In which we eat locally, and well, in glorious surroundings

Railway Creek Farms at Feast from Farm

Visitors check out the amazing selection of different kinds of organic garlic grown by Elly Finlayson (behind the counter, left, aided by her mum, the artist Jean Finlayson) at her Railway Creek Farms operation – which, I am pleased and proud to say, is just up the road from Queensborough in the hamlet of Cooper. Note the brilliant blue skies and the setting right beside Stoco Lake. Pretty nice!

Many’s the time I’ve told you about how good we are, here in the Queensborough area, at serving up great community meals. Whether it’s the famous St. Andrew’s United Church suppers (the Ham Supper in the spring and the Turkey Supper in the fall, and more on the latter at the end of this post), or community potlucks, or pancake breakfasts, or barbecues that are part of special events, or the food booth at the recent Hastings County Plowing Match – well, let’s just say that if you are fortunate enough to be in Queensborough when there’s a meal to be had, you will go away happy and replete.

Yesterday there was just such an event in our little hamlet, but before Raymond and I could even get to it, we had the opportunity to eat very, very well just a few miles away. The occasion was the annual Feast From Farm event in the village of Tweed, where local food producers show off their bounty – vegetables, beef, pork, lamb, chicken, herbs, baked goods, and so on – and we lucky visitors get to sample delightful dishes made by local chefs with these local products.

Palmateer's at Feast from Farm

Palmateer’s Meats of Tweed has been in business a long, long time, and there’s a reason for that – great-quality local products. Yesterday people were lining up for a taste of sausage freshly made by Tara Palmateer (left). It was delicious!

So I’m going to show you some photos from Feast From Farm, and then carry you on into a much lower-key but also delightful food event that happened later in the afternoon right here in Queensborough. All to show you that we really know how to eat and have a good time around here.

Enright Cattle Company tent at Feast from Farm

The booth of the Enright Cattle Co., a farm just outside Tweed that produces beef that’s in demand in top Ontario restaurants. We enjoyed an amazing snack – Hoisin Glazed Enright Cattle Beef Taco with Srirachi Aioli – prepared by the folks from the excellent Capers Restaurant in Belleville. Yum!

Leather bags from Enright Cattle Company at Feast from Farm 2016

Also at the Enright Cattle Co. booth: a display of the gorgeous handcrafted bags made from the carcasses of the farm’s cattle. I am lucky enough to own one of those bags!

Lineup for Langevin lamb, Feast from Farm

A lineup (which Raymond was in, though toward the back) for treats made from Langevin Sheep Company lamb.

Langevin Sheep Company, Feast from Farm

I like the fact that there’s a sheep farm not far from us – it’s between Tweed and Flinton – and I also like their pretty sign! Raymond, who loves fresh lamb, likes all of this even more than I do.

Pumpkin carving, Feast from Farm

Another thing you can do with locally grown food products: carve them! The kids were enjoying this.

Aside from all the good food we got to enjoy, I have to say the beautiful early-fall weather and the glorious lakeside setting made the event that much more enjoyable.

Great trees and blue sky at Feast from Farm

Beautiful trees (I believe they are ash) tower over the lakeside site of Feast From Farm.

Lineup, Potter Settlement Winery, Feast from Farm

The Potter Settlement Winery booth was a popular spot, where lineups formed as soon as the sun made it over the yardarm. Don’t worry – I don’t know what “the sun’s over the yardarm” means either, and I’m not sure anyone does. Basically it think it means  it’s a respectable hour to taste some amazing wine made with grapes grown right here in central Hastings County. The owner of Potter Settlement, Sandor Johnson, was on hand to pour and talk about his products, which are very quickly gaining wide acclaim. Just check out this recent splashy article in the Toronto Star!

Potter Settlement Winery at Feast from Farm 2

Another look at the Potter Settlement Winery booth. Raymond and I were lucky enough to be able to purchase a case of the fast-disappearing 2013 Marquette, which is an absolutely outstanding red. And made right here in our neck of the woods!

So after all this tasting, we headed back to the car with a case of Potter Settlement wine, some fat, fresh Hungarian garlic from Elly Finlayson’s Railway Creek Farms, a bottle of Kricklewood Farm Cold-Pressed Sunflower Oil, some recipes and business cards to aid us in future purchases (fresh lamb, yum, says Raymond) – and very full tummies.

But the eating wasn’t over yet!

