How much-loved Grindleford Station Café has survived for 45 years

Forty-five years ago Philip Eastwood and his wife Margaret stumped up £500 to buy a tearoom beside a stop on the Hope Valley railway line in the Peak District - establishing a family business and a countryside institution that survives to this day.

Thursday, 25th October 2018, 11:04 am
Updated Thursday, 25th October 2018, 11:08 am
Kulbir Eastwood and her husband Phillip, owners of the Grindleford Station Cafe. Picture: Chris Etchells

And, says their son Phillip who now runs the Grindleford Station Café, there is a reason the place has endured.

"It's not changed with the times," he explains, sitting down at a table inside what has long been a refuelling stop for hungry hikers and bikers tempted by the idea of a huge full English breakfast. A fire is crackling away in the hearth, original British Rail signs hang on the white-painted, wood-panelled walls and, in the kitchen, enough bacon to feed an army can be glimpsed cooking on the grill.

Kulbir Eastwood and her husband Phillip, owners of the Grindleford Station Cafe. Picture: Chris Etchells

"It's an old-school, greasy spoon-style café, basically," Phillip remarks. "We still do traditional food."

The 45th anniversary brings 'mixed emotions', says his wife Kulbir, who works for the business alongside her part-time job as a contracts manager for Sheffield Hallam University. Margaret died when Phillip was a child, while Phil senior was claimed by a sudden heart attack in 2007.

"It brings out the memories of his parents, looking through all the old photos and stuff," says Kulbir. "But then, there's not many family, independent businesses left that have gone on this long."

Phillip's father - a one-time lorry driver, nightclub bouncer, debt collector, steelworker, hot dog seller and chip shop owner - took over the former station building in November 1973. He purchased the tearoom from its boss Phyllis Reynolds, paying her in instalments over a year.

Inside the Grindleford Station Cafe. Picture: Chris Etchells

"It was literally just teas and coffees, and cakes," says Phillip. "Obviously when he took it over they gutted the place and made a kitchen."

The smart little building only had gas power - no electricity - and they needed to add toilets, more seating, and paving outside.

"It was a really big challenge for them," Phillip says.

Phil senior was a larger-than-life character. The café was famed for its notices pinned up around the premises warning against uncontrolled children and dogs, the use of mobile phones and dumping empty plates on the counter, among other directives. Most have now been taken down - "Some of them were getting a bit tatty because they were all handwritten," Phillip says - but a few remain. A board outside tells patrons not to be 'rowdy' while inside, near the servery, another sign announces: "I can only please one person per day; today's not your day, and tomorrow doesn't look good either."

The Grindleford cafe building in 1898.

His personality could be endearing, but also off-putting, Phillip admits. "He was liked by many but hated by many," he says, laughing. "Some people thought 'Oh, he's got a good sense of humour', and others thought 'How rude'. We clashed when I got older. He had really strong opinions and political views."

Phillip, aged 30, had just started a business management degree in Leeds when his father died. He immediately decided to pull out of the course and take on the café which, was held in trust until he was 25. "I never saw myself running a café, so to speak. I realised I should take over the family business because it would kill me to see someone else running it now. And it would have done then."  

In Kulbir's eyes, they are upholding the Eastwood legacy. "We've changed things materially, and updated, but the actual food and the way we work, and the values of the place, have stayed the same. We refuse to change them, because they're Phillip's mum and dad's."

The café's location at the end of Padley Gorge, a magnet for daytrippers, helps to ensure a steady stream of customers, who span generations.

Kulbir Eastwood and her husband Phillip, owners of the Grindleford Station Cafe. Picture: Chris Etchells

"They've come in and said 'Please don't ever change it, we bring our grandkids now because we love it for how it is'," says Phillip.

And if the café ever became too 'foodie', or put up its prices - listed on a giant blackboard over the counter - people would be up in arms, he thinks. Portions are large, with chip butties and full breakfasts the perennial best sellers - the chips are twice-cooked. Big groups book in to eat; 80 Sheffield University students came in over two days last week. This is perfectly manageable if the café's team of eight staff can prepare in advance, which isn't always the case.

"It happened last week, a big motorbike group turned up, about 50, and didn't give us any warning," Phillip says. "We had to cook everything from scratch."

It is a year-round venture, only closing on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Two years ago, later opening hours were experimented with, but the idea was dropped because of the extra workload.

The café is at the centre of Grindleford's rural community - it is part of the railway station's Friends group, who plant flowers and keep the area tidy, as well as being involved with Inspired by the Peak District, a council initiative to promote tourism. Fundraisers are regularly held for the local mountain rescue.

Phillip and Kulbir, 38, have been together for five years, and got married 12 months ago. The couple, who live in Greenhill, Sheffield, love to travel and are careful to take holidays. "As soon as all the kids go back to school, we go away," says Kulbir, who describes herself as the café's 'planner', with Phillip as the 'doer'. "She plans the staff rota a lot more in advance than I did," he says.

Kulbir Eastwood and her husband Phillip, owners of the Grindleford Station Cafe. Picture: Chris Etchells

Kulbir is in charge of marketing Grindleford Spring Water, a sideline started by Phil senior who began bottling the fresh water that rises nearby. Twenty-five local companies, as well as 3,000 staff working for firms upgrading the railway line between Derby and Chesterfield, are supplied with refreshments from the Grindleford spring.

Future plans include a timeline on the café's back wall, telling the diner's story through the decades.

On Saturday, October 27, a 45th anniversary party is happening onsite from 9am to 7pm - food will be served until 6pm, alcoholic drinks are to be sold, 1970s music will be played, children can have their faces painted and a raffle is being held. Charity donations in memory of Phillip's parents will be made to St Luke's Hospice and the British Heart Foundation.

So do the Eastwoods think the café will be around for another 45 years?

"Fingers crossed," says Kulbir.

"I can't see myself doing anything else," Phillip says. "Hopefully it will never change."