A POPULAR Lake District tea room says its summer takings are up 10 per cent despite the disruption caused by Covid and on-going work to reconnect Pooley Bridge.

Granny Dowbekin’s owner Colin Hindle describes the turnaround as ‘phenomenal’ and credits the boom in staycation visitors with helping Lake District businesses like his bounce back from the lockdown.

Not that the resilience of his business should be any surprise.

Since taking on the tea room in 2000 he has seen it all.

In his first year he had to contend with the Foot and Mouth crisis and the petrol dispute which brought the country to a near standstill.

Since then he and his team have coped with floods, nearly five years of major works to build a replacement bridge following the devastation of Storm Desmond and then three months of lockdown.

Colin, 54, said: “So despite having no road bridge, taking out 60 seats to be Covid-safe and being 90 per cent surrounded by a building site our summer business was up on last year by about 10 per cent.

“It’s phenomenal considering all the things stacked up against us.

“As a team we have concentrated on doing a really good job in helping people feel safe and the huge demand for staycations has meant all the campsites and hotels have been full.

“It means the delay on the bridge has not hurt the businesses this summer like it would have done if it had not been for the switch towards staycations because of Covid.

“Now the footpath has been opened to the public it has been a huge help. The temporary footbridge has gone so the view of the river is lovely again

“It brings customers right by our gate whereas previously they were funneled past our business because of the building site and into the middle of the village.

“It has been a battle to keep our business going strong.”

Since reopening in July the emphasis at Granny Dowbekin’s has been ensuring that customers and staff feel safe.

A one -way system has been introduced, red and green card indicators show when tables have been sanitised for reuse, there are single use menus and sachets and more people have been employed to greet customers and clean all the touch points.

“When we reopened after the lockdown we concentrated on making customers and colleagues feel safe so they are happy to come to work and come to the business

“We have never compromised on quality and focused on our business as lovely an experience as we can. Quite a few of our traditional customers are elderly and vulnerable and some have come and been a little bit nervous, but they have gained a lot of confidence from coming seeing the measure we have put in place and carried on coming back,” Colin added.

It is the latest chapter in the tea room’s success story which has seen it grow its turnover 20-fold along with an expansion of its site in the centre of Pooley Bridge thanks to the acquisition of a neighbouring cottage.

The tea room now has room for 150 customers, compared to 30 when Colin bought the business.

During that time he has been grateful for the support of the Cumberland Building Society - particularly in recent months.

“The Cumberland were very proactive about giving us a mortgage holiday for three months which relieved a lot of the pressure.

“They have kept that offer open which gives you a little peace of mind so you’re not losing sleep, worrying about the future.

“In the past they have been very supportive and helped grow business extensions by providing funds for each stage of investment,” Colin said.

Grant Seaton, of The Cumberland, said the building society was proud to have supported Granny Dowbekin’s during its expansion and through this year’s crisis.

“Granny Dowbekin’s is a fantastic example of a Lake District business that has shown great resilience in coping with not just the pandemic, but the disruption to their business caused by the building work in Pooley Bridge.

“We’ve supported many businesses like Colin’s through this crisis because we share their long term confidence that they will continue to thrive,” he said.

And now Colin and his team of around 20 staff can look forward to another chapter as Pooley Bridge looks forward to the opening of the new bridge next month.

Colin added: “The bridge will be a tourist attraction for decades because it has such a beautiful and elegant design.

“When the builders have gone you will be able to sit at our tables and see under the bridge across the lake and up Helvellyn.

“Pooley Bridge will be a destination come what may - the views are magnificent and as long as people enjoy nature there will be a thriving business here to be had.”

Granny Dowbekin’s recently celebrated the news that they have been given a ‘Travellers’ Choice’ winner by Trip Advisor.

Each year, the review site combs through reviews, ratings, and saves from travellers everywhere, and use that info to award the very best and Granny Dowbekin’s are now part of that exclusive group. Colin said: “We’re over the moon to receive the award, thanks to locals and visitors."