If you know me but at all, then you’ll be aware that I have a teensy tiny bit of a sweet tooth. And when I say “sweet tooth”, what I really mean is, don’t be so foolish as to leave any kind of sugary treat within pouncing distance of me unless you want it to end up in my tummy. My ‘guilty’ face is so well worn that it’s starting to fray around the edges a little.
You’ll probably also know how I feel about wild flower meadows. (Hint: I love them almost as much as chocolate.)
So when my parents decided to go hunting for orchids near to my favourite pub in all the world, I was ready and waiting by the front door before they could say “Would you like to come?”. If I’d been a dog I’d have been holding my lead in my mouth and wagging my tail into a blur.
Mum works for the Berks, Bucks, and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), which means the rest of us regularly have to come home from our less magical jobs to hear about her day spent cuddling fox cubs, or perhaps dissecting owl pellets, and generally having a lovely time. She’s based at College Lake – an old chalk quarry turned nature reserve and haven for wetland birds – but lately we’ve been exploring BBOWT’s smaller and further afield reserves.
We arrived at Bernwood Meadows in glorious sunshine, just before my tummy started to growl for its mid afternoon snack.
… (early marsh orchid photo courtesy of Dad, check out more of his stuff here) but although I really do like orchids, there’s something about yellow flowers that really gets to me. Rape, buttercups, sunflowers, daffodils – I’m not fussy, so long as it’s all yellow.
But there was also some green to entertain us. As well as enough buttercups and early marsh orchids to shake a stick at, there was a rather eccentric looking fellow wandering around, nose to the ground, clutching a net, looking for Forester moths.
He was pleased as punch to have seen seven of the little creatures that day. I’d never seen a Forester before, so tripped back to the gate to look at the information sign again, so that I would have an idea what to look out for. Just on the off chance, y’know?
It proved pretty helpful.
In reality, the little fellow was probably just using the sign as a windbreak, but Mum and I were in absolute hysterics at the notion of this moth model (mothel?) posing patiently next to their own bill board, faux-nonchalantly, waiting for the appearance of its hoards of screaming fans. (The official term for such a phenomenon is, obviously, Beetlemania.)
When we were done laughing, we decided we were definitely hungry. We found Dad (a harder task than you might think, as he was lying flat on his stomach trying to get the orchid shot he wanted) and persuaded him that there was nothing for it but to head to Murcott to find something yummy at The Nut Tree Inn.
The Nut Tree Inn, otherwise known as my favourite pub in all the land, is charming in every way possible.
Inside, the charm offensive doesn’t let up.
The interior is pretty special. The low rafters are decorated with bank notes from different currencies, and comfy sofas sprawl across the place in all their leathery loveliness. (Bad vegetarian.) But let’s not pretend that the décor is the main attraction. The Nut Tree has a Michelin Star and it’s not afraid to use it.
This, my friends, is a sticky toffee pudding with a caramelised apple tart, praline ice cream, and butterscotch sauce. Otherwise known as one of the best things my taste buds have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
At one point, to savour the wonder for as long as possible, I was sipping contentedly on my green tea, and one of the staff asked me if I had finished. I just laughed. There was no way I was going to be finished until my plate looked as licked clean as this…
Full of sugary sweetness, we headed back to the car, but were waylaid by a blonde bombshell. She had curly hair, a beaming smile, and her name was Honey. She was just my type.
Cockapoos are, in my humble opinion, second in cuteness only to labradoodles. It was very upsetting to have to say goodbye, after falling in love at first sight. But we took our tummies full of toffee and our hearts full of Honey, and we said goodbye to the Nut Tree.
But, like a sticky toffee terminator, I promise I will be back.