I’ve always found the stretch between New Years and Spring Break to be one of the toughest times of the year. All the fun and excitement of Christmas (and Christmas vacation trips!) is done and there’s a lot of winter left stretching our ahead. It’s usually the worst times for colds and both the teachers and the students are slogging through the toughest part of the curriculum. After Easter, the school year seems to speed up for some reason, and the weather improves and summer seems just around the corner. But in the beginning of February, it can feel a lot like winter is never going to end.
Fortunately, no vacations doesn’t mean we can’t do some exploring close to home, and the recent cold, but sunny weekend gave us the perfect oportunity to head to one of our favourite local treasures, the Clayburn Village Store and Tea Shop. The village of Clayburn lies between the towns of Abbotsford and Mission, just south of the Fraser River. It used to be a small, self sufficiant community centred around the Clayburn brick factory. Today you can still see a row of small brick workers’ cottages along Clayburn’s main street. The factory is long since closed and the village has been absorbed into the city of Abbotsford, but it still retains a small village feel.
The heart of this community is the Clayburn Village Store, an old brick building which dominates the main street. One half of the interior is a rustic tea house with well worn floors and a cozy collection of mismatched tables and chairs. The menu is simple with soups, baked goods, sandwiches and of course excellent teas. It may not have the usual kid friendly extras like children’s menus and booster seats, but I have always felt welcomed there with kids. One time I took my mother and daughter there for tea and my daughter brought her own little tea set along. We poured a little warm tea from our pot into her little one and she happily spent her time pouring us little cups of tea and mixing in the milk and sugar until it was just right. Of course, we probably ended up drinking more of her milky, sugary concoctions than our own perfectly prepared cups of tea!
But even better than the Tea Shop is the other half of the store; an old fashioned candy store with any type of penny candy you could ever imagine. You can pick up a little paper bag and a pair of tongs and then select anything your heart desires. I usually go for the huge selection of gummy candy, sold by the gram, but there are also rare jelly bean flavours, wrapped candies and dozens of varieties of candy bars, including many imported ones that you can’t find in other stores.
In the back they have a selection of gourmet and imported foods, including sauces, oils, spreads, bottled beverages and cheeses. The emphasis is on British foods, but the collection is quite eclectic and fun to browse through. For example, on our last trip I found a type of pasta from Italy that I hadn’t been able to find anywhere else in town. They also usually have some unusual flavours of potato chips from the UK.
One thing to note about the Clayburn Village Store is that it is family run and therefore the hours are somewhat limited. It is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and is closed for three months of the year; January, May and September.
The village of Clayburn also has some great Geocaching opportunities. There is a small community park across the street from the store where we did some geocaching last summer. The directions sent us into the bushes in the back of the park, along a rough path for a short way and to the site of one of the original brick kilns from the old factory. The only evidence of this industry that was left was a small pit filled with hundreds of broken red bricks and dozens more bricks buried here and there amongst the moss. It was quite a cool site and only a short distance from a major road.
But yesterday was cold, even though it was sunny, and we were feeling lazy, so after taking our time to select the perfect bags of treats we loaded the family back into the car and enjoyed a short, but scenic drive home, munching happily the entire way. The kids had been allowed to pick a set number of penny candies, but we warned them that if they ate them all on the way home there wouldn’t be anything left for an after supper treat. All the way home they discussed which ones they should eat and which ones should be saved, with the number of “saved” candies dwindling steadily. By the time we arrived home they each had one little tiny candy left in their bags to save for later. But I couldn’t really criticize. My bag had been empty for a long time already!