Tea, treats and hospitality
Caroline Bingham visited Corby Glen, one of the prettiest villages in the heart of the county, to lunch at The March Hare Tea Rooms.
The Market Place has plenty of Ancaster stone buildings at its centre which provide the mellow charm of the location. Corby Glen is a popular haunt of walkers, cyclists and visitors to the Sheep Fair which is making a welcome return this month. More on that later.
A couple of cyclists were pulling up as I entered but we all decided it was a day for sitting inside rather than taking one of the tables at the front of the building or in the canopied Secret Garden to the side of the building, which has been a boon for the business when restrictions have been in place. It is the fantastic display of cakes and treats on the counter which catch your eye first – all homemade and neatly named on their glass covers. The cakes are not just for enjoying when you visit but can also be ordered for birthdays, weddings and any special occasion.
The March Hare Tea Rooms were established by owner Amy Roberts in October 2018 so in the course of our conversation the inevitable challenges of the pandemic cropped up but first I looked through the wide array of dishes on the menu to see what I wanted for lunch. I have been trying to make healthier choices so I ordered a chicken and bacon salad and my treat at this point was a strawberry smoothie.
The March Hare is open all day for breakfasts and there is a great choice from a Farmer’s Breakfast or Vegetarian Breakfast to a Mega Crumpet Stacker, wraps, sandwiches or baguettes with breakfast fillings of your choice. Other lunch options include paninis and toasties, homemade soup with bread or cold sandwich, plenty of choices for sandwiches (I found it hard to resist ordering the brie and cranberry) or Ploughman’s plates. If you prefer hot food there are weekly special dishes such as curry or lasagne, while every day there are jacket potatoes with a filling of your choice as well as homemade burgers served with salad, coleslaw and crisps.
My colourful salad was dressed with balsamic vinegar and served with two slices of fresh baguette, butter and balsamic vinegar with olive oil dip. The bakery products are supplied by Hambleton Bakery and are on sale to customers along with some essential provisions such as fresh eggs and milk. On the shelves around the tea room there is also a selection of gifts, ceramics and cards which were browsed and bought by customers as I ate my lunch.
My strawberry smoothie was wonderfully fruity and full of flavour. Fresh strawberries blended with a light juice to give a refreshing, one-of-my-five-a-day hit.
I was very full at this point so I took the chance to chat with Amy. “We closed for the first six weeks of lockdown, primarily to protect my staff,” she explained, “but then we launched new services such as takeaways and afternoon teas with a collection station in front of the tearoom – we called it the isolation station. The special order cakes and takeaway service have been very popular with 70 deliveries made for Mother’s Day alone.”
Amy and her team are impressively hardworking, holding a series of Tapas and Wine evenings during the summer months and looking after the newest part of the business – The Mad Hatter’s Bed & Breakfast – located above the tearoom. “A previous tenant left during lockdown 2 so I decided to convert that part of the building into a self-contained B&B,” Amy continued. “There are three bedrooms – a king, double and twin – with bathroom, sitting room and small kitchen. Breakfast can be taken in the tearoom and although it was hard work getting it up and running, I am really pleased with the response and bookings we have in place. With the free parking here, it is a perfect base from which to explore more of the area.”
Corby Glen is home to the Willoughby Gallery, is close to Grimsthorpe Castle and the Sheep Fair returns this year on Sunday 3rd October. This is believed to be the oldest established sheep fair in the country dating back to the Charter granted by Henry III in 1238. There will be the sheep auctions themselves, a fair, vintage vehicles and trade stalls. On Saturday evening, 2nd October, a live band will be playing in the village and there will be a ‘Sheep-Crow’ competition for the best display.
I couldn’t resist those cakes any longer so I asked Amy to give me a small slice of the cake of her choice. That was Chocolate Oreo which was delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed it with a cup of Verde cappuccino coffee. I’ll definitely be back! Probably as soon as this month to enjoy a day out and a bit more of what feels like normality at the Sheep Fair.