When travelling back from a lovely weekend in Devon, I needed to make a stop. As you do.
Not exactly being a fan of Starbucks, we drove right past one service station on the M5 hoping for another one fairly soon. Thankfully Gloucester Services was next, tucked away between junctions 11a and 12. And what a pleasant surprise it was.
What we noticed first was how the whole building seemed to merge with the landscape, with a curved, sloping grass covered roof. There weren’t any obnoxious signs or oversized branding messages obstructed the view either. It just looked natural.
The interior did not look like any service station I had ever been to before! Rather than a vast expanse of uncomfortable seating and a row of shops with a number of unsavoury fast food vendors to avoid, Gloucester Services is spacious and inviting, with a Farmhouse, a kitchen and a café, or quick kitchen.
The Farmhouse sells a good selection of locally pressed fruit juices, ales and ciders, seasonal soft fruits and artisan bread as well as clothing and books. There is also a butcher’s counter and a deli.
In the kitchen, all the food is locally sourced, seasonal and home cooked. But since I was just after a coffee and a snack, I headed for the quick kitchen.
The main thing that I noticed was the unobtrusive and welcoming visual branding. The muted hues and hand crafted look reflected the spirit of the facilities perfectly. You felt like someone cared about the impression that was given rather than just trying to point people in the right direction before speeding off again on the motorway. Everything from the toilet signage to the titling above the cash machine was individual with carefully chosen colours and type.
Actually, we didn’t want to go in such a hurry. We stopped and chatted to Lindsey Oldroyd, the director of Granny Cool (find them on Twitter too), who make handmade marmalades. Wonderful stuff! I have some of their Orange and Lemon with Ginger and can’t wait to try it on chicken.
Next time you’re heading to or from the south west of England, make sure you go via the M5 and stop by Gloucester Services.After all, life is about experiences, not just getting things done.