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The View from The Tea Rooms 2013

L&B catering supremo Judy Williams reflects on another year at Woody Bay

The front parlour at the start of the season with new shelf made by Jim Price and new cake displays.

Actually, the best view from the tearooms this year has been ISAAC arriving into the station pulling our three, beautiful recently restored full-size carriages. ISAAC seems so much bigger than AXE and when in the platform affects the light in the front parlour so that one can’t help but look to see what is going on outside.

After a very damp start the sun decided to make an effort this summer and what a difference it made - lots of smiley, happy people (as the song says!) Mary and Don Askew came along on Tuesdays dressed in smart overalls and armed with slug pellets, the most beautiful pots of begonias, gardening gloves and buckets of enthusiasm. They also helped out in the tearooms, only stopping for a toasted teacake at lunchtime. They are very good company and the sort of people always on the go – washing windows, strimming, weeding the borders and tidying Alistair’s lovely rockery on the steps. We had our busiest day of the summer when the three of us were ‘on duty’

The Kid’s Fun Day produced 54 poster entries, all of which were amazing but Eric Leslie chose three winners and we are hoping to use them for publicity purposes this year. Debbs and Mark Harding brought up a menagerie of small animals, a Treasure Hunt was organised and the marquee filled with various activities to keep the families busy for the day. It was very popular and we are hoping to repeat the Kids Fun Day on Sunday 20th April 2014, with the added attraction of Captain Coconut and his bubbles. Watch out for more information nearer the time!

We have had some new volunteers this year and I hope they will all be back for the 2014 season.

Carolanne popped in one day to offer her assistance and has been incredibly helpful and flexible enough to be called upon at short notice. Her daughter Krystyna has also helped several times this year. I must apologise to her for asking her shell and chop the hard-boiled eggs, without realising that she hates them and has to leave the room when they are prepared at her home! Unlike Emily, who has been a regular this year and loves all the jobs that I do so repetitively, like chopping eggs, grating cheese, folding the napkins and filling up the sugar holders. Bless her, and many thanks to all of them.

Elizabeth is another newcomer. She has to fit us in around her intensive exercise programmes and always arrives looking very glamorous. Helen, when she manages to escape from her kittens, comes in when she can. Beth helps out whenever possible, and at very short notice, and Marian can be relied upon to turn up on Sundays. Sheila doesn’t come to the Railway very often, but it is always great fun when she does.

Irene, on the other hand, is still doing two regular days a week and brightens up the day with assorted hats, jewellery, football flags, and photographs of her extensive and complicated family. I think I have nearly got it now, but it has taken four years!

Obviously I couldn’t have managed the tearooms, or taken any holiday, without June and Martin. They have worked really hard, been incredibly flexible on hours and days, and between us all the tearooms have had a very successful year. Thanks a million, or several thousand anyway! We have now become a lunch destination and coffee stop for people who don’t want a train ride but enjoy the food and ambience at Woody Bay.

We had two excellent Galas, and yet again the ‘amazing’ Heather and Sandra arrived to keep us all under control. Those Galas just wouldn’t work as well without these two wonderful ladies, they manage to stay bright and breezy all day (helps when Jeff B buys them a cider or two, mind) Serving the food pre-packed makes for a much speedier service and keeps no-one waiting.

On the Saturday night of the Autumn Gala all the volunteers had a feast of pulled pork rolls and salads to say thank-you for all their help. A local farmer supplied the meat that was cooked in the cafe kitchen and served in the marquee. There was enough meat for second helpings, and thirds for some - you know who you are! As usual, Pete and Jules were behind the bar, serving ale and wine to those who were able to partake, didn’t have to drive or others who were mad enough to camp out nearby!

Then on October 13th The Heywood Society turned up for a visit, all 80 of them. We had met some of the group the night before when they treated a few of us to a fabulous meal at The Park Hotel, but Sunday, it was our turn! Lots of people helped to prepare the marquee, shifting tables, putting up information displays, covering tables and serving areas. Then food was finished off, arranged beautifully and popped onto the buffet tables. (Thank you Carolanne and Brenda)

There is always a moment when you think ‘there won’t be enough for 80 people here’. But my family motto ‘we never knowingly undercater’ proved right again.  ‘Ernie’ was boiled up, tea made, mulled wine mulled and then they all arrived. It was a great afternoon, shame about the weather, but Martyn Budd was presented with a plaque and a round of applause. The train crew were "forced" to help tidy up the leftover food and cakes, hard life and all that! A lot of work and over very quickly, like most catering events! But hopefully they left with a good impression of our Railway.

The Buffet for the Heywood Society 13th October 2013.

Onwards to Christmas and Santa’s grotto magically appeared overnight after the ‘Grottettes’ arrived with staple guns and twinkly lights. It looked lovely in the marquee and the extra bay with the clear panel in the roof has made all the difference this year. The tables were all moved into storage and chairs arranged in lines for our visitors.

Five fully booked days meant we all had to be on our toes, more mulling of wine, warming of mince pies and new children’s entertainers to meet and watch. And they were all so good. Need to say thank you to Party Annamals for doing the first weekend, The Balloonatic, Dave Hendy and Captain Coconut for doing the week before Christmas.

Christmas Eve 2013 - completely enclosed in a bubble by Captain Coconut. Many thanks to the entertainers this year - all were marvellous - and please keep some dates free for 2014!

Seasonal weather at Woody Bay.

Emily in the snow.

And then mince pie specials - the weather was so horrible I was amazed anyone turned up, but they did and plenty of warmed mince pies were given away. Strangely, the soup was popular too!

So, an eventful year that has proved successful for the railway in raising more funds towards our expansion (and not just our waistlines) But with success comes more demand and expectation for events, parties, coach visits and Santa visitors and we cannot manage without our valuable volunteers.

Catering Volunteers Christmas Lunch 2013.

As we get even busier we are going to need three people on duty in high season - so if you would like to join our friendly team and be part of the railway family you know where to find us - or call me on 01271 377947.

Thanks everyone for everything - look forward to doing it all again this season, see you at Woody Bay for 2014 - my fifth year!!

Judy xx

Photos and text Judy Williams

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