Wednesday, 28 October 2015
The Greatest Motorway Service Station in Britain
A Cathedral for the Motorist
Following the signs on a British motorway you might be tempted to ignore those for motorway service stations, unappealing places as they tend to be. Glorious exceptions are those run by the Westmoreland family. As is usual, family-owned businesses do it better.
When I first stopped at their Gloucester Services on the M5, I was quite taken aback by its attractiveness; it was quiet and spacious. From the outside the services appear to be buried into the landscape. When you enter the space opens up like a cathedral. Inside you can enjoy great food and drink from the kitchen. A well-stocked farm shop sells local seasonal produce. An air of hushed and professional service permeates from the engaged staff. Why couldn't all service stations be made this way? If I was capable of anger I would have punched something — for the years I have had to endure the risible alternatives. Instead I finished my English breakfast — excellent Gloucester Old Spot bacon — placed my knife and fork together, and ordered another pot of the delicious tea on offer.
I now stop at no other services and look for excuses to travel along the M5 to visit again.
The Westmoreland Services
The Westmoreland family established Tebay Services in Cumbria in 1972 with a mission to serve local food and a 'fierce passion for, and a pride in, our landscape, our people, our environment and its products'.
Just over 40 years later — Why rush? — the family opened Gloucester Services in the West Country. The opportunity arose through an enlightened partnership with The Gloucestershire Gateway Trust, a charity set up to support local food and craft producers (and reject the fast-food chain approach applied at other services that do little for local producers or the community at large). Gloucester Services is a community-wide resource, not just in the jobs created and the producers supported, but also because a percentage of the income generated in sales is donated to the trust to support local community initiatives.
Everything about the arrangement is right, which makes that tea taste even sweeter.