A stroll in the park, a cup of tea.

When I was younger, I couldn’t be doing with formal displays in civic parks: the unwieldy floral clock, or the town’s name picked out in vividly orange French marigolds, or the little red begonias marching stiffly round a perfectly rectangular flowerbed.  I felt sorry for the poor over-disciplined flowers and longed to release them to grow more freely under the trees.

These days, however, I quite enjoy the burst of colour that these formal displays offer as they welcome you into the park.  I sense they aren’t quite the rigidly organised affairs of a few years back, and certainly they attract attention.

Yesterday, for instance, whilst in Ripon to do some jobs, Malcolm and I made a detour to idle away a little time in Ripon Spa Gardens, a really rather small park that’s a real oasis of relaxation very near the  town centre.

Flowers round the bandstand.
Flowers round the bandstand.

There are those colourful beds to meander through.  There’s some trunks of thinned out cypress trees which have been transformed into a celebration of Alice ‘s Adventures in Wonderland.  This is where grandparents stop to reminisce about this classic of childhood, whilst their grandchildren make it into an impromptu climbing frame.  The Ripon connection with ‘Alice’ is that Dodgson was at one time Canon-in-Residence at the Cathedral here.

Alice's Adventures in Ripon Spa Gardens.
Alice’s Adventures in Ripon Spa Gardens.

There are trees fringing the edges of the park, making it seem larger and more extensive than it really is.  There’s crazy golf, and a bowling green.  There’s a bandstand.  And best of all, there is a café.

I was resistant to calling in for a cup of tea.  Cafés in parks are often dismal affairs, lowest-common-factor places offering indifferent tea, cheap fizzy drinks and industrial biscuits.  But Malcolm was correct in insisting we try it out.  He rightly pointed out that a café with this wonderfully quirky bicycle parked outside, sporting knitted versions of everything on the café‘s menu couldn’t be all bad.

Fine publicity for a fine caff.
Fine publicity for a fine caff.

In fact it’s all good.  The Sun Parlour Café is cheerily decorated in yellow, and already anticipating le Tour de France’s visit to Yorkshire by having lines of tiny knitted jerseys strung at every window.

Jolly jerseys at the windows.
Jolly jerseys at the windows.

There’s a choice of a dozen or more home-made cakes or biscuits (coffee and walnut for Malcolm please, orange-and-lemon for me), and freshly baked scones all at unbeatable prices.

Which cake to choose?
Which cake to choose?

Every day they offer  a roast dinner and hot pudding with a drink for an excellent value £9.00.  It’s run by a lively and welcoming woman who answers to the name of ‘Lefty’ (‘My surname was Wright before I married’, she explained).  She clearly has regular customers.  She’s just acquired two more.

Ripon’s living up to expectations.  We’ve now added the Spa Gardens to its list of attractions.

Time to go home.  Nobody's relaxing on that park bench.
Time to go home. Nobody’s relaxing on that park bench.

6 thoughts on “A stroll in the park, a cup of tea.”

    1. There are going to be quite a few whimsical bikes around. Tour de France fever has kicked in and many villages and towns – including ours – are using the opportunity to use bicycles as a focus for creativity. More later!


  1. i’ve always had a sot spot for this type of thing even when it was very unfashionable. i like to see civic pride and or civic sense of humour demonstrated in horticulture. There is so much less of it these days as councils have to cut theire budgets and I for one miss it.


    1. And these days I tend to agree with you. Luckily, the Tour de France means that floral budgets will not be cut one tiny bit this year, and Harrogate and Ripon always do themselves proud, even in an ordinary year.


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