[Today’s post is by John H.Parker, co-author of the newly released book, Abide With Me, published by New Leaf Press. This account is from the travels of John and his co-author/photographer, Paul Seawright.]

If you’re blogging about or traveling around England to the famous hymn sites you think of as stellar places, Lewtrenchard Manor is one of the top ten. It’s the home of Sabine Baring-Gould, writer of “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and a few centuries of his ancestors and descendants. It’s located in Devon, a county in the coastal west corner of England: real country.

The place is the epitome of sumptuous country living. I’d recommend you just Google it and read the home page description. Especially if you’re looking for the ultimate for a honeymoon or fortieth anniversary trip or whatever.

I’ll probably return to Lewtrenchard frequently in these pages, because it’s got beauty and sophistication and ghosts. But today I’ll talk about having what what we thought was “high tea.”

Actually, high tea is dinner. What we had on the veranda in front of the mansion was actually, reasonably enough, “afternoon tea” or “low tea,” called that in part because it was usually served on low tables in a drawing room.

Anyway, Jill, Paul, and I opted to enjoy this (and pay for it). Paul’s Irish, so he helped us understand what we were doing. We were under an umbrella and the only party there, which made it comfortable. An attractive young lady in black dress with white apron served us. She was altogether all together in demeanor, a really nice, candid girl. She kind of looked like this was new to her—not her first time to serve, but not a veteran either. One or two things didn’t go just perfectly, which she was refreshingly open about. Actually, that made us more relaxed, in turn.

I really don’t remember much about the tea part, so I’ll brush up for the future. My friend, LaGard, once told me something about what goes in the tea cup first. But we had fine tea with sugar, real cream, of course (no lemons in English tea). The real treat is the cakes and pastries. We had something like a cookie, but the winner was scones and Devon clotted cream.  A scone is a quick bread like a tall, dense biscuit with a little sugar in and on top of it. But what you go for is the clotted cream. This is straight in-your-face rebellion against all health rules trying to keep you away from high fat. But, of course, it’s delicious. You put in on your scone, have a sip of tea, and sit back and enjoy a really nice social experience with your friends.

Sabine probably did this every day. The English know how to live, and tea is one of the pivotal moments of the day.

More on Lewtrenchard Manor later.

If you’re interested, here is the dessert menu off the Lewtrenchard web page:

  • Chocolate Tart with Comfit Kumquats with Orange and Cardamom Ice Cream
  • Pink Champagne Mousse with Strawberry Compote and Strawberry Sorbet
  • Passion  fruit Cheesecake with Raspberries marinated with Vanilla and Mint
  • Lewtrenchard’s  Crème Brulée with Banana and Passion Fruit Sorbet with Butterscotch Sauce
  • White Chocolate and Pear Terrine with kiwi, Lime and Fennel and a Lychee Sorbet
  • Rhubarb Jelly with Ginger Sorbet and Poached Rhubarb
  • Fresh Lewtrenchard Strawberries with Shortbread Biscuits and Devon Clotted Cream
  • Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackberry and Basil Compote, Crème Anglaise and Vanilla Tuiles
  • Caramelised Pineapple with Malibu Sorbet and Coconut Tuiles
  • Glazed Lemon Tart with Cassis Ice Cream
  • Tiramisu with Amaretto Ice Cream and Almond Biscuits