Penrith, a few large hills, some rain
of the great joys of driving up the M6 - apart from not being crushed
and burnt to death by Portuguese lorry drivers or drunk footballers
- is that for long stretches the motorway runs parallel to the West
Coast Main Line, the bendy version of the East Coast Main Line.
at the wheels of an aging VW Golf that is just days away from failing
its MOT, the act of effortlessly overtaking a multi-million pound Virgin
Pendolino train stuffed with hapless passengers who’ve paid £500
for a one-way ticket to ‘The North’ lends a whole new meaning
to the word ‘smug’.
That this can happen after the Government somehow blew £56 trillion
quid on ‘upgrading’ the railway with five metres of new
cable (since stolen and sold for scrap) and a new light bulb at Carnforth
station (since stolen and sold on the black market) serves merely to
amplify the sense of schadenfreude .
other joy of driving the M6 towards an inevitable FA Cup trouncing
at the hands of some obscure Cumbrian pub team is Westmorland’s
Tebay services, a facility of such supreme brilliance that you
would happily travel to Workington just to sample the macaroni
cheese (regionally sourced, hand-reared, locally-slaughtered cheese,
billing the services as a ‘Farm Shop’ on motorway
signs is probably not the best way to entice ravenous punters. Pulling
into the car park and spotting the timber frame of the building,
the initial, primordial fear of most drivers is that Tebay will
turn out to be modelled on the sort of bizarre services encountered
in Continental Europe; services that sell petrol, samurai swords
pornography - but no food (unless you count
the canned cockerel testicles in the gift shop as food, which most
normal people – and by normal, we mean not French - don’t).
frivolous fears melt away once you enter Tebay's gloriously subtle timber
and stone building - a building that has become a tourist attraction
in its own right and serves as an oasis of cosy creature comforts in
the wilds of the Cumbrian mountains.
the building is light and airy (although, sadly, it seems that
a recent refit has led to the removal of the photos of Cumbrian
wrestling). There are no piles of KFC bags heaped in front of
the entrance. There's no arcade. And the toilets aren't a danger
to public health.
Even the staff don't look like your typical service centre drone.
No spotty teenagers with skin flaking into the baked beans here.
Instead, you'll find either homely, avuncular oldies, or cheerful,
attractive student types basking in the warm fuzzy feeling of
simply being alive.
of which means Tebay has a rather unusual atmosphere for a motorway
service station. Some might say unique. Surveying the customers,
you'd be forgiven you'd stepped into Stepford. Well-nourished
children skip along gaily, their smiles melting even the iciest
Grr! Urgggggh! RAAARRR!
walk hand-in-hand or sit supping Fair Trade coffee next to the pond.
Old people, ditched at the roadside like obsolete fridges, sit together
feeding the ducks, their bellies full of the finest cake found north
of central London.
It's creepy. It's kooky. Mysterious and spooky. Except it's not mysterious.
Tebay have just decided not to treat their customer like cattle - and
the result is a service station of unparalleled quality. Indeed, I'd
like to retire here. Is that possible? Probably.
They've been to Tebay services. Fuck. YEAH!
as far as the food - a service station's core product - is concerned,
Tebay is something of an incongruous curiosity in the world of the UK's
roadside nutrition. The Westmorland philosophy is evidently the antithesis
of standard service station mission statements insofar as the food isn’t
merely edible, it’s also actually rather good.
You'll find no grim fast food eyelid shavings here. Instead, imagine
the cafe at the V&A plonked next to a busy motorway, and you'll
understand immediately what this place is all about: top notch meat
from animals shot in the face next door, locally sourced vegetables,
fresh fruit - this is like a feast from an Enid Blyton novel, just without
the raving misogynistic undertones. It actually tastes like food. Sure,
it's not cheap - but who gives a stuff?
In short, this probably isn’t a place truckers should visit, although
Tebay does provide an outside burger stall in an attempt to cater for
the 75% body-fat market.
It’s glorious. It's beautiful.
It's not fucking Workington.
in the series
Forest East | Keele
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