Cornstalk/scarecrow at QCC corn roast

This friendly cornstalk scarecrow welcomed visitors to the Queensborough Community Centre corn roast.

Next on the agenda was the annual corn roast hosted by the Queensborough Community Centre committee, of which we are members.

Garden at the QCC

What a lovely garden! It was planted by children taking part in the annual summer youth drop-in program at the Queensborough Community Centre. There’s a mix of annuals and perennials, including some from historic local gardens. Since the summer program ended at the start of August, volunteers have been carefully tending to the garden.

The QCC holds several events throughout the year, and the corn roast is probably the most laid-back of them all. On a sleepy September Sunday afternoon, 10 or 12 dozen ears of fresh local corn are boiled, a few dozen hot dogs barbecued, and people come, grab some nosh and a drink – all free of charge – and sit down for a spell on one of the benches that have been set out under the trees in front of the community centre, our village’s former one-room schoolhouse dating from the dawn of the 20th century.

Did I mention that these food events were taking place in beautiful locations?

Yesterday as we sat on the benches under the trees, we shared stories and news and gossip with our neighbours as we enjoyed the simple but good food. People came, people went; there was a quiet buzz all afternoon. At the corn roast you almost always meet someone from the neighbourhood whom you didn’t know before, and that’s really nice.

QCC corn roast 2016

A relaxed way to spend the afternoon: enjoying hot dogs and fresh corn on a bench under the trees at the historic Queensborough Community Centre (formerly the village’s one-room schoolhouse).

I would like to think that right about now you are saying to yourself: “My gracious but there’s a lot of good stuff going on in the Queensborough area! Notably when it comes to food. I must visit one of these times…”

Which is exactly what you should do. And I will tell you exactly when.

Pies at the St. Andrew's supper

Homemade pie is the specialty at the St. Andrew’s Turkey Supper on Sept. 28.

The St. Andrew’s United Church Turkey Supper – at which you will enjoy a full turkey dinner, including our absolutely fabulous homemade pies – takes place Wednesday, Sept. 28, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. It’s held in the hall of our church, at 812 Bosley Rd., and this year while you’re eating your amazing turkey dinner you can also take in the renovations we (the St. Andrew’s congregation, that is) have done to the hall over the past summer: a new floor, newly painted walls, and a fresh look overall. The ticket price for the supper is $14 for adults, $6 for young people aged six to 12, and free for children under six. All proceeds go to support the work of St. Andrew’s, a vibrant little rural church.

It’s an event about food and community, in equal measure. It’s in Queensborough. In lovely surroundings. What more could you ask for?

A Queensborough link to Canada’s first prime minister

Sir John A. MacdonaldAs some readers will doubtless know, preparations are being made to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the most famous Father of Confederation and Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. He was born on Jan. 11, 1815, in Glasgow; emigrated to Kingston in Upper Canada with his family five years later; became a lawyer in that city; and went on to great political success and a permanent place in history by being one of driving forces behind the creation of our country in 1867 and prime minister for a total of 19 years.

I was reminded of the upcoming anniversary and attendant celebrations (see this link to some special events in Kingston and elsewhere) thanks to an excellent article by my friend Roseann Trudeau in this week’s issue of the Tweed News. Roseann’s article also reminded me that I should write here at Meanwhile, at the Manse about Sir John A.’s Queensborough connection. Yes, you heard (or at least read) that right: the Queensborough connection to Canada’s first prime minister. You see, Sir John A. was once a property-owner in Queensborough! So there.

I first learned of the Sir John A. connection from Times to Remember in Elzevir Township, the invaluable history of our area written back in 1984 by the late Jean Holmes, the longtime clerk of Elzevir and a woman I remember fondly from my childhood days here. Here’s what Jean’s book says:

Billa Flint

Billa Flint: Elzevir Township politician, entrepreneur, temperance man and all-round interesting character.

“Sir John A. Macdonald owned eleven lots in Queensborough between 1868 and 1870, and some again in 1886. It is reasonable to assume that he would have known the Hon. Billa Flint very well, even though Flint was a Liberal and Macdonald a Conservative. [Note from Katherine: Billa Flint (for whom the village of Flinton is named) was a prominent and wealthy Elzevir Township entrepreneur and politician; he was the local member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada before Confederation, and a senator after Confederation. The suggestion that Times to Remember seems to be making is that since Flint moved in those Ottawa circles, he might well have suggested to Sir John A. that he make an investment in property his neck of the woods, i.e. Queensborough. Flint was also, by the way, a vehement temperance man, which means that he and Sir John, the latter well-known for enjoying his drink, might have had some interesting conversations. Anyway, back to Times to Remember:] For some unknown reason, Macdonald purchased lots in Queensborough. Later he sold (or lost) all of them to the Merchants’ Bank for the large sum of $6,600.”

