The first thing that greets you as you walk into the garden of The Old Shed cafe, near Charlbury, is an aviary housing an assortment of budgerigars, bunnies and guinea pigs. The first time a group of midweek OCC members rolled into this welcoming cafe stop, tucked away in the popular caravan site of Banbury Road Farm overlooking the Evenlode Valley, we were rather saddened to see one of the budgies lying prostrate and motionless on the ground, totally bereft of life.
A wooden climbing frame in the garden was an indication that young children frequented the café, no doubt to coo over the menagerie, so we thought it pertinent to let the staff know that one of their little parrots was deceased.
“Is it the white one?” came the unexpected response. Yes.
“Ah, he’s always doing that,” laughed the lady behind the counter. “We think he does it to scare the children. Barely a day goes past without a customer walking in and telling us exactly the same thing!”
It’s not every day you come across a budgerigar with a wickedly dark sense of humour, but there was more: “Don’t even ask what he does to the rabbits!” the friendly staff delighted in telling us as they banged out a trio of flat whites.
“Does it involve much flapping of wings and end with a traumatised bunny?” Unfortunately, it transpired that it did.
The avian world’s answer to The Joker aside, the Old Shed is a great place to stop for a cuppa, whether on a ride or walking in this stunning part of the Cotswolds. Safe bike storage, excellent barista-made coffee and plenty of seating both inside and out, boasting big views across the Evenlode Valley. A lunch menu is available, but if you are stopping for a quick refuel, then there is always a tempting platter of pastries and cakes on offer – an apple frangipane to die for – and bacon butties made with baps the size of dinner plates.
And as we wheeled our bikes out of the garden after that first visit, and much to our amusement and relief, there was the aforementioned budgie, sitting happily on a perch, nestled between a couple of feathered friends. Not nailed down, not stunned and definitely not pushing up the daisies. A joyful resurrection to rival Lazarus, but judging by the nervous glances upwards from the squealing bunnies, not all the occupants of the cage were in a celebratory mood.
The Old Shed Cafe
Banbury Hill Farm