WE COULDN’T have timed it better. Not only was the weather exceptional, it was Hallowe’en. The autumn colours were at their best and there was an exciting trail of ghoulish things to keep children interested. There were also falcons being flown and a mammal centre. Dogs are permitted and we spotted a couple of waste bins.

The arboretum extends over 100 acres and there is, naturally, a tearoom which opens from 10am to 5pm. Lunches are served from noon to 3pm.

We could not find access to the café without paying the entrance fee to the grounds. In addition to the indoor area, there is a terrace with picnic-style tables and a large area of tables out on the grass. There seemed no restriction on visitors bringing their own food to this spot.

The table menus give a basic outline of what is on offer; tea and coffee (£1.40 with a free refill of coffee), toasted teacakes (£1.30 available from 2pm onwards), jacket potatoes, sandwiches and bacon baps from £2.90. The daily menu is shown in greater detail on a chalk board beside the servery. To relieve congestion, some items were on sale outside although customers would have to go inside to see the full menu.

Three varieties of soup had been prepared – vegetable, which was all finished; tomato, which was still being cooked and mushroom. So two bowls of mushroom soup with a roll (“sorry we are out of brown ones but more are being baked!”) at £3.50 it was to be.

We agreed the soup was excellent with a strong flavour although it tended to repeat on us. What was the hidden ingredient?

Continuing our policy of sharing food whenever possible, we halved a piece of apple and raisin tray bake (£1.30) and a slice of lemon sponge (£1.60). In Ann’s view these were the lightest and nicest cakes she had tasted for a long time. They were obviously home made and very fresh. I agreed whole heartedly.

The café was extremely busy, but this was no excuse for not keeping the tables cleared. When they were cleared we did not see any tables being wiped.

Wheelchair access and toilet facilities for the disabled were very good but I have no way of knowing how easy it would be to push a chair round some of the paths.

If you miss the autumn display, the next highlight will be the spring flowers including bluebells.