Ambulance manager turns over a new leaf with Aylsham cafe venture

Jennie Farenden previously worked as an ambulance manager but now runs a cafe in Aylsham. Picture: B

Jennie Farenden previously worked as an ambulance manager but now runs a cafe in Aylsham. Picture: Broadland District Council. - Credit: Broadland District Council.

A cafe and north Norfolk resident have begun their next chapter, as a former ambulance manager has taken over a catering business in Aylsham.

Jennie Farenden previously worked as a regional manager for the ambulance service, but after many tiring and stressful years, knew it was time for a change.

'I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I like feeding people so I thought of a café,' she said. 'I did a lot of creative things outside my job - I spent a few months doing a lot of baking. I thought 'this is something I can do and it makes me feel better'.'

In May, Ms Farenden bought an existing cafe and delicatessen in Penfold Street, Aylsham, just a few miles from her home.

She worked an eight week handover period with the previous owner, learning the trade, changing the space to her taste and removing the delicatessen.

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'I knew starting and running the café would be hard work and everyone told me it would be, so I was prepared for it,' she continued. 'What I didn't realise was how hard it would be on my feet!'

Before taking over the Conservatory Café, the new owner went on a food hygiene course, where she was advised to contact the Environmental Health department at Broadland District Council.

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They then put her in touch with the council's Business Support team, who have worked with her on everything from planning permission to food hygiene standards.

'Broadland District Council has been very supportive,' said Ms Farenden. 'The Environmental Health team has sent food away to be tested for free, which is a service I'm not sure everyone knows exists. I have been on a marketing course and am receiving one-to-one support from Joanne Kerrison in the Economic Development team.'

The Conservatory Café offers home-cooked food, which uses, where possible, locally sourced produce.

It uses Norfolk and Nelson tea, Candi's Chutneys and Breckland Orchard drinks.

They also serve vegan and gluten-free options and people can book a day in advance to have her 'extravagant' afternoon tea.

Although setting up the business has been hard work, help has been at hand.

'I have got some great staff and an amazing family,' said Farenden.

'My daughter works here and so does my mum and the support I have had from both family and friends has been fantastic.

'When I put something on Facebook one day asking if anyone could come and help do some washing up at the cafe, I quickly got a call from someone saying 'I'm on my way'.'

The Conservatory Café in Penfold Street, Aylsham is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm.

If you are thinking of starting a business in Broadland and would like help and support from Broadland District Council, call 01603 43449 or email

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