We drove to Wales the old way today, along the A40, before cutting down to the Severn Bridge on the M5. There was a bonus: discovering the wonderful Gloucester services.
Most motorway services are awful: overpriced identikit Burger King, Costa and Starbucks. Gloucester is different. A farm shop with local food and drink, beautifully presented.
We had brought a picnic with us so we bought some cakes and drinks to go with it. Had it been a fine day we’d have eaten outside the building, which is beautifully set into the landscape. Such a contrast with the usual ugly buildings at motorway services.
By a strange coincidence, today’s Guardian carried a feature about good places to stop for a meal away from the motorway. It featured Tebay M6 services. There’s a wonderful story behind it: John and Barbara Dunnings owned a hill farm in Cumbria that was cut in half when the M6 was opened. They saw an opportunity and opened a cafe serving home cooked, local food. It became a much loved M6 institution. Later they opened a similar venture on the M5 at Gloucester. I saw that the food and drink came from Gloucestershire and neighbouring Wales.
This felt so different from Leigh Delamere (westbound) or Stafford, my previous favourite services. Judging from the VW California parked with awning up, this is a destination in its own right. The ethos is right – a family run firm that thinks local is best, and global mass produced fast food is best avoided.
What better tribute than this family firm of motorway services featured in that Guardian article headlined ‘Skip the Services’!