At Puddleducks Tearoom, the ducks come and go as freely as customers.
“We get hundreds of duck visitors!” said Erica Yates who, along with her husband Paul and their three children Jack (13), Joe (11), and Lucia (nine), runs the tearoom. “They actually come inside - we sell duck food so I think that’s what they’re looking for. The kids love it and we really don’t mind; it’s their cafe, too!”
A local institution in the village of Dunsop Bridge in the Ribble Valley, Puddleducks is famed for its quacking, web-footed visitors, and - having taken over the cafe just four weeks ago - the Yates’ family are relishing the challenge of running such a well-loved haunt.
Set on the 6,000-acre Whitewell Estate owned by the Duchy of Lancaster, the Puddleducks cafe is universally popular with amblers, cyclists, and royalty alike.
With Dunsop Bridge itself something of a tourism hot-spot owing to the village being geographically considered the exact centre of the UK, Her Majesty The Queen paid the tearoom a visit with Prince Philip in 2006. Charmed by one of the UK’s most beautiful regions, Her Majesty left with the cafe’s famed scone recipe.
How many Costas can say that?
With the recent good weather lending itself well to ice cream sales, Erica says that the start of the family’s new life as Puddleduck proprietors has been brilliant.
“It’s going really well,” she said. “We took over the week before Easter and we had people queuing out the door; the whole of Dunsop Bridge was packed.
“We’ve had such good feedback,” Erica added. “Locals have said how wonderful it is and we’ve had good luck cards from loads of people. It’s been overwhelming.”
Having undergone a bit of a revamp under the new ownership, the cafe now has brand new signage and furniture, but has nonetheless maintained that homely air, in no small way thanks to staff members Julie Herbert, who stayed on under the Yates’ and who has been ‘brilliant’ according to Erica, and and Aiden O’Rourke.
Planning to invite all the locals around to try their new entirely-homemade menu when things quieten down, both Erica and Paul have a long-held affinity the famously enchanting Forest of Bowland.
“We love the area so much; we used to walk the dog here all the time and set off from the cafe,” said Erica. “I kept saying to Paul, ‘if this cafe comes up for sale, let’s do it,’ and then it did!”
Paul added: “We’re very aware of what a special place this tea room is. People tell us they’ve been visiting here since their childhood and we love hearing that.”
Until their return to British shores a couple of years ago, the Yates’ lived in Bahrain for 13 years, with Paul running a car dealership and Erica a family directory. Now ensconced in substantially more verdant surroundings, the family live in between Dunsop Bridge and neighbouring Newton-in-Bowland and they’re loving it, with the children especially taken with their new life as cafe owners.
“It’s always been a family-run business [and] our children love the idea of owning and running the cafe as much as we do,” said Paul. Erica continued: “When we first took over, my daughter asked ‘does this mean all these sweets are ours?’
“The kids all get involved - our daughter is brilliant at helping make things and the boys clear tables and chat to customers,” she added. “And they all eat the stock!”
And that stock - from the Barnoldswick-baked bread to the Bowland sausages and eggs - is very much like Puddleducks itself: home-made, family-oriented, and friendly.
“We’re home,” said Erica.