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Ramblers Retreat 39th Anniversary

22 Apr 2020 | BY Callum

Friday 24th April 2020 marks the Ramblers Retreat Country Tea Room’s 39th Birthday!

While this isn’t exactly the way we planned to be celebrating it, we thought we’d bring some cheer into this uncertain time by celebrating it as much as we can with our friends, guests & amazing local community.


Have a virtual walk down a historical Earl’s Drive to hear about our key moments:

As part of Dimmingsdale’s transformation in the 1800’s,  the Earl of Shrewsbury commissioned the design of two gatehouses within the Alton Towers Estate – Dimmingsdale Lodge (now the Ramblers Retreat) and Pink Lodge (opposite the lower gates to Alton Towers).

These gatehouses were strategically positioned on Earls Drive, the main thoroughfare through the estate. The gatekeepers would keep a watch for the Earls carriage from the tower to ensure that gates were opened promptly & thus avoid an interrupted journey.

In the 1900’s the Earls estate was divided up into lots and sold. Dimmingsdale Lodge was purchased and used solely for residential purposes until the 1960’s. However, after this time the lodge was left vacant and feel into serious disrepair.

A dereliction order was placed on the buildings in 1978; however Gary and Margaret Keeling asked to buy the derelict Lodge from the owner, Sir Anthony Bamford to enable them to restore it back to its original state.

It took two years hard work to restore, however in 1980, Gary, Margaret and their family moved in and made it their home.

However, whilst in the garden, walkers would frequently comment to Gary & Margaret that it would be lovely to have a cup of tea and scone in Dimmingsdale after a walk.

So, on the 24th April 1981, Margaret Keeling opened up her living room to ramblers enjoying the undiscovered wonders of the Churnet Valley for tea and scones.

The day before opening, Margaret’s family remember her saying “I wonder if anyone will come?!” Because of Margaret’s welcoming smile, lovely homemade cakes and beautiful location, the business thrived and her husband Gary left his career at JCB to work alongside his wife in the busy tearoom. In 2001, Helen left her job in Marketing to give her parents a well-earned break.

Since then, Dimmingsdale Lodge and the Ramblers Retreat have grown in size and reputation, but we all still hold Maggie’s values in everything we do.

Today, Helen works alongside Alberto, her head chef & deputy manager and Callum her son, along with her amazing team of front of house, kitchen and maintenance team members who are all an extension of our family, of course with Gary on site at all times to make sure everything is running perfectly!

We’d like to take a moment to thank all of our customers, friends and staff over the past 39 years for their amazing support; without all of you we wouldn’t be where we are today! Thank you for an amazing 39 years and we’re already dreaming up some huge celebrations for our 40th!

We know that these are unprecedented times for all of us and we’d love to be able to welcome you to Dimmingsdale and the Ramblers Retreat, but at the moment it just isn’t safe. So for now, we’ll be celebrating with you virtually, head over to our Facebook & Instagram (@RamblersAlton), where later in the day, we’ll be running competitions to win afternoon teas!

From all of us at the Ramblers, we’d like to say a huge thanks to all of our community, friends and guests. Stay safe, look after each other. We’ll see you sooner than you know!

Helen, Callum, Alberto, Gary & the amazing team Ramblers x

Enjoy a few classic shots of Dimmingsdale & the Ramblers Retreat below: