Sally Webb takes a break at a new and much improved kind of service station…
Although a couple of high-end supermarkets have managed to infiltrate a good number of the UK’s lacklustre service stations, there is still an overriding presence of soggy sandwiches, over-cooked bacon and fat-oozing sausages – as well as, of course, limp-looking burgers from well-known super brands with the nutritional value of a sugar-injected lump of lard – to be found in our nation’s pit-stop options. But maybe, just maybe, that is all set to change thanks to the trailblazers at Gloucester Services.
Built to make as little aesthetic impact as possible on the surrounding countryside, the look of this grass-topped service station between Junctions 11a and 12 of the M5 is the first clue as to what you might find inside. Thanks to the Cumbria-based farming family behind it, Gloucester Services, a joint venture of the Westmoreland Family and Gloucester Gateway Trust, is a thriving farmshop and café serving produce sourced within a 30-mile radius of its location. We happened upon this relatively new venture – not totally by accident – one Saturday lunchtime, with major motorway munchies.
Inside is light, bright and vast. High ceilings are held up by huge mast-like supports, beneath which open counters and rustic country-style tables are brimming, in a neat and uncluttered fashion, with all manner of yummy-looking treats and eats. Gourmet focaccia sandwiches vie for your attention with hot sausages from local farms and delicious-looking brownies laid atop chopping boards. To the left of the main food service area, you enter a foodie’s happy place: a fabulous farm shop. An in-house butchers, bread and cakes from familiar West Country names like Hobbs, jam from Artisan Kitchen, Muddy Wellies beverages and all manner of other goodies from across the South West are available, all just begging to be bought and taken home.
Freshly homemade sandwiches contain fillings such as local ham and mustard and delicious Brie and cranberry, and even the soft drinks are from the best in the West. We bagged a selection to take on our onward journey and enjoyed every mouthful. So what’s the cost? It is pricey, but no more so than what’s on offer at other services. The difference is that everything is tasty… very tasty. All produce has clearly been selected very carefully and is, frankly, worth the outlay. You don’t feel cheated, you feel good, full and actually rather looking forward to the next time you find yourself faced with a long journey.