SPRING has finally sprung, and last weekend we returned to our summer haunts in Swaledale. True, the bottoms at Reeth are very soggy, and some of the footpaths are still flooded by the wet winter’s leftovers, but we happily sploshed and squelched our way around and were rewarded with some life-affirming walking.

Then we returned to another favoured summer haunt, the Copper Kettle, at the foot of Reeth green for refreshment.

Since last summer this tea room has changed hands and been freshened up by a coat of paint. The new proprietors are a couple with young kids who’ve left the rat race of Sheffield for an escape to the country.

“It’s better than working,” said the new man, cheerfully clearing away a tableful of empty plates.

The Copper Kettle is a tearoom without pretensions to be anything more. You can have soup and sandwiches, toasties and scones, with vegetarian and intolerancy options (while we were there, a gluten-free walker approached the counter with some trepidation but was treated with real understanding).

We dined from the main meals in the menu and on the specials board. They cost £9 or a little less each.

Between us, we had ham, egg and chips, a ploughman’s lunch, vegetarian chilli, chicken curry and a stilton and broccoli soup.

All the meals were well eaten, and the chips, which accompanied most plates, were universally declared excellent. Golden and crispy on the outside; white and fluffy on the inside.

The vegetarian chilli was judged a big success, full of beans and big flavour, and the chicken curry was nicely mild and fruity with plenty of meat – a big portion.

The ham came in big slices, well cooked with a good rustic taste, although we had to wait for a couple of minutes for the ham, egg and chips to turn up because the egg had broken in the frying pan. When it arrived, it was perfectly sunny and runny.

The one criticism would be that a little finesse would raise the dishes to the next level. The ham, egg and chips was exactly as it said on the blackboard – but a sneaky bit of coleslaw or a smattering of salad would have helped.

The ploughman’s had all the right ingredients, including Wensleydale cheese, a good local chutney and a nicely warmed bun, but it also had a pickled onion that was bigger than a golfball and an industrial length stick of celery. No one, in my opinion, wants that much celery and no one can ingest that much pickled onion.

The cakes, though, are definitely on the next level, showing great imagination and indeed skill. Between us, we had apple crumble cake, lemon and lime meringue cake, a date slice and a Guinness and chocolate cake. They cost £3 or a little less, and there were many other tempting options – a flourless orange cake, for example.

All were very good, although I thought the Guinness and chocolate cake exceptional. Nicely moist, the Guinness somehow wiped out the fierceness of the chocolate to create an unexpectedly creamy cake.

For four of us, including drinks, our mains and cakes came to just over £50. Service throughout was chatty and fast, and the food was served with a rare care.

However, we were rude. We asked for our cakes to be bagged, and we took them away for later, because dessert at Reeth really needs to be from the Ice Cream Parlour at the top of the green. Or at least, that’s what I told everybody as I chivvied them up the steep hill.

On cooler days, you can sit inside the parlour, cuddled up with a coffee and bemused by the wooden shape games of yesteryear.

I insisted we sat outside on the benches, with Fremington Edge rising majestically in front of us.

The parlour serves Brymor icecream, made at Jervaulx, near Leyburn. There are five different cones to choose from, a variety of tubs, and 16 different flavours. While there are the old favourites – the vanillas, mint choc chips, rum and raisins of this world – I am always drawn to the more adventurous.

The black cherry had great meaty bits of rich red cherry running through it, the liquorice and blackcurrant was nowhere near as controversial as I thought it might be, and the salted caramel was superb. The ice cream itself was sweetly caramel with a real yip of salt to it and there was this great gooey sticky rush of sauce in the middle.

Ahh, it was good to be back. Roll on a long hot summer in the Dales.

The Copper Kettle, Reeth

No website, but can be found on Facebook

Phone: 01748-905008

Food quality: 3/5 (cakes 4)

Service: 5/5

Surroundings: 4/5

Value for money: 3/5

Ice Cream Parlour, Reeth

Website: http://reethicecreamparlour.co.uk

Phone: 01748-884929