New tearoom serving up fresh cakes and opportunities for learning disabled

A new tea room with a recipe for building confidence amongst its special staff is already experiencing the taste of success.

GPC Specialist Tearoom C.I.C has only been open in the heart of the Lincolnshire countryside at Friskney for 12 weeks, but already it is attracting customers from across the county and even further afield.

It is a dream come true for company director Carole Goulding, who many local people will know from her Grandma's Pudding Co cake stall at Wainfleet Market.

Carole, a former head of special needs at Bourne Academy, had always longed to create a safe space where adults with brain damage or learning disabilities like her own daughter could develop and ultimately have the confidence to join the workplace.

Carole Goulding (second right) with students and volunteer Lilly Calladine (left) at the tearooms.

However, the journey to achieving her dream has not been easy. After a builder left her high and dry at the beginning of the transformation of the portacabin bought for her by her late mother, she was ready to give up.

"I was devastated. I was told it would cost £10,000 to put the work that had been done right," recalled Carole. "Then a parent of a child I had helped at Bourne Academy who just happens to also be a builder came and had a look and told me 'we can do this'

"He gave me my mojo back and this is the result - almost everything in the tearoom is upcycled or donated.

"The wallpaper in the toilet is in my house - I'm just delighted with how it's all turned out."

Mick Fern of Fen Bank Greyhound Sanctuary and friends enjoying the facilities at the tearooms.

Local businesses hearing about the project have also offered a helping hand, including Buildbase, Boston, Lincs Llocks of Old Leake, Hodgson & Sons builders of Friskney, Alexandra Carpets of Skegness and Instance Automatics Ltd of Sutton on Sea.

Some decking was also donated by local business man Malcolm Pates, which will enable Carole to create disabled access and outside seating area.

Already, Carole has 23 students with learning disabilities on the books - aged from 17 to 70.

They will experience independence, and learn about customer service, hygiene and money handling, with the aim of increasing their self-esteem and self-worth. As they progress, they will also receive a certificate of achievement.

GPC Specialist Tearoom C.I.C in Friskney.

Carole said: "Learners come from all over the county, some working part-time, some full-time, but all will be learning in a caring, experienced environment.

"Local specialist colleges, schools and care providers are already on board and parents of learning disabled adults have formed a support group too."

The tea room is a non for profit business and has to survive financially on its own.

Quality cakes, savory pastries and puddings are supplied by Grandma’s Pudding Co, the already established bakery Carole runs from her tealoaf bakery in Friskey.

A warm welcome awaits at GPC Specialist Tearoom C.I.C in Friskney.

"The idea has been in my mind for some 20 years, having come across a similar tea room in Kent, where the owners had a vineyard and a visitors tea room," Carole explained.

"It was totally served by learning disabled adults.

"We spoke to the owners who had a learning disabled daughter and they told us there were few places where their daughter could feel valued and confident in the workplace, so they set it up themselves.”

Already Carole is seeing a massive difference in her students.

One of them was quite quiet when she came and then the other day I saw her go up to a customer and say, 'Hello, my name is Mary, I will be your waitress today'.

"Politeness and how to address customers is one of the things I teach but to hear something like this makes it all worthwhile."

Mum Michele Seven has also seen a difference in her 18-year-old daughter, Kayleigh, who attends Boston College.

Michele said: "I one time I worried Kayleigh would not have any opportunities in life because of safeguarding issues but since coming here I have seen her confidence grow."

Local teenager Lilly Calladine, who has just finished GCSEs at the William Lovell School in Stickney, has been volunteering during the summer holidays.

Lilly, who goes back to school in September to do her A-Levels says working their has also helped her.

"I started here because my brother had learning disabilities as well as the community side of it all.

"It brings in people from all over the place - it helps people with learning disabilities connect with the community. and learn life skills.

"I am am learning life skills too - I had quite high anxiety levels when I started here and now I can interact with customers and people I have never met without really thinking about it."

After a recent inspection by the local authority, Carole says she is delighted the tearoom has been awarded five stars for food and hygiene.

In addition to the freshly baked cakes and puddings to tempt customers, sausage rolls are already a firm favourite with customers, with meat orders escalating since she first opened - and goulash and soups on the menu from the autumn.

And what do the customers think? Mick Fern of Fen Bank Greyhound Sanctuary was there with friends while socialising one of the dogs.

"It's been brilliant, lots of cake and coffee and the dogs have had lots of chews and biscuits," he said.

"To bring the greyhounds here to socialise, they have never seen anything like this."

Mavis Elwick said: "It's wonderful here - very friendly - they are all doing a great job."

Plans for the coffee do not end here, Carole has already spent her pension fund on an additional portakabin that will work as an extension garden room.

There are also plans to develop a garden area to grow vegetables to use in the cafe as well as flowers, where students who may not have the confidence to work in the tearoom can still benefit from the project.

There will also be a converted shed which will be a chillout room for the students to relax in during their breaks.

Carole added: "I'm broke now but that's fine - we've come such a long way and the tearooms have already exceeded my wildest dreams."

The tea room will open on Saturdays and weekdays except Friday from 10.30am to 4.30pm and is hoped to eventually open all week depending on its customers and volunteers being available.

It is situated on Howgarth Lane, Friskney (PE22 8PQ).

Anyone who would like to offer help should call Carole on 07899953448 or email [email protected]