve been in the garden I’ve looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden – in all the places.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, TW10 7AB       TEL: 0208 940 5230