Isn’t that just a most intriguing tidbit? Though I will confess I wasn’t sure whether to actually believe it, and indeed I infused some doubt about the veracity of this tale when I made mention of it in the text of the booklet about Queensborough’s history that I helped put together for the Queensborough Community Centre Committee. (The booklet is a fundraiser for the committee’s work, and if you’d like a copy, it can be yours for a mere $3 [plus postage]. Just let me know.)

However, prior to our committee’s wildly successful Historic Queensborough Day last September (which you can read about here; that was a wonderful day!), I saw the proof of the matter. It came in the form of a copy of a legal document that seems to be the turning over of the property to the Merchants’ Bank by Sir John A. and his wife, Agnes, who apparently was co-owner. It is dated Feb. 1, 1870, and all the details are there, including mention of “Lots Numbered Eighteen and Nineteen in the First Range and Forty and Forty One in the Second Range of the Village Plot of Queensboro“:

Sir John deed Page 1

And it is signed by both Sir John (who is listed at the start as “The Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, of the City of Kingston, in the County of Frontenac and Province of Ontario, Knight Commander of the Bath“) and Agnes (“Dame Susan Agnes Macdonald, his wife”):

Sir John deed Page 5

Now, legal documents tend to give me hives because, as a journalist and editor, my life’s mission is to see that information is conveyed in language that anyone can understand, whereas legal documents tend to be written in language that no one can understand. So I wasn’t really sure exactly what this document between the Macdonalds and the Merchants’ Bank is, but since it cites the same amount that Jean Holmes mentions, $6,600, it seems like it is the turnover of the property for default of payment that she refers to. That is confirmed in a note I have from the person who is owed enormous thanks for finding (back in the 1970s) and making a photocopy of this precious document, local lawyer and Queensborough property-owner André Philpot. As André explained in sharing the document with the Queensborough Community Centre Committee: “The copies aren’t perfect but they do show that for whatever reason Sir John bought land in (Queensborough), mortgaged it to ‘The Merchants’ Bank’ and seems to have signed it off to them – presumably because he couldn’t keep up the payments … Sir John was a better nation builder than investor and it looks like this may just have been a speculation that didn’t work out.”

Anyway, since we’ll all be hearing a fair bit about Sir John in the next while because of the bicentennial of his birth, I thought it timely and important to share his Queensborough connection. Really, doesn’t our little hamlet and its history just never cease to amaze you?

Building Highway 7

Highway 7 under construction in 1932

It looks a lot different from the nicely paved Highway 7 we know today, doesn’t it? This is the well-known east-west highway under construction in 1932. Keith Millard, who graciously supplied the photo, says it was probably taken near Flinton Road, which is just east of where the buses now stop at Actinolite. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

My new cross-country pal Keith Millard – who discovered Meanwhile, at the Manse while researching the history of his family, the Kleinsteubers, who established the German Settlement in Elzevir Township in the mid-19th century – recently sent me a couple of very cool photos that I thought you folks would be interested in. They show Highway 7 in the Actinolite area when it was under construction, in 1932. These days one takes Highway 7 – part of the Central Ontario Route of the Trans-Canada Highway – so much for granted; it’s smooth and wide and nicely paved (especially after last year’s construction work on it; Raymond and I thought it was very thoughtful of the construction folks to redo Highway 7 just as we started using it regularly to travel between Montreal and the Manse in Queensborough), and it’s just there. And useful. But once upon a time it wasn’t there, and it had to be built. And what a project that must have been! Given that Keith’s photos are from 1932, in the Great Depression, I had guessed that the construction was a job-creation project, and that turns out to be correct. According to an excellent history of the highway here, the section between Peterborough and Perth was built in the ’30s to provide work (and thus income) to many labourers in those terrible times.

