A while ago I came across another cafe which has some popularity with some cyclists. After all, for decades a nice tea shop with scrummy cakes has been tempting me while out cycling. On this point I remember some nice tea rooms at Painswick, Gloucestershire, where I used to drop in with my friend Wallie in the 1980s and spending so much time pedalling around the Cotswolds.
Naturally I had to check out Emily’s Tea Shop at Whitwell, a nice village in Hertfordshire and not far from Hitchin and Stevenage (this is on one of my commuting routes). This is typical Home Counties territory with upmarket villages looking very pretty and well cared for.
Besides, it isn’t every day you can find a place like this, especially one that has a cycle jumble sale running alongside. Read on…..
From the main street running through Whitwell village, head in an easterly direction towards the edge of the village and turn left onto the B651. About 100 yards on the left there is a track leading to the Tea Shop and a handful of other little enterprises (look out for the sign). This is a rough track, quite long and no problem for ATB or hybrid bikes. Road or touring bikes will be okay but a little more care is needed. Simply follow the signs past all of the odd farm buildings (a wooden stable building was even up for sale when I went). It occurred to me that this is the most unlikely place for a tea shop and the question is, having made it there, is it really worth it?
Coffee and some nice cake?
Well, not bad. I enjoyed my slice of home-made looking cake even if it was a little on the indulgent side. The coffee was pleasant but not outstanding; nor was there a wide and brilliant choice. However, this is a pretty little village in the countryside, not a sophisticated cafe in a metropolitan area.
To be honest, I can’t quite recall how much it cost but I do believe I had change from £5 so probably in the right range of what people pay nowadays. There’s a smallish barn-type building where you can order your coffee and it has a nice rustic feel with a few tables inside. I went for the pleasant courtyard outside and I was surprised at the constant flow of people – hikers, yummy mummys and so on.
While I was there I tried to strike up a bit of a conversation with the waiter but it didn’t seem to be quite the right time for any chit chat, although he did say they “normally get quite a few cyclists through on the weekend” and presumably they might gear themselves up for this food-wise.
The bicycle jumble, the shop, the….?
This took me by surprise and it’s not everyday you go into a cafe and get the chance to rummage through all kinds of odd bike parts or see a collection of bikes from the last century up for sale. I thought they were a bit over-priced although it is the kind of place where haggling skills could be practiced. There was even a tandem for sale, a few cycling related books and other bits and pieces. I can see this would be absolutely fascinating for some – so beware, that 15 minute break might turn into more of an hour’s stop for some.