Popular Brownlow Café at Ashridge Estate will close in the new year

The National Trust decided not to renew the lease at the cafe, which has been run by a husband and wife team for 12 years
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Brownlow Café at the Ashridge Estate Monument will be closing in the new year after the National Trust decided not to renew the lease.

The café has been run by Jensigne Molbeck-Blyth and her husband Ian, from Ivinghoe, for 12 years and has been a popular location at the Ashridge Estate.

One lady, who contacted this website, after seeing on the Brownlow Cafe Facebook page that the lease has been terminated and the café was due to close on January 2, said the move was a 'grave error'.

Calls for National Trust to renew lease for Brownlow Café at Ashridge EstateCalls for National Trust to renew lease for Brownlow Café at Ashridge Estate
Calls for National Trust to renew lease for Brownlow Café at Ashridge Estate

She said: "The café is a local favourite, and every time I have visited it has been packed.

"In my view the National Trust has made a grave error in closing the café and by doing so is going to drive down the numbers of people coming to Ashridge Estate, which would be a real shame and change the experience of going to the estate forever.

"It is also disappointing that the National Trust isn’t doing more to support a clearly successful local business.

"We love going to the café because it has great food and lovely staff. It is also nice to support a local business, and clearly lots of people agree as it is always busy."

The National Trust will be offering refreshments in the form of a temporary outlet and has plans for a new café proposition.

Jensigne said: "We (my Husband Ian and I) and our fantastic small team have worked tirelessly over the past 12 years to make the Brownlow Café at Ashridge the thriving venue that it has become, with visitors appreciating our ethos of freshly made food (using independent local suppliers where possible) in naturally beautiful surroundings.

"It has become a lively social hub for exercise clubs, mum's groups, families and friends to meet for breakfast, lunch, drinks and snacks including our locally famous fresh cream scones!

"After leasing the café from the National Trust for more than a decade we were informed of the notice of termination of our lease by letter on the 1 August this year, with no clear reason provided.

"Nobody came to see us personally to discuss the decision and we have not been given an opportunity appeal it.

"Like most in the hospitality sector, we've experienced a tough time as a business as a result of the pandemic and the associated restrictions.

"With the help of our lovely team, we've done everything possible to re-establish the café and deliver delicious food and refreshments to the high standards enjoyed by our customers, 6 days per week, 52 weeks of the year.

"After three years either party had the legal option not to extend the lease for an additional 2 years, however we are shocked that this has been invoked upon us without any prior discussion or consultation, particularly given our significant efforts to successfully build our business back up.

"We are very grateful for the huge amount of support that we have received from our loyal customers.

"However, most regrettably, it appears that we will have no option but to close the Brownlow Café on 2nd January 2022."

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A spokesperson for the National Trust said: “There are times when we need to revisit arrangements and make changes to our visitor offer. Amongst those changes, we have ended our contract with Brownlow Café at Ashridge.

"While we are unable to comment on individual agreements, we would like to thank the Brownlow team for the contribution they have made to visitors over the years.

"We also want to reassure visitors that we will still offer refreshments, initially in the form of a temporary outlet, which will be open 7 days a week.

"We will soon be sharing an update about our exciting new café proposition, proposed to open in the spring, so please keep an eye on our property web page for more information.

"Visitors should not see a disruption to the service and we hope they will welcome the extended opening to suit their needs.”