We know that these photos were taken in Elzevir Township because they come via two chaps named Art Robinson and Peter Forbes, who are seen in the picture I’m about to show you and who, Keith tells me, had homes in Elzevir’s German Settlement. Here’s another shot of the highway construction showing the two men:

Another view of Highway 7 under construction, this one showing Peter Forbes and Art Robinson, who lived in that part of Elzevir Township. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

Another view of Highway 7 when it was under construction, this one showing Peter Forbes and Art Robinson, who lived in that part of Elzevir Township. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

Really, it is quite something to be taken back in time by great old photos like these. And to be reminded of what a huge undertaking it must have been to blast through the rock of the Canadian Shield and build a stretch of road that nowadays we zoom over without thinking about it. Thanks for the history lesson, Keith!

What once was: photographs from Elzevir’s German Settlement

Historic photo from Elzevir Township, of unknown members of the Kleinsteuber family, probably in the Skootamatta River.

Is this not a marvellous photo, people? It comes to us courtesy of Keith Millard, a descendant of the Kleinsteubers who created the (now long-gone) German Settlement in Elzevir Township [also home to Queensborough, and the Manse] back in the middle of the 19th century. Of this photo, Keith says: “This wonderful photo was in one of the many old groups of photos we have digitized. We don’t know who the buggy occupants were or exactly where, but likely along the Skootamatta [River] not far from home.” (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

I have something a little different for you this evening, dear readers. This extremely funky (surely you agree!) old photograph came to me from Keith Millard, who lives all the way out in the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. Keith is a descendant of the Kleinsteuber family that came to Elzevir Township from their native Germany in the early 1850s and pretty much single-handedly created what was known as the German Settlement on the banks of the Skootamatta River, just north of Highway 7 not far from the present-day Log Cabin Restaurant (where the buses stop – read all about it here) and off the road to Flinton. Keith stumbled onto Meanwhile, at the Manse because of my frequent references to Elzevir’s history, and wondered if I might know anything about the German Settlement that he doesn’t. Since it turns out that he is a veritable mine of information about his ancestors, and all I have is the (excellent) history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township to refer to (which Keith also has) – well, let’s just say that I couldn’t help him out much.

But: perhaps some readers can! Does anyone reading this know anything about Elzevir’s German Settlement? Any memories of Kleinsteuber descendants? Keith has a Facebook page called “My Last Name is Kleinsteuber” here that you might find interesting (and be able to contribute to), and I can provide his email address if you’d like to contact him directly.

He has one question that someone might be able to answer right away (and I can probably answer myself the next time I have time to go poking around where the German Settlement used to be, but that could be awhile): Is anything still there? Are there any remains of the old barns or houses?

And speaking of those barns and houses, here are a couple more great historic photos that Keith sent. What an amazing peek into Elzevir’s past!

The Kleinsteuber family homestead and farm at the German Settlement in about 1910. The question descendant Keith Millard (who lives way out in Vancouver Island) has is: does any of it still stand? If not, how amazing to think a good stury farm like this could just disappear within a century. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

The Kleinsteuber family homestead and farm at the German Settlement in about 1910. The question descendant Keith Millard (who lives way out in Vancouver Island) has is: Does any of it still stand? If not, how amazing to think a good sturdy farm like this could just disappear within a century. (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

Of this amazing (and quite delightful) very old Kleinsteuber family photo at the German Settlement, Keith Millard tells me it shows: "John Henry Lorenz Kleinsteuber's [one of the original German Settlement settlers] daughter Amanda, his daughter-in-law Lela (she and John David [Kleinsteuber] lived for many years in Tweed), and Lela's and John David's daughter Lucy Anna Mildred Kleinsteuber, who married Arthur Robinson. (I believe [nearby] Robinson Road was named after his father or grandfather.)  Amanda was married to Oran Greatrix, who owned the General Store in Actinolite …" – and a bit of a long-ago family scandal follows, quite entertaining, but I don't think I should be spilling another family's secrets! (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

Of this amazing (and quite delightful) very old Kleinsteuber family photo at the German Settlement, Keith Millard tells me it shows: “John Henry Lorenz Kleinsteuber’s [one of the original German Settlement settlers] daughter Amanda, his daughter-in-law Lela (she and John David [Kleinsteuber] lived for many years in Tweed), and Lela’s and John David’s daughter Lucy Anna Mildred Kleinsteuber, who married Arthur Robinson. (I believe [nearby] Robinson Road was named after his father or grandfather.) Amanda was married to Oran Greatrix, who owned the General Store in Actinolite …” – and a bit of a long-ago family scandal follows, quite entertaining, but I don’t think I should be spilling another family’s secrets! (Photo courtesy of Keith Millard)

Of ghost towns, and Elzevir (or Johnson’s Corners), and Queensborough

Ron Brown has written quite a few excellent books about the ghost towns of Ontario, and I believe this one is the most recent. Listed in the table of contents are Hastings County places like Eldorado, Corbyville and Millbridge – but not Queensborough (he's got that right) and not Elzevir – or, as it seems it used to be called, Johnson's Corners.

