Sunday, 21 March 2010

Jane's Teas

Two of my housemates (Mel and Liz) and I decided to go for a Road Trip this Sunday. Unusually, we actually went in a car - Mel's and my road trips have usually been by bus or train, with the added adventure of not knowing timetables or that we'll ever see home again. To lend this frisson of danger, we entrusted our route to a coin. Several, in fact - heads for left; tails for right. Our first destination turned out to be the back of Iceland in Kidlington (which did reveal a fabric shop, about which Liz was quite excited). Though interesting, it couldn't be called a fun filled outing for all the family, and so we took once more to the highways and byways of Oxfordshire.

And, somehow, half by the coin and half by picking roads at random, we ended up... well, next to a sewage works. But we decided to park and go for a walk, and spotted a sign saying 'Jane's Teas, Sunday, 12.00-5.30'. Who could resist? Certainly not us. We meandered on down a muddy pathway, past some cows and a tree-house, over a river, and eventually found...


Jane's Teas! Unbeknown to us, we were in Kirtlington (never heard of it, but it does have its own Wikipedia page.) In amongst its 872 residents is Jane Fanner, who lives on a narrow boat, and runs a tea garden on Sundays. I think I've been waiting all my life to find this wonderful, wonderful place. It's the sort of place I thought only existed in my mind. Not only were the tea and homemade cake delicious...


...the venue are a series of old-fashioned tables and chairs (and swing-seat) along the side of the river - all the crockery is vintage (we did break a cup, but Jane was very nice about it), there are silver teapots, bunting, and poems in trees, and ornamental birdcages, and....


...a piano, a gramophone, decorative milk pails, rocking horses, model railway, chandeliers, chickens... everything thrown together in the most delightful way imaginable. I felt that I'd stepped back into the 1930s, and never wanted to leave. These photos don't even do justice to what a special place it is.

If you're ever in striking distance of Oxfordshire on a Sunday, do try and find Jane's Teas. She's in the middle of nowhere (unless you happen to pass on a canal boat) and it seems that her success is all due to word-of-mouth - which is exactly the way you would expect it to be. I can't imagine anybody going and not telling everyone who wonderful it is.


In an attempt to drag this post somewhere in the sphere of books, I will say that it reminded me of Mary Essex's Tea Is So Intoxicating. Anybody come across this author? I read the book a fair few years ago, immediately after Moby Dick. Perhaps that is why I remember it so fondly - I will return to it and find out if it *is* as charming as I thought it back then. All about someone setting up a tea shop in a little village, hence the association... and a wonderful title, too. The only Mary Essex novel I have is called The Amorous Bicycle (not yet read) so she obviously had quite a talent for titles!


So, a fun day out, and a great discovery. I assure you it won't be the last time I visit Jane's Teas... though, without the use of coins, will I ever be able to find it again?

[credit: three of these photos were taken by Mel - thanks Mel!]

26 comments:

  1. The place sounds gorgeous, an ideal Sunday outing

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  2. Sounds like a fantastic small adventure! BUT, did the gramophone work and if so, what shellac disc was playing...

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  3. What fun! Those are my favorite sorts of afternoons. Did you play the piano while you were there, or was it for looks only?

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  4. Katrina - I already want to go back immediately!

    Sean - it did work, and they had a selection of very old vinyl (may have been a record player rather than a gramophone, I'm not certain about the difference) - we listened to The Very Thought Of You, which I love.

    Susan - the piano had a sign saying 'If you can, please play' - but there was no music, and when Liz strummed it we discovered it was very out of tune, and the notes stuck a lot. I think being outside for the winter wasn't very healthy for it....

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  5. How fantastical! I too went on a road trip today but, as with any road trip in Alberta, I saw a lot of cows. And cowboys. No river-side teas sadly.

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  6. wow! What an amazing little place! Something you'll remember forever!

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  7. This place sounds divine!! I just returned to Australia from England, although I wasn't anywhere near Oxfordshire... but I am going to bookmark this post for future endeavours!!

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  8. Oh, this sounds wonderful! I have a friend whose parents have a place in Kirtlington, so I have actually been there, but didn't see Jane's Teas! I must ask my friend if she's ever come across it on a Sunday, and make another trip out there myself sometime...

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  9. What a fabulous way to spend a Sunday and I am glad that the coins ended up taking you somewhere just a bit more lovely than than the journey to the back of Iceland!

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  10. fantastic - must try to find it!

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  11. Sounds perfect -- I csn't wait!

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  12. A riparian repast - delightful!

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  13. Ooh this place looks and sounds like a marvellous find, in fact it looks very like something you would read in a book and not think existed.

    I am going to try your coin routine when go to Suffolk with two friends in a month or so.

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  14. So this is a classic problem in statistical physics I think with regard to how far you might get on an unobstructed plane (the "drunkard's walk" problem). As to your chance of rediscovery, given that you are constrained to a graph, I suspect that is a much more challenging issue, and I'd approach it by setting up a Monte Carlo simulation. There is a nice discussion of these problems on Wikipedia.

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  15. Serendipity is a wonderful thing!

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  16. I agree with everyone - fantastic, divine, fun, wonderful, delightful, etc.!! I'm very envious.

    Now, I followed that wikipedia link - and wonder if you'd read it. Do you think "Edmée Elizabeth Monica Dashwood, née de la Pasture" is related to the Dashwoods of Kirtlington?

    Kirtlington: Sir Robert Dashwood, 1st Baronet - Sir James Dashwood, 2nd Baronet - Sir Henry William Dashwood, 5th Baronet. There is even a Dashwood hotel & restaurant.

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  17. Oh, Nancy, maybe! I assumed Delafield's family came from Devonshire, but I don't know why i assumed that. Must have another flick through Violet Powell's biog of her, and see what it says.

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  18. I love the sense of adventure of hitting the road and finding the unknown. I think you made such a beautiful discovery:)

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  19. Simon, from the starcourse website (itemizing book characters):

    Robert:
    Major Paul Dashwood OBE, whom EMD married on 17 July 1919. Son of Sir George & Lady Mary Dashwood of Kirtlington Park, Oxford, he had been a Civil Engineer before the '14-18 War. In Provincial Daughter he appears visiting his grandchildren. He was travelling back in April 1919 with EMD's mother and stepfather, helped them disembark and met EMD. They were married in July at St James's Spanish Place

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  20. Thank you Nancy! What a lovely added serendipity to this very serendipitous road trip.

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  21. Hallo Stuck-in-a-book,
    I have not managed to visit Jane's Teas, although I study in Oxford!
    Could I possibly use 1 or 2 of these wonderful photographs (will be used as part of a map showing the area around Jane's Field)? It is for an architecture project.
    Thank you! Good reading!

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  22. How inspiring, and you found yourselves in Aladdin's Cave!

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  23. How absolutely heavenly! I hope you don't get lost on the way and that the weather is fine - spring on the canal must be lovely... Needless to say, I'm off to check those Mary Essex titles at once!

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  24. I live in Kirtlington and yes, Janes Teas is one of those rare treasures that sadly we can no longer keep for our own, a place like this should be shared. Hope all who visit appreciate its uniqueness and folly.

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