‘Everything stops for tea’. Not if you take it on the train it doesn’t. Just imagine. You and your fellow guests are seated at an elegantly appointed table covered with a damask cloth. Here are china cups and saucers, heavy cloth napkins, weighty cutlery. Before you, a Proper Cake Stand, prettily stacked with sandwiches (cucumber, of course, but also egg mayonnaise, ham and chutney and so on), two kinds of scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam on the side, and properly English cakes: chocolate cake, sponge cake, cream-filled meringues, tiny eclairs. Attentive and charming service. Unlimited pots of tea, of course too .
We were on the Wensleydale Railway, at the invitation of Susie and Pete, old friends from France and currently visiting England.
This is a heritage railway, staffed by volunteer enthusiasts, with engines and rolling stock from earlier times. Our carriage had been built in about 1913, at the behest of the infamous director of the Titanic who dressed himself as a woman in order to make his escape from the sinking vessel in a lifeboat. Our tea time experience was masterminded by the Institution at Bedale.
Our tables were ranged down the middle of the carriage, enabling us all to have views of Wensleydale as we sat enjoying our tea. The train chugged steadily along the track, offering views quite different from those available to us as we travel by road, or walk along country footpaths. We were in another less hurried age, and enjoyed passing through little stations, past signal boxes pressed into service once more when trains like ours are on the move.
At Redmire, we had to dismount as the engine chugged away to turn round and pull us back once more to Bedale. We had time to admire the rolling stock.
This was afternoon tea at its finest: a leisurely experience enabling us to put present worries aside, just for a couple of hours.