Ron Brown has written quite a few fascinating books about the ghost towns of Ontario (his publisher is the excellent Boston Mills Press), and I believe this one is the most recent. Listed in the table of contents are Hastings County places like Eldorado, Corbyville and Millbridge – but not Queensborough (he’s got that right) and not Elzevir – or, as it seems it used to be called, Johnson’s Corners.

Thanks to Jim Kammer of Belleville, who came upon my blog post wondering whether the Manse-area hamlet called Elzevir really exists, I now know a whole lot more about that place. Jim pointed me in the direction of a chapter of my treasured copy of the history book Times to Remember in Elzevir Township (the township where Queensborough is located) that is about the community of Johnson’s Corners, described in the book’s entry as being on the eastern side of the township (and just west of the village of Flinton in neighbouring Lennox and Addington County. I wrote about Flinton here). The entry has quite a bit of information about the community’s early settlement in the mid-19th century (when it may have been known as Breault’s Corners), about the stores and taverns that once existed there, about farms that were still prospering (and winning awards for cattle at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair) when Times to Remember was published in 1984, and about such things as long-ago community events and the cheese factories to which the Johnson’s Corners dairy farmers used to supply milk.

While I had seen that chapter in the book before, I had not put two and two together as far as realizing that it was the community that now shows up as “Elzevir” on maps. But Jim did, and for very good reason: his forebears were among the earliest settlers of that little community (his great-great grandmother, born in Australia, ran a general store there), and Jim has done a lot of research into family history. If you read his very helpful comments on my Elzevir post, you’ll see he explains that when his own father (who grew up on a farm there) referred to the place, he always called it Elzevir. And he was doubtless not the only native to do so. So you see? Everything’s falling into place, and I think The Great Elzevir Map Mystery is close to being solved. Now all that remains is for Raymond and me to visit next spring or summer and see what kind of community is still there. You can be sure I’ll take pictures!

But meantime, the whole exercise has got me thinking about ghost towns, particularly since my Queensborough friend Graham, in trying to get to the bottom of the Elzevir mystery, found and posted (in a comment here) some links to sites that are about Ontario ghost towns. He was rather horrified – as am I – that Queensborough was listed in them. Let me quote Graham: “HELLO! We’re still here! News of our demise has been greatly exaggerated.”

Food, fun and a crowd at a  community pig roast in Queensborough last September. Does this look like a ghost town, people?

Food, fun and a crowd at a community pig roast in Queensborough last September. Does this look like a ghost town, people? (Photo by Elaine Kapusta)

And that is, I suspect, what residents of some of the other Hastings County communities that tend to get named in “ghost town” lists would say. I’m thinking of Eldorado, and Corbyville, and Millbridge, and Marlbank – all of which are nice little places that I know and like, and where people still live.

Ghost town schmost town, I say. You calling us a ghost town? We’ll be the judge of that. Boo!

Does Elzevir (the hamlet) really exist?

Look on the map showing the general vicinity of Elzevir Township and you'll see, down in the lower left corner, the township's two longtime population centres (tiny as they are), Queensborough and Actinolite. But look again: up in the upper-right-hand corner, just west of the county line and south of the village of Flinton, is: a place called Elzevir. Is it real?

Look on the map showing the general vicinity of Elzevir Township and you’ll see, down in the lower left corner, the township’s two longtime population centres (tiny as they are), Queensborough and Actinolite. But look again: up in the upper-right-hand corner, just west of the county line and south of the village of Flinton, is: a place called Elzevir. Is it real?

I had long believed (and probably mentioned on this blog, probably more than once) that tiny Queensborough (where the Manse is located, and where I grew up) and tiny Actinolite were the only population clusters – hamlets – in the very large and empty township of Elzevir, which is now part of the Greater Tweed Area. But recently I’ve discovered that some maps show a third “place” in Elzevir, called – fittingly – Elzevir. On a map of the township that appears in the Heritage Atlas of Hastings County (an awesome, chock-full-of-useful-and-interesting-information book), and also on my trusty MapArt map of Eastern Ontario, there’s a little dot for Elzevir off in a northeasterly corner of the township, close to the line that separates our Hastings County from neighbouring Lennox and Addington County and not far from the village of Flinton (which I know from my childhood growing up in Queensborough, and wrote about here).

