Zoo-loo! Shropshire train station's toilet far from bog standard
A Shropshire railway station with a thriving cafe and one of the most eye-catching public toilets in Britain has won two awards.
Severn Dee Travel, which has a booking office at Gobowen Station, near Oswestry, runs the waiting room at the station and fitted out a small corner with cafe facilities, now run by students from the nearby Derwen College.
The link-up won the community rail awards category for working with diverse groups while another student project, painting the bland public toilets to resemble the African Savannah, took second place in the loo with a view category.
Abi Baker, from the Derwen College, for those with learning disabilities, said the cafe, open between 7.15am and 3pm during term time, provided real work experience for the students.
"It is such a popular placement that we have a waiting list for students who want to work in the cafe," she said.
"We have a wide menu that includes a drink and homemade cake deal and a meal deal with the sandwich made to order."
Sheila Dee, from Severn Dee Travel, added: "The cafe is a real asset for the station and very well used.
"Severn Dee Travel does not charge the college, to us the added benefit is that the village and passengers are provided with a café, where none existed and added to that the availability of local produce such as jams and preserves that are made at the college.
"All that is asked of the students is that they keep the waiting room and toilets clean and comfortable."
Derwen College embraced that plea by using the public toilets for an unusual art project.
They painted 360 degree murals on the walls of the toilets with animals usually found on African safari.
"We have so many comments about how amazing the toilets are," Mrs Dee said.
"They have transformed our loo into a loo with a view which has made everyone smile and built on the uniqueness that is Gobowen station. The partnership between the two organisations continues to flourish and we were delighted when Ofsted rated the college as outstanding this year and the railway station cafe was praised.
Judges in the community rail awards said: "The mutual understanding between these two organisations has brought great benefits to the community and railway.
"Here is a staffed station, staffed differently. This is community rail in action working with a range of people and abilities.
"There are no large cheque books here, there's lots of goodwill and time devoted to it but the outputs are as great and wide as they can be with everyone gaining something good from the experience."
Meanwhile, a community scheme to buy Gobowen Station's buildings for the village has been unveiled.
The SOS Gobowen Station Appeal wants to raise funds for the £150,000 purchase cost and more funds to restore the Grade 2 listed properties which, it says, are in a sorry state. The Gobowen Area Improvement Group says it wants to ensure the future of the buildings and help local businesses to flourish.