Woodlands Tearooms in Holmrook serving cuppas from a shed for 60 years

The Woodlands Tearooms

The Woodlands Tearooms - Credit: Archant

We visit a quirky tearoom that started off 60 years ago in a shed

The Original Tea Rooms

The Original Tea Rooms - Credit: Archant

There is something about the British and their obsession with sheds but this one is in a class of its own.

Set back just off the road between Irton Hall and Santon in the Western Lakes, the delightful Woodlands Tearooms and Gift shop blends into the surroundings and it is currently enjoying its 60th straight year of continuous business. No mean feat in this day and age.

The current proud owners are Alan and Nancy Banks. Actually, they are quick to point out that being called ‘owners’ is not the right word. ‘Its such an iconic place that we feel we are more like custodians,’ says Nancy. ‘We are keeping it going for the next generation. In fact, we regularly get people coming in with their grandchildren and they tell us how they came here in its formative days.’

Alan adds: ‘Nowadays there are two buildings but back in 1954, there was nothing here but Forcebank Cottage. That was owned by a Mr and Mrs Young. They had a shed in their back garden where they sold crafts such as walking sticks. They also served tea and cakes to passers-by. Peacocks and a golden pheasant would roam around as people sat outside. It was idyllic and just it grew from there.’

Nancy and Alan outside the Gift Shop

Nancy and Alan outside the Gift Shop - Credit: Archant

It’s obvious the Bank’s are proud of what they have. ‘It’s a lovely place to own and work in and we know that it has continued to evolve with each successive custodian,’ says Nancy. ‘Adding to what is on offer and keeping up to date with trends is important. It is not just about making your own mark but continuing to be a thriving business.’

In 2001, the then owners expanded it into a ‘proper’ tearoom just as Foot and Mouth took the rural community in its grip.

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As a food supplier they were allowed to continue to open and that helped them survive that awful time. The theme of onwards and upwards continues as the tearooms are now classed as ‘Bistro’ style but with a twist. Nancy explained: ‘We have been here eight years and in that time, we came to realise that people didn’t just want a sandwich or soup. They asked for “proper meals”. So we decided to offer a full menu. It proved to be good business and that has taken us into other directions. For example, you can now come into here and whatever you find on offer, you can actually order and take home for you to cook. We call it Woodlands Street Food which is advertised outside and it has been very successful.’

In an area that enjoys a large transient holiday population, they are now competing with the traditional Inns for ‘meal time’ custom. They have gone one further and expanded that concept though. After a good day’s walk on the fells, you can now have your own chef or “Rent A Chef” as Alan calls it. ‘It has been successful so far and as well as my preparing meals for people in the holiday lets, we have also moved into outside catering too.’

I look around the gift shop and notice that they sell local chutneys and jams. Nancy then explains that one section of this shop will soon become a Deli with an expansion of the ‘street food’ planned.

Before leaving, I walk outside to take photographs. It’s a glorious sunny morning and the ‘al fresco’ tables are filling up.

If you go down to the woods today, you are sure of a pleasant surprise.

The Woodlands Tea Rooms is based at The Craft Shop, Santon Bridge, Holmrook, Cumbria CA19 1UY.

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