Family-run café brings welcome refreshments to Nomansland

Victoria Smith and her team at West End Barns, near Heartwood Forest and Nomansland Common, Wheathampstead.

Victoria Smith and her team at West End Barns, near Heartwood Forest and Nomansland Common, Wheathampstead. - Credit: Becky Alexander

Like many of us, I have been walking and exploring the local area in the past year or so, and have been very grateful for beautiful Nomansland Common. You may have spotted a sign for a new café – West End Barns – just along from the car par. Open at the weekends, I went along last Saturday to find out more.

Tucked away in a stable block just off the lane, West End Barns is a lovely café run by Victoria Smith. It really is for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, as there is only a tiny car park nearby.

A spacious, pretty barn, with flowers outside, the café is mostly takeaway but there are a few benches under cover and hay bales in the yard to sit on. If you are on your horse, there is a bell just outside so you can ring and order without getting down!

The café is very much a family affair with Vicky working alongside her sister, mum and future mother-in-law, who also help with the baking. There is an excellent range of homemade cakes, bakes and scones – we had a delicious and generous millionaire shortbread and brownie, but I was also tempted by the scones, which vary each weekend.

Vicky told me that they usually have fruit and cheese scones and the breakfast scones with bacon are also popular. There were a couple of gluten-free options and some pretty vegan cupcakes too and Vicky mentioned that everything they bake is nut-free.

You can get take-out coffee, tea and hot chocolate (which was very good) and the team have an arrangement with VegWare to collect used coffee cups

 They will also fill up your own hot drink cup if you prefer, which is more eco of course. Ice cream is made by Lewis of London. Vicky is also selling some local produce including St Albans honey, Mrs Middleton’s rapeseed oil and mayonnaise and Sa-Wu-Chay sauces. The two carts that now act as shelves have been on the farm for around 100 years!

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Victoria explained how she received funding from the Henry Plumb Foundation (a foundation helping young people realise their dream of finding a future career in the farming and food industry) which helped her to sort out the barn and buy the coffee machine.

She has also just been awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, supported by NatWest, at the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (NFYFC’s) YFC Achiever Awards 2021. The judges included Zoe Colville, aka The Chief Shepherdess, Alexia Robinson, director of Love British Food, Roddy McLean, director of agriculture at NatWest and Tom Pope, NFYFC’s YFC AGRI Chair.

West End Barns, near Heartwood Forest and Nomansland Common, Wheathampstead.

West End Barns, near Heartwood Forest and Nomansland Common, Wheathampstead. - Credit: Becky Alexander

I’d love to see the café use washable cups going forward as we move out of this pandemic, but otherwise, what a wonderful and very welcome new addition to Wheathampstead and Nomansland.

West End Barns is located opposite Heartwood Forest and Nomansland (postcode AL4 8EG) and is currently open at weekends between 10am-4pm.

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