A hidden haven of cake and coffee just outside Hucknall

By Tom Surgay

2nd Dec 2021 | Local News

A café just outside Hucknall, staffed by local volunteers is arguably one of the area's hidden gems.

The Dynamo Café located in Bestwood Country Park, has been running since 2013, offering a wide selection of delicious homemade confections and hot beverages to those who happen upon it as they walk the park or those who have been visiting faithfully for years.

For those in the Bestwood, Hucknall and Bulwell areas, the Winding House is an iconic and imposing structure rising over the trees of what was once the Bestwood Colliery.

Today it marks the eastern approach to Bestwood Country Park from the historic village, however, many people may not be aware of the little café tucked away in the Winding House's adjacent building.

The building itself was refurbished by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and adorning its high interior walls sits a vast printed tapestry that tracks the history throughout the past 1000 years.

Before the Dynamo Café was conceived, the park's rangers, once a team of a dozen or more, provided hot refreshments from the door of Alexandra Lodge. However, as their numbers were gradually cut, and the service was lost, Gill Costello and Margret Vince stepped in to fill the need.

Jill had previously started the Friends of Bestwood Country Park in 2006, to help raise awareness about the reduction of the rangers' numbers, and the possible loss of the wonderful facilities along with them, such as refreshments in the park itself.

Margret explains to me as we sit in the back of the café on a brisk Saturday morning: "People asked where the nearest café was, and there wasn't one. So, Jill and I set up with a kettle, tea bags and a jar of coffee, and that was all we did, here in the Dynamo House itself."

It proved not only a welcome addition to the park but popular too.

After only a few weeks the WI approached Jill and Margret to ask if they would mind if they could bake for them.

This would become the biggest draw for the café and would grow to the point at which they would easily serve between 80 and 150 people in their short 3-hour opening time. Since then, they have a regular team of volunteer bakers who offer their culinary skills and their time to the cause.

"It's been quite a draw because the drinks are 50p, the cakes are 75p, and we pay volunteers for their ingredients so that they're not out of pocket."

It is at this point that our conversation is interrupted by an excitable golden Labrador making the volunteer staff of Marilyn and Mary laugh as they serve the regular customer.

The dog-friendly venture has an atmosphere of nothing short of welcoming, like walking into a familiar neighbour's house for a cuppa or popping into your Grandparents' to be spoilt with fresh cakes.

Whether you have been frequenting the café for years, or have only just discovered it that morning, you are greeted with a warmth that emanates from its roots and ideals of community, rather than an exercise in commercial revenue.

"The Dynamo Café is first and foremost a community venture. The money we raise goes into the Friends of Bestwood Country Park, and from there channelled into the rangers for tools, birdseed replacement benches and things like that."

Money also goes into paying for the print costs of the booklets that are sold, such as literature on the park's history, the local trees, and a trail for children called Peter the Pit Pony. This, alongside a QR code, provides a guided tour of a circuit.

Before lockdown, the venture also donated a week of profit each month to a local charity, suggested by the community, and they would like to start doing this again in the near future.

The Dynamo Cafe is a hub for the community, as well as a warm and welcoming stop-off for walkers or cyclists passing through, yet as Margret explains, can only maintain their service thanks to the generosity of volunteers.

They open from 10am until 1pm every Saturday, serving hot drinks and freshly made, homemade cakes. Due to its popularity, if you want to avoid missing out, I recommend heading down early.

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