TUCKED away in Hadleigh Country Park is a quaint little cafe which serves an extra special purpose.

The Salvation Army Tearoom, part of the Hadleigh Farm Estate, is run by a team of trainees - adults with learning difficulties - that are being given the chance to work, be part of the community, and take a leading role in the cafe.

For 122 years, the Hadleigh Farm Estate has been a place where The Salvation Army has trained, helped and educated men and women who have experienced difficult times, enabling them to further themselves both personally and professionally.

When the tearoom was forced to close during the Covid pandemic, managers decided they wanted the team of trainees to be more involved in the management of the tearooms, the food on offer and the layout of the cafe.

As a result, the trainees have picked up a new menu and the tearoom has been redesigned to match how the team wanted the cafe to look.

Manager Lindsay Payne, 47, explained how the work done by the trainees helps provide them with the confidence they need to pursue other opportunities after.

Gazette: Love the job - James and Adam are both part of the teamLove the job - James and Adam are both part of the team (Image: Newsquest)

Ms Payne said: “The trainees can learn transferable skills from the tea rooms, one of the changes made was shortening the opening hours to allow the trainees all get to experience every part of the running of the tea rooms.

“Some days there would be a clash where some would not be able to use the tills, we changed the time to make everyone feel a part and see everything we can do.”

And the trainees are already reaping the rewards after the tearooms re-opened at the end of January.

James, 39, one of the trainees, said: “My favourite part is making the food and doing the drinks, there are a lot of drinks to make, and I like talking to the customers.

“I am happy everything is back open and I’m looking forward to doing more.”

Adam, 30, added: “It is all really good, I do really like working here.”

Currently, the menu for the tea rooms offers a range of drinks options, including hot chocolate and coffee, a variety of cakes and sandwiches.

As the trainees ease their way back into running the tearoom, it is only open on a Monday and Friday and a booking system is in place, however they are hoping to open more in the future.

Ms Payne added: “It has been a long journey, and we are looking to add more food back onto the menu. At this point we are getting the trainees back into the swing of things.

“Before the closure, we had a mould of what a tearoom should be and we're trying to make the trainees fit that mould, we used to have hot food for example.

“What we are on is a journey, but now we have a team of trainees making the decisions and we have the majority ruling, we will listen to the feedback of customers, but this is driven by the trainees.

“The important thing is that we treat everyone of the trainees as individuals and that we ensure they are comfortable at work, the biggest difference now is that the tea rooms are tailored to the trainees as individuals, and they carry the operation.

“With each of the trainees, we know their journey and with their futures after here, we will have those conversations with them, you would like to hope they will go further into work after being here or into voluntary work.”