The BBC has failed me, but in the best possible way. For days and days, their weather forecast for my little area of the country has been rain, rain, rain. So, we didn’t plan much for the weekend, except for lots of cups of tea, and listening to a talking book together. Saturday dawned so beautifully, that we decided we should make the most of it while we could, packed up a picnic and drove up to Dedham. Dedham is one of the most beautiful, quiet little villages, and is just down river (or perhaps up river?) from Flatford Mill, which was painted by John Constable.
We timed our arrival well- it was lunch time, so most people were eating, which meant that there was not a large queue to hire a boat, and go for a row. Last year when we came, we had lunch reservations so only had time for a half hour on the river- this time, we pushed the boat out (sorry!) and hired the boat for an hour. Carl rowed first, while I reclined happily back in my seat, with my crocheted shawl about my shoulders. There were some beautiful little ducklings bobbing about on the water, and in the distance I could see a large house peeking through some trees which could have been Longbourne, or, if I squinted a bit, Pemberley.
Then I took the oars, and really enjoyed rowing, although perhaps it would be fair to say that I rowed with more enthusiasm than skill! After a while, we came to a bend in the river, where a beautiful tree was trailing its branches low over the water, and decided to pull in there for our picnic lunch. Crunching an apple and watching the world sail by, we really felt so content.
After that, we decided that we would have a go at rowing together, which was so much fun we kept rowing like that for the rest of our time on the river. We went a bit further towards Flatford, before turning round to come back to the dock. It felt so lovely sitting on the same seat together, and each taking an oar. I felt like it is a good metaphor for marriage, being in the same boat, working together and all. It was terribly romantic as well, and I really felt that I should have had a little book of poetry to read from! It was a little bit bittersweet at one point as well, as rowing together made me recall the closing words from Aunty Alex’s funeral....love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe.
When we had returned the boat, we took ice creams and had a stroll along the river bank until we came to a spot that looked perfect for stretching out upon. There Carl put his hat over his face and had a little siesta, while I layed with my head on his lap, watching other people row up and down the river, and just letting my mind wander and meander about.
It seems that absorbing so much beauty is quite tiring as we were both yawning when we got up to walk back into the little village, and rather peckish too. So what else to do, but to take afternoon tea? And where better to do so than at the Essex Rose Tea Room? The timber-framed building is almost 500 years old, and most of the length of one side is taken up with windows made up of hundreds of tiny squares of glass. We sat at a table for two, and had the Tiptree Cream Tea (the tearoom is owned by the Tiptree Jam Factory, which is why it is a Tiptree Cream Tea) which was a large pot of tea, and two scones each along with clotted cream and tiny tip strawberry conserve. Utter bliss!
Feeling rather full we took a gentle stroll through the village. There was so much to see there, so many little details to store away in the mind. There was the most beautiful wisteria climbing across several of the houses, a wonderful muted lilac colour, at once vibrant and understated. We walked past a pub which had the most wonderful thing running along all of their windows- a book shelf! And better yet, the books were all vintage, old, beautiful books. I wish I could have seen their spines to see what they were, but just seeing them from outside was lovely.
It was the kind of day that you wish would never end and I have a feeling that it won’t be very long before we have another little trip to Dedham. Who knows, perhaps next time we might be able to row as far as Flatford!