People in Manchester tend to make certain assumptions about those who live in the People’s Republic of Chorlton. Like, they’re all middle class, Guardian reading, veggie-munching, yogurt-weaving hippies. Oh yes, and the mothers have those massive prams with massive wheels, and when you ask them to move, they open their massive mouths and argue the toss.
So, to set the record straight, I’d just like to state that I’m middle class and proud. I like a good broadsheet. And yes, I’m vegetarian, do my recycling and generally use public transport rather than private.
But that’s where the similarity between me and the Chorlton stereotype ends. Because (whisper it) I only take the bus because I can’t drive and (whisper it again) I really, really like Top Gear and if I could have my pick of any car in the world it’d be a Lotus Elise and I’d absolutely bloody rag it and not care one jot for the environment or the poor kiddies by the side of the road in their Bugaboos forced to breathe in the noxious fumes I leave in my wake.
There. I’ve said it.
And so Simon, Milo and I find ourselves on the M6, on the way to Scotland. We’ve decided to take the car not the train, and I am singing along to some mournful indie at the top of my voice, delighting in the fact that here we are, in our own petrol pod, whizzing along a road that would have made the Romans proud.
A little hungry, and needing a break, we reluctantly pull into the next service station. I fear limp mayo-sodden sarnies and overpriced Walkers but clearly haven’t banked on the fact that this is no ordinary service station. This is Tebay service station.
Inside, a family-run farm shop is stocked with local cheese, meat, homemade pies and hampers. The cooked food is all sustainable this and Fairtrade that. The kiddies menu is a revelation – not a chicken nugget in sight. And there is a children’s play area and ‘family lounge’ that isn’t just a bunch of tired-looking plastic toys but is decked out with a farmland-themed climbing frame, tunnel and slide. (There’s also a range of child-friendly seating, a small kitchen and wash basins, all located inside the lounge.)
As Milo races from one end of the play area to the other, I sit back. In one hand is my freshly-printed copy of the Guardian; in the other, a forkful of sustainable, organic veggie breakfast with wholemeal toast and Fairtrade juice.
Hmmm, I think. You can take the girl out of Chorlton…
Ratings. Babychanging facilities: Yes. Cafe: Yes. Buggy-friendly? Yes. Cost: Free, though clearly you have to pay for the food, which isn’t cheap but on a par with the usual service station price range. Worth it? Yes, it beats any other service station I’ve ever been to, hands down. It’s also the only family-run motorway services in England. If you’re heading north, plan your stop-off here.