Speaker blog: Life of service with Sarah Dunning

Sarah Dunning

I was quite taken aback to be asked to speak at the Oxford Farming Conference and I hope I can do it justice. Although we run motorway service areas - Tebay on the M6 and Gloucester Services on the M5 - our business originally grew out of my parents’ traditional hill farm in Cumbria.

In the late 1960s the M6 was built through the farm and my parents, John and Barbara Dunning, opened Tebay Services in 1972. Their idea was to offer a warm welcome and a good meal in the beautiful countryside.

Now, 50 years later, our business remains as closely connected to our farm as ever. In fact, the business’s identity is centred around our close relationships with the farm, other farmers and food producers and the wider communities we are part of.

So it will be wonderful to be at the conference and feel amongst farming friends, sharing the challenges and opportunities which we all face within the industry. We are very much a family business; my sister Jane oversees the farm while I oversee the services’ side of the business. Our parents, now in their eighties, still take a keen interest in what we are doing! So, the issues of evolution and succession which many farms face are relevant to us too.

I am delighted that Will Evans has chosen the theme of diversity for the conference this year. Diversity is important in so many aspects of our businesses.  With 1,200 staff and opening 24 hours-a-day seven-days a week (even Christmas Day!) we embrace our uniqueness and diversity, rather than worrying what others are doing. Never has diversity been more important - within an industry and each individual business as well as diversity of thought - and I look forward to seeing how the theme plays out…

Sarah Dunning OBE DL is chair of Westmorland Limited – a second generation family business which operates motorway services in Cumbria, Scotland and Gloucestershire, as well as truck-driver services at Rheged. The business originally grew out of Hill Farm in Cumbria. The business seeks to celebrate its local communities by working with local farmers and food producers.

To meet the full line-up of speakers for OFC24, click here



OFC25 will take place from 8th to 10th January 2025, in Oxford and Online.

A programme teaser and tickets are now available by visiting our dedicated conference section.