So what’s the deal, people who live in, or know about, Elzevir Township? Is there really a hamlet of Elzevir way off there southwest of Flinton? If so, why is there no mention of it (as far as I can find) in Times to Remember in Elzevir Township, the go-to history of our corner of the world? Are new hamlets springing up in deepest rural Ontario even now, in the 21st century? I wouldn’t have thought so, but…

A trip to Flinton: back of beyond, or a place showing the way?

Flinton may be small, but it does have a cute little restaurant/café/shop, the River Cottage Café. Which means there’s a place for locals and visitors who may pass through to get a cup of coffee and a bite to eat – and that’s a welcome thing in a tiny village.

Flinton is a small village just across the county line from Hastings, in neighbouring Lennox and Addington County. My mother used to use phrases like “the back of beyond” and “the end of the world” when she referred to it, and when Raymond and I went for an afternoon drive there one recent Saturday I could kind of see why. Queensborough (where the Manse is) may be a little off the beaten path and not really on the road to anywhere, but it’s still only 15 minutes in different directions from two busy little towns, Madoc and Tweed. Flinton, on the other hand, is a good long drive along a county road that seems to go on and on and on once you turn north off Highway 7 (the Trans Canada) a little east of Actinolite. (Both Actinolite and Flinton were founded by Billa Flint – hence Flinton’s name – who was an early entrepreneur in the area, eventually mayor of Belleville, a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada before Confederation, and a Canadian senator. And a temperance man. So there.) Its nearest “towns” are Northbrook and Kaladar; Northbrook has some commerce and a regional school, but Kaladar is not too much more than a crossroads.

Flinton’s old Methodist Church, which is what I assume must have become the United Church that I have the vaguest of memories of visiting in the late 1960s. It seems to be a private home now.

My family used to visit Flinton fairly regularly back in the late 1960s because my father, The Rev. Wendell Sedgwick, was for a while the supervising minister of the Flinton-Cloyne Pastoral Charge of the United Church of Canada. That is, the charge had its own minister, but he was not fully ordained; I guess he was a diaconal minister or some such. So an ordained minister was needed to perform certain services, such as baptisms and weddings, and that was Dad. I guess the reason why the whole kit and caboodle of the Sedgwick clan went along when Dad visited the Flinton-Cloyne charge was that the Flinton minister and his wife (whose names I’m afraid I cannot remember) had several children – five, if memory serves – who were not far removed from our ages. (I recall playing my very first game of Twister in the Flinton manse.)

So I was curious to see what Flinton looked like all these years later. It was bigger than I expected, with quite a few houses, a recreational centre (that’s what they call arenas these days) which that day was bustling because a community turkey supper was being served, and several actual streets. And there were two churches that seemed to still be operational, though the United Church was, sadly, not one of them. While it does seem remote, Flinton is quite an attractive little place.

This is what I find welcoming when I visit a small rural community: a sign that says “Café (or store, or restaurant) Open.” Bravo to Flinton for that!

But best of all was this: there was a commercial enterprise! Actually, there were two; one seemed to be some kind of bare-bones antiques-and-collectibles place, though as far as we could see the materials on offer were old tools, which don’t interest us too much. But the other was a little restaurant/café, with tables out front and some young people (local, I think) enjoying them. While we were a little pressed for time and so couldn’t pop in, I have to say that just seeing the “Open” sign at the little River Cottage Café made my heart leap. A village with a place where you can get a cup of coffee and some information about the local area just seems so much more alive than a village where you can’t. At the risk of sounding like a diehard consumer, there’s just something welcoming about a place that gives you the opportunity to spend money.

(My favourite examples of this, by the way, are all the tiny places in New England where there are just a cluster of homes but some great old general stores, selling all manner of stuff and freshly brewed Green Mountain Coffee and sandwiches to boot – and the stories and information you can pick up from the denizens are of course free of charge.)

So while Flinton may be remoter than Queensborough, I applaud the entrepreneurs behind its River Cottage Café for giving it some commercial life. And, without wanting to give away too many Queensborough secrets, I will say that I eagerly await the day when a similar kind of enterprise will be extending a warm welcome to visitors to our pretty little neck of the woods.