The photograph above is the only image I own of Wheeltappers tea room at Barcombe Mills Station. At least I think it is of the interior of the aforementioned café, I have so far been unable to verify this.*
The Wheeltappers tea room and restaurant was my mum’s favourite place to spend a summer afternoon. It was situated in the former ticket office and ladies’ waiting room of the disused station at Barcombe Mills near Lewes. My mum, who was inclined towards sentimental films like Pollyanna and The Railway Children thought it was just magical, with tables and chairs spilling out onto the platform and a stretch of green lawn spread across what once were the tracks.
I say my mum thought it was magical, but as a child I did too. We ate ice creams and treats from the shop on one side of the tracks, or we would drink tea and eat hearty lunches on the other. I have a vague recollection of playing with a little girl who used to live in the stationmaster’s house; it felt like going backstage. I have another memory of being there with my friend Laurence and being astounded that he managed to eat half a chicken.
Last summer I went for a picnic at Barcombe Mills with my six-month-old daughter and some other families from my antenatal class. I used nap time as an excuse to sneak away to the site of the fabled tea room, risking glaring sun and an unpredictable country road with the pram in order to do so. I’m not exaggerating when I say a lump grew in my throat as I approached. The station, now private homes, was gated and locked with a sign up telling everyone to keep their noses out.
These pictures are of my parents and their friends enjoying a picnic at Barcombe Mills in 1977. I can’t really complain, this beauty spot is still here, perfect for walks and wild swimming, but it makes me sad that the café hasn’t survived. From Wikipedia it seems the site of the waiting room and restaurant was converted into two holiday cottages that were completed in April 2003.
If anyone reading this has any memories or photographs of the café at Barcombe Mills I’d love to hear from you. It would be great to know for sure whether the photograph of me was in fact taken on this spot, and one better, I would especially love to read a copy of the menu!
*I have now discovered two more pictures taken on the same day which reveal this photo was in fact taken on a trip to the Bluebell Railway – check out the train and the Ouse Valley Railway flag. This means I have NO photographs of my mum’s beloved café at Barcombe Mills. If anyone would care to share one I would be most delighted!
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About Chloe King
I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.
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