Last weekend I made my first visit of the year to Dorchester Abbey tearoom. Situated in the abbey grounds the small tearoom offers a varied selection of cakes, all baked by local volunteers. Of course, it’s not the only attraction in Dorchester-on-Thames so why not visit for the afternoon, eat cake and explore the village.
I could write an entire blog about Dorchester Abbey but maybe that’s for a future post, particularly as this one is supposed to be about cake.
However I cannot resist adding a little historical context to your afternoon tea. If you’re only interested in cake perhaps skip the next section.
In my Blewbury blog last week I mentioned St Birinus preached at Churn Knob. It was here (perhaps) that Birinus converted King Cynegils to Christianity in 634AD. This led to the religion being widely accepted throughout the south of England by the previously pagan Saxon inhabitants. Birinus was subsequently granted land in Dorchester to build a cathedral; his wooden church was a predecessor to the current abbey.
Today’s abbey was started in the 12th century and has experienced 800 years of history. It has been expanded and restored, survived the dissolution of the monasteries and world wars. Inside you’ll find a 12th century font, a 13th century effigy and 14th century wall paintings. Do visit!
Dorchester Abbey museum
The museum is located next to the tea room and is worth a few minutes of your time. It’s small (only one room) but free and tells the history of Dorchester-on-Thames. Don’t expect a modern hands-on museum, this is old school cabinets and information boards.
Social distancing rules are currently in place so you’ll need to register your details and only enter when allowed. A lady was sitting outside when we visited, controlling visitor numbers.
Dorchester Abbey tearoom
On to the cake… You’ll find Dorchester Abbey tearoom just a few steps from the abbey. It’s open during the summer months, usually four days per week but only on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (2.30-5pm) in 2020. Although there are indoor seats they’re out of service this year so you’ll need to sit in the courtyard garden or have a takeaway.
The tearoom is run solely by volunteers, with money going to the abbey and the charities it supports. A sign at the serving hatch details what cakes are available; if you peer in you can just about see them too. There’s usually a choice of around ten different cakes, including a couple of specials, and scones.
Last weekend’s specials were blackcurrant and lemon stripe cake and strawberry and cream sponge. Regular cakes included lemon drizzle, carrot (vegan), coffee and chocolate button cake.
Prices are very reasonable. Specials cost £3 per slice, other cakes £2 and scones £1. Tea, coffee and squash are also available. Payment is by card only, no cash accepted.
I hadn’t realised how popular the tearoom would be. We arrived early (I thought it opened at 2pm) so were the first to be served. Quite a queue formed during our stay; perhaps it’s best not to visit too late if you want the full choice of cakes!
Hurst Water Meadow
Just a few minutes walk from the tea room, and a good place for a post cake stroll, is Hurst Water Meadow.
To find it turn right out of the Abbey, take the first right into Queen Street, then right again into Manor Farm Road. Walk to the very end and then (you’ve guessed it) turn right along the footpath into the meadow.
Hurst Water Meadow is an 18 acre island bounded by the River Thame and Mill Stream. It was once used as an overflow for nearby Overy Mill and summer grazing for livestock. Nowadays it’s owned by the Hurst Water Meadow Trust, a local charity, and managed for wildlife.
The water meadow is best visited in early summer when the flowers are in bloom. Most had gone over last weekend but it was still a pleasant walk around the perimeter of the site. Winter visitors should bear in mind the name of the site; it often floods!
Although we only walked around the water meadow there are two further parts of the reserve, Old Bridge Meadow and Overy Mead Piece, which can be reached by crossing the bridge in front of Overy Mill. Check the map in the water meadow for details.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a longer walk why not combine a visit to the tea room with this walk from Wittenham Clumps.
Have you been to Dorchester Abbey tearoom? If so, what cake did you choose?