End of the line for Swanage’s buffet car café?

A campaign by a local resident has been launched urging Swanage Railway to keep the Bird’s Nest Buffet at Swanage Station.

The vintage buffet car carriage has operated for many years as a popular café but closed at the start of the pandemic due to Covid restrictions and has never been reopened.

Bird's Nest Buffet at Swanage Railway
Bird's Nest Buffet at Swanage Railway

The Bird’s Nest Buffet at Swanage Station

Petition has quickly gained signatures

A petition to keep the café in Swanage, started by local resident and former staff member of the Bird’s Nest Buffet, Laura Roberts has already attracted lots of signatures.

Swanage Railway plans to move the Bird’s Nest Buffet to Corfe Castle Station, now that it has opened a refreshment kiosk in the Swanage Station booking hall.

Inside Bird's Nest Buffet

The Bird’s Nest Buffet in happier pre-Covid times

“Friendly, happy and positive atmosphere”

Laura Roberts said:

“The Bird’s Nest Buffet is loved by so many who visit the Swanage Railway. It had a friendly, happy and positive atmosphere. All the staff welcomed everyone who came through the door.

“The buffet team welcomed many new volunteers from the town, including people who had learning difficulties.

“This gave many people in the town opportunities they may not have gotten elsewhere and encouraged them to have confidence in themselves and their abilities. This includes myself, who has struggled with anxiety and a lack of self confidence.

“When I started at the Bird’s Nest I was very shy and barely talked to anyone, but with encouragement, patience, understanding and support of the Bird’s Nest team I became more confident and gained skills to use within my voluntary job and throughout life. They were so impressed with my growth that they offered me a paid job.

“The Bird’s Nest Buffet provided a clean, safe and happy environment for everyone in the town and anyone visiting the town to enjoy a mug of tea and watch the steam locomotives go past the window.”

Bird's Nest Buffet at Swanage Railway
Bird's Nest Buffet at Swanage Railway

The Bird’s Nest Buffet had its own platform built to provide an outside seating area

True trainspotter’s paradise

Around ten years ago, a special platform was built for the Bird’s Nest Buffet allowing customers to sit either inside the carriage or on tables outside on the platform.

The unique location is a true trainspotter’s paradise allowing visitors to eat sandwiches and drink tea without missing any of the steam train action.

Its central location at the top of Station Road also attracted tourists visiting the town who were won over by its vintage charm and cream teas.

Despite not being open for two years, the Tripadvisor review website gives it a rating of 4 out of 5.

Bird's Nest Buffet at Swanage Railway

In the past, customers could enjoy the Swanage Railway gardens and watch the trains

“Lose a piece of Swanage Railway history”

Laura added:

“This petition is to save the Bird’s Nest and keep her in Swanage where she currently is and use her as a café like she used to be and reinstate the staff on their old contracts.

“If we lose, we will lose a piece of Swanage Railway history and somewhere we can all sit and relax and enjoy the trains in the garden with a mug of tea. The Bird’s Nest deserves love and she deserves better.

“I don’t mean any harm to the railway, I want them to be as successful as possible. I just want to save the Bird’s Nest Buffet as she has been so important to me. The railway has been supportive over the years and I will always be grateful to them.”

Swanage Railway Station

“Swanage has many catering outlets that compete with the Bird’s Nest”

Swanage Railway has confirmed that it does intend to move the Bird’s Nest Buffet to Corfe Castle, where it will offer the same facilities but with less competition.

Swanage Railway chairman Gavin Johns said:

“While we appreciate the views of the petitioners, the new Swanage station kiosk café meets the needs of our customers and moving the Bird’s Nest to Corfe Castle station will offer improved facilities that will be greatly appreciated by our customers.

“Swanage has many catering outlets that compete with the Bird’s Nest so we decided to re-locate the facility to Corfe Castle – where there is no catering facility – to meet the needs of the visitors to our heritage station and museum, the village and the castle ruins. The new Bird’s Nest at Corfe Castle will offer the same facilities as it did at Swanage.

“The Bird’s Nest at Swanage station closed at the start of the 2020 pandemic and it was not possible to re-open it while covid restrictions were in place because of the carriage’s internal configuration.

“In the meantime, we were able to open a covid regulation compliant kiosk café operation in the spacious booking hall at Swanage station that now serves our customers.”

Further information

  • More about the campaign to keep the Bird’s Nest Buffet in Swanage is on the petition website
  • Details of the facilities offered by Swanage Railway are on its website

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