Food and craft producers who supply Tebay Services in Cumbria have been astonished and delighted by the momentum behind Channel 4’s documentary series about the family-owned motorway service station.
Episode one of A Lake District Farmshop drew in 1.8 million viewers, more than tuned in to BBC2’s Wimbledon coverage at the same time.
With a 12 per cent share of the television audience, it was the third most popular programme in its 8pm Saturday timeslot.
Even Channel 4’s younger viewers have been captivated by Purple Productions’ gentle four-part reality series, with three times the channel’s average share of 16 to 24-year-olds watching episode one.
“The reaction has been really humbling,” said baker Patrick Moore of More? The Artisan Bakery, who was filmed in his Staveley bakery hand-shaping rolls for Tebay Services.
“The fact it is taking out a major sporting event like Wimbledon: it’s down to the authenticity of the individuals who are on it, all the food producers and the staff at Tebay, who care so much about what they do.”
Sales and orders soar
Patrick said sales of his sourdough loaves and milk rolls were up 30 per cent in the Farmshop at Tebay Services, which works with more than 70 producers within 30 miles of the Services.
Potter Mary Chappelhow was also taken aback by the reaction to her appearance in episode two.
“I’ve taken a year’s worth of orders in three days,” said the founder of Interlude Ceramics near Penrith.
“It’s been utterly unbelievable. It’s just gone off the scale. I’m a little busy now, but it’s a good problem to have.
“People are holidaying in Britain, wanting to buy British handmade products, looking to see where things they are made and how they are made. I think we’ve just caught the mood of the moment.”
With their appearances on BBC Breakfast, This Morning and national coverage in the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Times and Sunday Times to name a few, Tebay’s suppliers and team members are finding themselves in the national – and international – spotlight.
TV chef offer for Bing Cao
Chef Bing Cao, who entranced viewers with his quest to supply Tebay Services and save his Ambleside restaurant Wabi Sabi in the process, has been contacted by a Taiwanese television producer and asked if he’s ever considered becoming a TV chef.
“Last year my business was on the edge of collapse,” Bing said.
Like so many restaurateurs, he lost his income overnight when the UK went into its first lockdown in March 2020. Now sales of his sushi boxes, ramen noodle kits and ready-to-eat gyoza dumplings have increased so quickly at Tebay Services and its sister business Rheged near Penrith that he has taken on new staff and invested in new equipment.
“Almost everyone who comes into our restaurant and shop has seen the programme,” said Bing, who was filmed for episode one cooking ramen noodles to impress Tebay’s Farmshop buyer Alexander Evans.
“People are sending us photos of the ramen bowls they’re making at home using our kits. We are so happy that Tebay’s order is continuously rising and that we can survive and grow.”
Since A Lake District Farmshop began its four-week run, Alexander has been approached by countless customers in the Farmshop.
“They all want to tell me how much they have enjoyed the programme,” he said.
“They like seeing genuine people telling a simple story. People have always said about Tebay Services that it feels like somewhere they’ve discovered, something lovely that they want to tell other people about. It’s the same with the television programme.”
A Lake District Farmshop is a celebration
Sarah Dunning, chairwoman of the Westmorland Family, which owns and operates Tebay Services, said the documentary was a wonderful celebration of Cumbria and everything it has to offer.
She said: “We owe so much to the fantastic farmers, producers and colleagues that we work with; our business would be nothing without them,” she said. “We have all had 18 months of reconnecting with what is on our doorstep. Perhaps that’s why this programme has resonated with so many people.”
Episode 3 of A Lake District Farmshop is on Channel 4 on Saturday at 8pm.