Award for manager of highly rated coffee shop at HMP Leyhill

The manager of a highly rated coffee shop and café based in the grounds of HMP Leyhill Prison has won a surprise award.

Kaye Thomas received the honour from the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire in recognition of her work with the prison ‘residents’ and the quality service the café provides.

Leyhill Grounds Coffee Shop is open to the public and employs people who are in custody to increase their opportunities to find work on release.

It is a social enterprise run jointly by the prison and Weston College, which holds the contract to provide education in the prison.

Kaye’s award was presented by Charles Martell, the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, who visits the café on his regular visits to Leyhill.

“It was a wonderful surprise,” said Kaye. “Ray Johnson, the prison governor, called me into a room to, apparently, talk about buying some new blinds for the café.

“I was then presented with the award by Charles Martell. The High Sheriff of Somerset and the future High Sheriff of Gloucestershire had come as well. There were a few tears in my eyes I don’t mind admitting.”

The award recognises Kaye’s efforts in developing the social, communication and employability skills of the employees, who are all residents of the prison.

“It’s a very rewarding job,” said Kaye. “As well barista and catering training, we provide work experience and help residents develop the broader skills they’ll need to secure jobs on release.

“Everyone who works in the café has to hand in a CV and is interviewed – just like any job. It’s great when former employees get back in touch to say how well they’re doing and how we helped them.”

Leyhill Grounds is clearly proving a big hit with customers. It’s currently the top-ranked coffee and tea shop in Gloucester on TripAdvisor, and second in the list of ‘places to eat’ in the city. Out of 73 reviews, 70 people have given the shop a top rating of “excellent”.

Here’s a selection of customer views:

“First visit to the coffee shop this morning, and will definitely return. A first class breakfast, the lads that work there are lovely, very friendly and obviously love what they do, Much recommended.”

“This is the best breakfast at the best price in the Thornbury area. Spotlessly clean and good service. The breakfasts are well cooked and not at all greasy.”

“Great welcome, friendly staff and excellent food. Everyone is made to feel welcome. An excellent place to stop, about a minute from the M5 junction 14.”

“We stopped here for brunch on our way from Bristol to Cheltenham – what a find! The staff are mainly residents of HMP Leyhill, training in various aspects of the catering business. We both opted for the breakfast which was freshly prepared and delicious, a generous size portion at a very reasonable price. The counter staff on that day, Paul and Shane, were welcoming and helpful. Paul in particular was keen to explain the ethos of “Grounds” which we found very interesting. Highly recommend.”

Leyhill Grounds is based at Leyhill Prison in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.

As well as an outstanding range of freshly prepared coffee, it provides a full breakfast and lunch menu, and weekly specials.