Last week on a trip to a family party we called into to Gloucester Services (M5 between Junction 11a and 12) and to say I was impressed is an understatement – I was so impressed that it moved me to writing this blog to share the experience!
Firstly, on driving in, you can see a car park and some glass panels cleverly cut into the side of a bank with a grass roof, it looks like a giant hobbit house, hardly making a mark on its rural setting. The doors slide open to reveal a large space, filled with light and constructed of huge wooden beams and not a hint of the smell of stale chip fat!
We all could not believe our eyes – the quality of the architect designed building, the clear visual signs and the shelves loaded with home made cakes and pastries, artisan coffee machines, food cooked to order, funky tables and chairs in bright colours and a landscaped water feature to gaze at and relax as you take the compulsory comfort break on a long motorway journey. Wow! That’s all I could say as I continued to appreciate all the small details that had been considered to make this place so great.
Out came the camera and I took lots of photos (mostly because I still couldn’t believe my eyes as it was so far from the traditional service station we have come to expect). I also spent some time chatting to various members of staff who told me some of the story of the place and I looked it up online.
1. It is a family run business. The Dunn Family from Cumbria started a hugely successful sister business when the M6 motorway split their farm in two in 1976. Tebay Services was with guiding principles of low landscape impact, employment for local people, sustainable building techniques and above all quality, fresh locally produced food.
2. Gloucester Services, like its sister Tebay, has no franchises, just a food-to-go area and a café selling what Sarah Dunning describes as “simple, hearty food” – hot pot and steak-and-kidney pie are popular choices in Cumbria. Down in Gloucestershire, produce comes from local farms but, as in Tebay, all the food in the café is made fresh on-site – except the bread, which is sourced locally from Bath bakers, Bertinet, and Hobbs House Bakery, owned by the Herbert family celebrated in Channel 4’s The Fabulous Baker Brothers.
3. Gloucestershire Gateway Trust (who wanted to find a means of creating sustainable income to go back into local communities) is in partnership with the Dunn family and the Trust will donate a percentage of sales each year back into the community.
4. There is also a farm shop with its own butchery counter, local cheeses, artisan bread stall and a plethora of tasteful goodies (food and non-food) to buy.
I cannot commend it highly enough – it’s so refreshing to be overwhelmed than underwhelmed as with most of the chains of service stations, to see a farming family take on the retail giants and prove that it can be done differently – with love, thought and care to sit so comfortably in its setting and make the obligatory motorway pit stop a real pleasure.
It made my heart sing to see that there were even fresh flowers in the toilets…
If you head down to Bosinver along the M5 try to make it your rest stop of choice. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.