Forton Services - with thanks to Geograph.co.uk
Service stations were once a place of wonder and joy, where the British family stopped off on their long trek across the UK and were often greeted by hostesses in fancy costumes. Restaurants at service stations were pricey affairs aimed at executive businessmen on expense accounts and were kitted out with furniture by Terrance Conran with viewing platforms to watch the cars flying past. So how come service stations have become the home of overcharging, fast food and toilets that smell like a student's underpants after a two week bender in the middle of summer? And why is visiting one akin to having your soul sucked out?
All is not lost though. If you enjoy travelling and want to put the wow back into your wanderings, then there is the offer of hope in the form of Tebay Westmoreland Services. Located on the north and southbound sides of the M6 in between junctions 38 and 39, Tebay is located at Tebay in Cumbria and is a mecca for any tired traveller.
Owned by a local family all the food in their cafe is actually made by their chefs (wow, I know!), with most of the food being sourced locally with a huge emphasis on free range and organic - indeed, the lamb and beef are sourced from their own farm next to Tebay southbound. There's a proper hot food section with delights such as lamb hotpot and big, rich scones. At the Northbound services the cafe looks out over the duck pond offering cheery respite for the road weary traveller.
Tebay Services and the duck pond (with thanks to motorwayservicesonline.co.uk)
Tebay is not only great for a sit down meal, but also includes a fair trade cafe, food to go such as hand-made sandwiches (which are very generous and look like the door steppers my Dad used to make), the usual papers, sweets, mags, a boutique plus my favourite place along the M6 - the Westmoreland farm shop.
Although an unusual place to have a farm shop Westmoreland is never empty - and no wonder with all the delights they have to offer. The shop houses a fine selection of chutneys, jams, honeys, crackers, chocolates, fresh fruit and veg, charcuterie, dried goods such as pasta, a deli counter and a brilliant butchers. My advise if you're hungry is to grab one of the Cumberland pies from the deli - fandabbydozzy - the pastry crisp and salty and the meat all moist with no hint of gristle.
Compared to the usual service station suspects the prices at Tebay are on a par - plus there is no extra charge for the feel good factor that the money you spend at Tebay is supporting the local economy. At Tebay there is no neon lighting, nasty plastic or sticky lino - the design has been thoroughly thought out with exposed wooden beams, natural stone and the cafe in the northbound station has a roof of weaved willow interspaced with little white lights. These services are like a massage for the soul and will help you unwind before the next round of traffic jams, road works and surprise diversions.
Tebay has been awarded a raft of awards including the 2009 Grand Prix of Gastronomy by Egon Ronay, Annual Loo of the Year 2009 and and Best Local Retailer by Radio 4's Food and Farming Awards and boy do they deserve them.
Tebay is so good I often try to find an excuse to travel that far up the M6, however with so much to offer there is really no excuse needed. Remember not to miss Tebay between Junc 38 and 39 (Tebay) signposted Tebay Westmoreland - and miss out the cheap and nasty chains such as Welcome Break and Moto. Happy travelling!
Tebay Services, between Junction 38 and 39 of the M6, Tebay, Cumbria - 01539 624511.
Ps - for those Southerners who wish their travelling experiences could be graced with glamour and good food, Westmoreland Ltd (the company who run Tebay) have just won planning permission to start work on another service station on the M5 just outside Gloucester - should be opening in 2013.