Service stations. They’re all the same right? You leave the confines of the mundane motorway to arrive at the confines of bad brands pushing bad coffee, bad burgers and a general bad attempt at being refreshed for the continuing journey ahead. On our way up north we passed a service station with a Greggs, a Costa and a mini casino in. Woo and yay. Refreshing?
Tebay Services is different. It’s an independent service station filled with locally produced products. It was created by John and Barbara Dunning in 1972 when the M6 was built in their back yard. Since then it has gone from strength to strength. A station on each side of the M6 and a hotel too.
They produce the food on site. By that I mean they raise cattle and sheep on their land. When ready they offer said live stock up as burgers and steak. If you get their during lunch hours you’ll be welcomed by fresh slab of beef smoking away on a grill. No other service station has such a refreshing entrance. An actual grill with fresh food on it. It’s insanely great.
It’s little things like having a BBQ, lemon grass soap, and fresh milk in your hotel room that set it apart from everywhere else. Not long life UHT milk. Actual fresh milk. It makes a difference. Everything is well thought out and crafted with love and care. I met the farmer who explained that there’s only 3 people who work the land. It’s a tough job but more rewarding as you can see people enjoying your work in a way that other farmers can’t. The farmers care for the land which in turn cares for the live stock. The on site butcher takes pride in his work as does the chef. So everything is cared for right from the start. It’s not just a case of caring for which beef you buy, its the entire line from start to finish. You can really see the difference that makes.
Oh and there’s also the beautiful view that you can drink in before hitting the road. You open the curtain in the morning to a view of the fells of the Lakes. We spent 2 days there and it was so restful. We’ve since been back and are re-planning our trips down south so we can go via Gloucester Services, which is also owned by the Westmorland Family. I would happily go out my way to visit their station. Fresh food to fill up on and you can also get freshly cut steak to go for later in the week. This is how a service station should be. It should be a beacon, an advert for the local produce not a copy / paste bag of brands.
I shot this story for the brand new magazine Bitten which has been created by David Lloyd of Seven Streets. It’s a great magazine focusing on food and drink culture across the north. The photo of Tom the butcher was used for the cover. I’d suggest you pickup a copy to read on your way to Tebay.