April 2014

Raising the level

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We had a busy Easter which gave our new staff a taste of what things are like when the orders come in quickly. They did really well and we didn’t have to keep people waiting long. A good mix of customers; some familiar faces returning and quite a few new ones discovering us for the first time.

We decided to risk taking a short break at the end of the Easter period, after working three weeks straight through; just three days before the upcoming bank holiday weekend. We used some of the time to sort out the raised bed in the playground and the rest of the planters and hanging baskets ready for the summer. The soil level in the bed had sunk a lot since last year so we carefully took out the perennials, added 1500 litres of compost and replanted them, at the same time as putting in sweet peas, tomatoes and some summer bedding plants. We hope we get as good a display as we did last year. The plants on the pergola seem to be doing well, including the grapevines.

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The Easter period ended with a Steam Gala on the railway which meant some different engines on the line including ‘Bittern’. This - one of the streamlined A4s built in the 1930s - had a run at an impressive 93mph last year; the fastest run by a preserved loco.
Of course it runs much more sedately on this line.

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Even on busy days we are often quiet during the first hour of opening. It is a good part of the day. Soup is freshly made and the morning’s savoury bakes are cooling in the kitchen before going in to the display. The customers we have at this time are relaxed and happy to take time to enjoy their coffee with a paper or plan their expedition. The bar stools and wall tables are perfect for this.

All steamed up

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Hooray! The steam trains are running again. It seems like it has been a long time since we’ve been treated to the engines huffing and puffing up and down past the coffee shop. This stretch of the steam railway line has been closed longer than usual for signalling work to be done (starting to sound a bit more like British Rail). The full service started on Saturday to coincide with the Easter school holidays and we had our first really busy day of the season on Sunday with lots of people coming in for coffee and cakes. We are hoping for a busy couple of weeks to get us off to a good start this year.


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Outside everything has started growing after winter. Our show of daffodils is looking good and Bill is relieved to see lots of buds on the two grapevines he planted last spring. We are not expecting a huge grape harvest just yet - we’ll still be buying in our Pinot Grigio stocks for the foreseeable future, but customers should enjoy sitting underneath the shade of the vine in the height of summer.

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Bill’s savoury tarts are selling well. The favourite so far this season is the Tomato and Gruyère combination. People like the kick given by the Dijon mustard Bill adds before they’re baked. The other one selling well is the asparagus tart but he’s keen to try out some other combination later; spinach, feta and black olive is on the list. Emily has baked her first batch of pastilles de natas (Portuguese custard tarts) of the season; they’re pretty irresistible.

One of our customers was grateful for our mobile phone charging service having watched with dismay as his iPhone failed to come to life when he first tried to use it to call his friends. Fifteen minutes and a large latte later the battery had enough charge to get him back in touch with the wider world. If we’ve got the right adaptor we are happy to offer the service to customers.