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Cafe H2O in the Wyche Innovation Centre, Upper Colwall

Setting up Cafe H20 at the Wyche Innovation Centre in Upper Colwall was lots of work but very rewarding according to the women behind the idea.

Cafe H20 is run as a co-operative by people with learning disabilities. ‘We have 15 people involved at the moment’ says Debbie Probert who set it up with Kate Harding. ‘They are all involved to a greater or lesser extent in the running of the cafe. Its no mean feat to run a start-up business, they’ve worked incredibly hard, especially in the summer months when visitors to the Hills come in.’

The co-op originally started in Malvern four years ago, to make jams and pickles. ‘Jamboree’ sold its produce in farmers’ markets and in local shops, but the idea for a cafe came after a discussion with Dr Emma Philpott and Dr Adrian Burden, owners of The Wyche Innovation Centre.

‘Its been more successful than we imagined’ says Kate. ‘There’s been so much to get right, from health and safety to ordering stock and serving the public. We try and stock local produce as far as possible, from Clive’s Fruit Farm near Upton and Colwall Orchard Group. This year we’ll be re-starting production of our own pickles and jam, which will be fantastic to serve with Ploughman’s Lunches and other dishes.’

Alison and Rosalind are busy serving customers as we chat, running the place efficiently with just a little occasional help from Kate or Debbie. ‘The public’s response to what we do has been overwhelming and extremely supportive’ says Debbie. ‘There’s a lot of regular customers, especially those that appreciate easy-access, since we have ample parking and a ramp leading up to the door.’

‘We’ve kept our menu deliberately straightforward while offering a good choice of dishes’ says Debbie. ‘As well as cakes and snacks, we offer light meals plus soup and a good range of both hot and cold drinks.’

‘The people working here have grown hugely in confidence’ continues Debbie. ‘One young man joined us who was incredibly shy and didn’t want to work ‘front of house’. He now serves customers and works on the till. The change in his life is immense and it can make me quite proud of what has been achieved.’

Kate is equally positive. ‘We’ve seen people blossom’ she says. ‘Just before Christmas we organised a buffet for our staff and other people working in this building. I saw business owners, professors and scientists sitting alongside our co-operative members, all chatting and getting along as equals. It was quite an emotional moment to realise how far they’ve come.’

‘Essentially our cafe provides a service to the local area and gives life skills to the people with disabilities who work here’ continues Kate. ‘We do rely on volunteers to help us, so if anybody can spare as little as two hours a week to come and help at busy times, or to help with the jam and pickle making, we would all be really grateful.’

H20 Cafe at the Wyche Innovation Centre is open seven days a week from 9.30am until 4.30pm (it might be closed on some Wednesdays so please check before heading out). Groups of walkers and cyclists are very welcome. For more information call (01684) 252414.

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    Groups of walkers and cyclists are very welcome.

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