A COMMENT in our tea room’s visitors’ book says it all – ‘a friendly welcome, super apple cake.’
Surely a major reason for the success of this lovely church is the commitment by those providing for the nourishment of others?
Anyone planning a day trip to Portchester will find similar sentiments on the Trip Advisor website.
There are comments such as, ‘fabulous’, praise for the ‘cheapest tea and cake in Portchester’ and calling it extremely good value with friendly and welcoming volunteers.
So what’s all this about what has also been also described as Portchester’s best kept secret?
We realised that Portchester Castle, one of English Heritage’s most popular monuments in the south of England, attracted thousands of visitors each year but did not have a café.
So we at St Mary’s Church, which is in the castle grounds, embarked on an ambitious project.
The church’s New Room doubles up as a church hall in the evenings, but as a cafe and tea room during the day.
We provide sandwiches, toasties, light lunches, tea and cake for visitors to the castle.
We welcome walkers and ramblers, families on a day out, as well as visitors to the church.
We have our weekly, and even daily, regulars as well as those who visit us by chance and write ‘we will definitely be back.’
There are no paid staff and all who serve are volunteers.
The cakes are all home-baked and we are rated five for food hygiene.
However, the tea room also provides food for the soul.
Many people open up to our volunteers, telling stories about their lives, often sad and challenging.
Some volunteers have offered to take visitors into the church and pray with them.
Some even start to come to services.
Although the tea room makes money for the church, it’s not about profit.
Many have received a free cuppa and cake if they do not have enough money.
However, the tea room has become the victim of its own success.
We have had to close some days, especially on Sundays, because we just can’t get enough volunteers.
If you think you could spare a few hours, please contact Margaret Andrews on (023) 9261 1503.
The tea room tries to open during the summer from 10am until 4pm.
It closes in the winter at 2.30pm.
n St Mary’s Church is in the grounds of Portchester Castle.