Saturday 23 June saw the wedding of Johnny and Deepana at the unique and stunning Combe Manor Barn. This wedding cake was booked in quite short notice, but the design was to be classically pretty and simple so I was able to adapt around my existing bookings and work with the lovely couple on getting the cake just right.
Based in Singapore and coming home to celebrate with their family and friends meant that all of our communications were made via email and text. Luckily both being very chilled and laid back meant this was actually very easy, and thankfully Jonny and Deepana trusted me to provide them exactly what they had in mind.
The Journey to the Venue
As I was teaching a class on the same day it meant I had a very early start and left home slightly earlier than usual as I’d not been to Combe Manor Barn before. From what I could see online the drive would be down lots of single width bumpy country roads. Great for the views, but not so cake friendly! Eek.
One of the scariest parts of making a wedding cake is the journey itself. To minimise any risk to the cake, I’m used to loading my car up in a way so things don’t slide around and I always transport each tier separately. Having an emergency tool kit for any knocks or dents helps too.
Luckily, touch wood, I’ve not had any disasters yet! I may regret saying that…
I do remember my satnav telling me I was around 15 minutes away and wishing I had the time to pull over and take some photos of the views. I was driving past rolling unspoiled valleys of the lush Combe countryside and it was simply stunning.
Idyllic, romantic and totally beautiful. Pulling up at the electric gates I remember noticing how silent it was too. The only sounds I could hear were the twittering of birds in the enormous trees surrounding me.
Combe Manor Barns are located at the edge of the tiny village of Combe in West Berkshire at the very southernmost tip of the county. To the west lies Wiltshire, Basingstoke and Deane to the east, and the Test Valley to the south. It is within easy driving distance of Newbury, Hungerford, Basingstoke, Reading and Swindon and around 90 miles or so from London.
Keep an eye out for all the birds wandering across the road without a care in the world too. I swear a brave looking pheasant skidded back to the verge when he saw me come around the corner! I may have squealed more than once!
The 17th century manor house and gardens can be used for photography and there is a beautiful bridal suite available for the bride and her entourage to prepare in before the big event.
Whilst I was waiting for the owner to open up the huge barn doors I went for my usual nosy around and took a few snaps…
There’s a winding pebble dashed drive linking all the buildings together…
Cosy benches with lovingly cared for flowers, of all colours…
Random doors which must have played a part here at some point, then saved and restored for decorative purposes. I wonder how many people have posed in front of this ornate one.
Combe Manor Barns are relatively unheard of and before today I’d never seen a mention of them. That’s not a bad thing! Most couples come to use the exclusive venue through word or mouth or by stumbling across their website, but hosting weddings, parties and theatrical events in the eclectic, wonderful 19th century barns for over 20 years now means they know a thing or two about staying exclusive, special and a little bit more special.
The family-run team who work here will help organise your civil ceremonies in the barn or a religious ceremony in the 12th century chapel next door.
I’ve since learnt that the house was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was rebuilt in 1669 and for over 400 years it was owned by King’s College, Cambridge. In 1691 Gabriel Whistler leased the Manor and at this time it is said Charles II and Nell Gwynne visited. Gabriel died in 1710 and is buried in the Combe churchyard. The Russell family have lived here since the 1960’s.
Now that’s impressive, right?
The weddings take place in the L-shaped barn where you’ll find endless twinkling streams of fairy lights pinned up around the exposed antique beams, with vintage tapestries hanging from the walls, which surely become a focus point for many conversations. Whilst I was setting up the cake I remember thinking that there was a medieval feel about the place, no pretence, no set theme and just pure originality.
Being a bit of a travel junkie, I particularly loved this tapestry on the back wall…
In a pastel mint-green shade, which I totally adore, the cake itself was a chocoholics dream! Each tier a different flavour, the bottom and biggest tier was chocolate orange, the middle was chocolate fudge and last but not least, the top tier was chocolate espresso. Find my most favourite chocolate fudge cake recipe here by the way.. I promise that once you bake this, you’ll never use another, it’s that good!
Decorating the cake with fresh flowers, attached with posy picks and safety seal, the design was in-keeping with the venue and I loved seeing it fitting in perfectly with the rest of the decor.
One of the owners, Richard, (I think was his name) sat and chatted to me in a very welcoming, polite and that typically charming way that true ‘gentlemen’ do. He asked questions about the cake and my ‘Yorkshire’ accent and told me a little more about the property and the venue itself. I got the feeling he came from a military background maybe and a lot of the design and small touches around the barn were due to his influence.
I particularly loved that they describe themselves as not being a typical ‘conveyor belt’ venue, and it really shows. Want to get in early to start decorating? No problem. Need help with your food? No problem. Your day can be as tailor-made and as much in control as you need.
Is there anything this venue can’t do?
With so much history and so much beautiful countryside in one place Combe really is perfectly located as the most beautiful wedding venue in West Berkshire which will offer so much for those couples looking for a unique and memorable experience.