Having a spare Saturday afternoon and as the sun was beginning to show for the first time in a while, I fancied doing something energetic and decided I would go to Lydiard Park.

Driving there, I meandered my way through Grange Park and went into the park through the church entrance, which is off of Hay Lane or Tregoze Way, depending on your choice of route.

Going down the drive way, I was hit with the pure beauty of this wonderful park. The sun was coming through, it was well maintained and things were shaping up to being a great day.

Knowing that there are car parks at the top of the drive and that the whole estate is managed by donations and council funding, I was happy to pay £2 for a few hours parking, hoping the money is going to be put to good use within the park.

Wandering around the park, seeing the grand old house along with the gardens and the lake made me work up a small appetite and I found myself following my nose to the Forest Café. The Café from the outside looks like it always has, a wooden and glass structure, bolted next to the public toilets, which had flooded and were out of use to all of us who were not wearing waders.

Beside the inconvenience convenience, entering the forest café, using the entrance by the children’s play park, brought back all the memories from a number of years ago. It was like walking along memory lane, in a nice way. The place was clean, busy and had everything people needed in a park cafe. It was dry, warm and inviting. It said it was open from 9.30 to 4.30 so I knew I had plenty of time to enjoy a spot of lunch.

I queued with everyone else and as I edged closer to the serving area I could see all the different boards and the selections that were on offer from sandwiches to hot food. There was a cabinet of cold drinks being sold behind the counter I could see the staff serving hot drinks by the till. I could also see the large display cabinets showing off all the cakes and goodies on sale. I found myself looking through the glass fronted cabinets and I started to measure the sizes of each cake to make sure I got the biggest slice, it was a shame the cake was taken from the other side by the staff.

Now just past the cabinets there was a hot unit, containing the savoury sausage rolls and pasties. They all looked good, along with the doughnuts and single cakes out on display on the worktops.

The staff were lovely, really polite and helpful. They were all slightly older than the normal age bracket that work in a cafés, but this is not a criticism, in fact it was nice to deal with people who there to serve people and not because they want some money to go out on a Saturday night, or to pay for their first car, or next tattoo?

I ordered a tea and a slice of cake, along with a sausage roll, winced only a little at the price but accepted that is what people pay and took my tray of delights over to a table.

I noticed that all around the café there were tables and areas of interest to keep children happy whilst parents munched on their food. It was obvious that children played in the park whilst the parents sat and watched from the comfort of the cafe. It should have been a lot noisier than it was, but the building kept the noise right down and it was a pleasant place to sit and look out over the park for a while.

Now the food, the sausage roll was OK, however someone must have set the temperature of the over to ‘furnace’ as the meat was well cooked and the scolding on the first bite told me so. However after the first mistake, I was thinking I should have gone for the sandwich option but when it was cut open it cooled quickly. There was little taste in it, or was it that my taste buds had been burnt out, either way the sausage roll was just a filler, a foundation for the slice of Victoria sponge cake.

Before I got to the cake I took a sip of tea, now bear in mind it had been sat for a while and there was no lid on the tea, it lead to a second scolding of the day. The tea was like molten lava and difficult to do anything with other than to leave it a while longer.

Now moving on to the cake, this was what I had been working up to. I picked the plate up off the tray and almost got frostbite on my fingers. The plate was freezing and the wrapping over the top held the cake in place and in a mini fridge. Unwrapping it, I felt confident no one had sneezed on it but if they had no germs would have survived in those cold temperatures.

It was a real shame because the cake was so cold, it was like eating ice-cream, which helped the scolding from earlier however as it had been almost frozen, it had turned the cake to a soggy, stodgy lump with the cream and jam fillings being hard instead of oozie. Please do not think I let this cake go to waste, oh no, it was consumed, so could not have been that bad.

Once the cold cake had gone, I was pleased that the tea was still hot and it sorted out the chilly episode returning my mouth to a state of blisters.

I appreciate that the café had a healthy flow of customers and people were spending money on food and drink however I am not sure there has been much feedback to the managers there. The venue is perfect for what it is, a café in a beautiful park, with great views, plenty of choice and enough seating and entertainment for everyone.

I do not want to start another McDonalds, Apple pie debate here and this is only my opinion, as I know others (my mum included) who have an asbestos mouth, would not flinch at drinking the tea or eating the sausage roll at the temperature it was served. However it would have been nice to bring the temperatures of all the cabinets to a more ‘middling’ setting so that people do not have to worry about how hot the “hot things” actually are and to enjoy a room temperature piece of cake.

I am sure temperatures can be adjusted and people have their opinion, however I would not want people to be put off going here. It really is a lovely setting and when I go back, I shall be staying away from the hot stuff and asking for a afresh sandwich and a cold drink instead.

Vince Penne


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