When the Queen had her tea in Bilsborrow
- Credit: DARREN ANDREWS
It is not everyday you cook lunch for the Queen. But the family who run Light Ash Farm Shop and Café treat everyone like royalty. Emma Mayoh reports
Edith Morgan must have been scouring the nooks and crannies of her house when a special guest walked into her front room. When you’re showing the Queen around your house, you would want to know you had left no stone unturned. But, as she discovered, there was no need to stand on ceremony.
Edith said: ‘She was absolutely lovely, very approachable and really down to earth. You felt comfortable with her straight away. We couldn’t worry too much about the house.
‘She walked through the grandchildren’s play room when she first came in and there are lots of toys in there. I sat with her in my lounge and we chatted. She was asking about the stone floors we have in the house and it was really nice to have that time with her.’
Readers of last month’s Lancashire Life will know that the Queen, the Duke of Lancaster, visited the county and the heart of her Duchy recently. During the visit she stopped for lunch at Light Ash Farm Shop and Cafe in Bilsborrow, which was opened by Edith and her daughter Joanne Dewhurst just over two years ago. The menu included salmon from the Lune, and meat, vegetables and fruit from local farms run by members of Joanne’s family and the red roses on the tables were provided by her sister, Leah Loftus, a florist in Garstang.
It was an event that had been months in the making. At the beginning of the year Mark Hudson, the chairman of the Council of the Duchy of Lancaster, stopped for coffee and cake at the farm shop on his way to an official event. It was this meeting that kick-started everything.
After that there were several other visits to do checks as well as two rehearsal dinners where the final choices for Her Majesty’s visit were made. Joanne and Edith were sworn to secrecy and were not allowed to tell anyone about the visit until they knew they would definitely be doing the lunch.
Joanne, who had the task of personally serving Her Majesty, said: ‘We couldn’t quite believe it when we were first asked. We were asked if we’d cook for the boss. It took me a few minutes to work out who it was.
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‘We tried not to get too excited because we knew it might not go ahead. When we found out it was going to happen, that was incredible, as well as being a little bit scary. It was so hard to keep it a secret.
‘It was an absolutely incredible day and one we’ll never forget. The Queen was absolutely charming. The moment she spoke to you, you felt completely at ease. She said she had had a wonderful time and she thanked each member of the team individually. She also said the food was wonderful.’
That was welcome news for Edith who was responsible for devising the recipes. But having a big family had already prepared the 56-year-old for the challenge.
She said: ‘We were cooking for quite a big number. Well, we have more than that at our house on Christmas Day for lunch. It was just like doing that all over again really. But obviously with a little more pressure.
‘But Joanne had us all organised on the day, the staff were brilliant and we had some great people helping us including lots of our family members. We’ll never forget it. We certainly won’t have to worry about catering for any event again now that we have cooked for the Queen.’
The family have lived on the farm in Bilsborrow for many years after moving from Freckleton. The café is an old converted barn that was used by Joanne’s dad, William, as a hobby workshop. Joanne and Edith had thought about converting the building into a café for a while and had planning permission. But it wasn’t for 18 months, when Joanne fell pregnant, that they decided to go for it. Because planning permission on the building was approaching expiration, they renovated the building and were open in just six months and furnished it with beautiful designs made by friend, Matthew East from Acorn Restoration. All of the furniture can be bought on the spot.
They quickly extended to make the café bigger and they are now looking again at how they could expand to keep up with demand.
Many people would be intimidated by having the Queen dine in their establishment. But spend ten minutes with Joanne and Edith and you quickly realise there is little that phases them.
Within a few days of opening the cafe, despite having labour contractions, Joanne was waiting on and serving customers in the café. Just hours after giving birth she was dealing with business emails and was back working within a few days.
She said: ‘I can remember writing my contractions down on my order pad. They were coming thick and fast but I hadn’t really realised. I was serving people tea and cake while keeping a note of my pains.
‘Jessica ended up arriving just a few hours later, she was six weeks early. I couldn’t believe it.’
The pair had decided to set up the lovely café and farm shop as a way to wind down after Edith’s retirement and as a way for Joanne to have more family time. But it didn’t quite work out that way.
From the very beginning the business has boomed. Edith, a fantastic home baker, does many of the cakes and desserts at Light Ash and the recipes for the main menu. There are regularly queues of customers out of the door waiting for them to open and they are always busy. They decided to open an extra day to try and quieten things down but that day is now just as busy as the others. But, fortunately, both of them thrive on Light Ash’s success.
Joanne, who also competes in equestrian shows all over the country, said: ‘We thought we’d be starting something that would give us a bit of a hobby job and we would get part time staff in from time-to-time. Well, we have 15 staff now.
‘But we absolutely love it. We get a lot of enjoyment out of it and have a fantastic team. It is so rewarding seeing smiles and getting good comments from our customers. We have had an amazing first two years. It is amazing we have cooked for the Queen and we want to carry on and improve Light Ash even more.’