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Chichester Copywriter joins the Grantchester Group for tea

Chichester Copywriter travelled to Cambridge this weekend to visit family and while there paid homage to The Orchard Tea Garden at Grantchester where some of the literary greats, such as poet Rupert Brooke, frequented for tea and contemplation.

A present day stroll across the Grantchester Meadows in the late summer sun, watching punters negotiate with the winding river and beautiful red cattle grazing lazily, lead the way to the orchard known for its inspirations to writers and philosophers.

Brooke lodged at the Orchard after graduating from King’s College in 1909 and attracted many well known visitors who also craved a bit of quiet reflection beneath the trees in a country tea garden. This Grantchester Group consisted of: Russell and Wittgenstein (philosophers), Forster and Virginia Woolf (novelists), Keynes (an economist), and Augustus John (an artist).

While studying Communication at Bournemouth, Chichester Copywriter read and enjoyed Brooke’s work, particularly The Soldier, a poem written just months before his death in 1915. It was interesting to learn that Brooke died while serving at sea during the First World War and was buried on the Greek island of Skyros, making his posthumously famous poem’s lines ring truer than ever:

“If I should die, think only this of me:

 That there’s some corner of a foreign field

  That is forever England”

Chichester copywriter could feel the creative vibe flowing between the fruit trees while sipping her Earl Grey in the orchard where some of her literary heroes once sat. Writing ideas became as frequent as the ripened apples, pears, quinces and plums falling from the breeze bothered trees and it was clear why Brooke et al chose Grantchester.

In a letter from Brooke to his girlfriend, Noel Oliver, written in Orchard House, July 1909, the poet paints a picture of his life in Grantchester:

“I am in the Country, in Arcadia; a rustic. It is a village two miles from Cambridge, up the river. You know the place; it is near all picnicking grounds. And here I work at Shakespeare and see few people. In the intervals I wander about bare foot and almost naked, surveying Nature with a calm eye. I do not pretend to understand Nature, but I get on very well with her, in a neighbourly way. I go on with my books, and she goes on with her hens and storms and things, and we’re both very tolerant. I live on honey, eggs and milk, prepared for me by an old lady like an apple (especially in the face) and sit all day in a rose garden to work.”

It’s also believed that out of nostalgia when posted in Berlin during the war, Rupert Brooke wrote The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. This verse ends with one of poetry’s most famous lines: “Stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?” It also brings the experience of walking through Grantchester Meadows, including the sights and sounds of the surroundings, to life in a way that our favourite creative copywriter admires:

 Just now the lilac is in bloom,

All before my little room:

And in my flower-beds, I think,

Smile the carnation and the pink;

And down the borders, well I know,

The poppy and the pansy blow…

Oh! There the chestnuts, summer through,

Beside the river make for you

A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep

Deeply above; and green and deep

The stream mysterious glides beneath,

Green as a dream and deep as death.

– Oh, damn! I know it! And I know

How the May fields all golden show,

And when the day is young and sweet,

Gild gloriously the bare feet

That run to bathe…

Du Lieber Gott!


Here am I, sweating, sick and hot,

And there the shadowed waters fresh

Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.

Temperamentvoll German Jews

Drink beer around; – and there the dews

Are soft beneath a morn of gold.

Here tulips bloom as they are told;

Unkempt about those hedges blows

An English unofficial rose;

And there the unregulated sun

Slopes down to rest when day is done,

And wakes a vague unpunctual star,

A slippered Hesper; and there are

Meads towards Haslingfield and Coton

Where das Betreten’s not verboten.


… would I were

In Grantchester, in Grantchester! –

Some, it may be, can get in touch

With Nature there, Or Earth, or such.

And clever modern men have seen

A Faun a-peeping through the green,

And felt the Classics were not dead,

To glimpse a Naiad’s reedy head,

Or hear the Goat-foot piping low:..

But these are things I do not know.

I only know that you may lie

Day-long and watch the Cambridge sky,

And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,

Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,

Until the centuries blend and blur

In Grantchester, in Grantchester…

Still in the dawnlit waters cool

His ghostly Lordship swims his pool,

And tries the strokes, essays the tricks,

Long learnt on Hellespont, or Styx.

Dan Chaucer hears his river still

Chatter beneath a phantom mill.

Tennyson notes, with studious eye,

How Cambridge waters hurry by…

And in that garden, black and white,

Creep whispers through the grass all night;

And spectral dance, before the dawn,

A hundred Vicars down the lawn;

Curates, long dust, will come and go

On lissome, clerical, printless toe;

And oft between the boughs is seen

The sly shade of a Rural Dean…

Till, at a shiver in the skies,

Vanishing with satanic cries,

The prim ecclesiastic rout

Leaves but a startled sleeper-out,

Grey heavens, the first bird’s drowsy calls,

The falling house that never falls.


God! I will pack, and take a train,

And get me to England once again!

For England’s the one land, I know,

Where men with Splendid Hearts may go;

And Cambridgeshire, of all England,

The shire for Men who Understand;

And of that district I prefer

The lovely hamlet of Grantchester.

For Cambridge people rarely smile,

Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;

And Royston men in the far South

Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;

At Over they fling oaths at one

And worse than oaths at Trumpington,

And Ditton girls are mean and dirty,

And there’s none in Harston under thirty,

And folks in Shelford and those parts

Have twisted lips and twisted hearts,

And Barton men make Cockney rhymes,

And Coton’s full of nameless crimes,

And things are done you’d not believe

At Madingley, on Christmas Eve.

Strong men have run for miles and miles,

When one from Cherry Hinton smiles;

Strong men have blanched, and shot their wives,

Rather than send them to St Ives;

Strong men have cried like babes, bydam,

To hear what happened at Babraham.

But Grantchester! Ah, Grantchester!

There’s peace and holy quiet there,

Great clouds along pacific skies,

And men and women with straight eyes,

Lithe children lovelier than a dream,

A bosky wood, a slumberous stream,

And little kindly winds that creep

Round twilight corners, half asleep.

In Grantchester their skins are white;

They bathe by day, they bathe by night;

The women here do all they ought;

The men observe the Rules of Thought.

They love the Good; they worship Truth;

They laugh uproariously in youth;

(And when they get to feeling old,

They up and shoot themselves, I’m told)…


Ah God! To see the branches stir

Across the moon at Grantchester!

To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten

Unforgettable, unforgotten

River-smell, and hear the breeze

Sobbing in the little trees.

Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand

Still guardians of that holy land?

The chestnuts shades, in reverend dream,

The yet unacademic stream?

Is dawn a secret shy and cold

Anadyomene, silver-gold?

And sunset still a golden sea

From Haslingfield to Madingley?

And after, ere the night is born,

Do hares come out about the corn?

Oh, is the water sweet and cool,

Gentle and brown, above the pool?

And laughs the immortal river still

Under the mill, under the mill?

Say, is there Beauty yet to find?

And Certainty? And Quiet kind?

Deep meadows yet, for to forget

The lies, and truths, and pain?…oh! Yet

Stands the Church clock at ten to three?

And is there honey still for tea?


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