Health concerns led a North Yorkshire couple to quit the rat race and open a cafe and gallery in the North York Moors national park

JANILAINE MAINPRIZE makes me a flat white coffee then shows me a small glass frame with four abstract objects inside.

Each shape is oval with tiny lines criss-crossing like a map.

They look like mini eggs, or those Russian stacking dolls that have tumbled over – seen via an x-ray.

"They are pebbles," begins Janilaine, as she perches on the end of a battered leather sofa in the cafe and gallery she runs with husband Kevin in Lockton, near Pickering, in the North York Moors.

"I've been obsessed with pebbles for years," says Janilaine, who used to live in Scarborough, where she was an art teacher. "People pick up pebbles and when you look at them again, you remember where you were when you found it. They are like markers in history and no two are the same."

But what she particularly tunes into are the lines or marks on the pebbles. It is these she replicates in her abstract mixed media pieces. The ovals in the glass frame she showed me are mere outlines of pebbles with their individual marks on show. You see, Janilaine has "marks" too – left over after surgeries for skin cancer. She is genetically disposed to a type of skin cancer and has had many malignant melanomas removed. She sweeps back her long, strawberry-blonde hair to show me the faintest scar on her cheekbone – the legacy from an earlier operation.

"I don't call them scars. People think scars are a bit grim and I don't see it as a grim thing. I see it as a sign of beauty. Like freckles. They are not ugly. They are what make people."

Husband Kevin has had his own health troubles too: he had to have a kidney transplant ten years ago, donated by his brother. The couple joke he has another two good kidneys in waiting should the transplanted one pack-up – courtesy of two more brothers who are also a match.

But Kevin is fighting fit. A trained chef, he worked in a factory for many years before returning to catering and opening the tea room. He tends an allotment nearby too ("just 158 paces away," says Janilaine), where he grows much of the produce used in the cafe.

On the lunch menu today is beetroot and apple soup. The beetroot is one of five varieties Kevin grows at the allotment, alongside courgettes, cabbage, leeks, artichokes, and salad items in a polytunnel. They keep ducklings and hens too.

The couple have fundraised this year for Yorkshire Kidney Research, and next year it will be for a cancer charity.

Janilaine says they have a lot to be thankful for and want to give something back: "We have got our money's worth from the NHS!" she says with a smile.

Crucially, their health battles have led them to the lives they have now. Five years ago, they got the chance to buy the village tea room at Lockton, complete with gallery space, rental holiday flat and cottage, where they now live. They jacked in their jobs and took the plunge. It allowed them to follow their passions: making art for Janilaine and cookery and photography for Kevin. Several of his moody black and white images are on the walls in the cafe tearoom, alongside artwork from other local artists. "Live is for living; we are lucky we are not poorly," says Kevin.

The mood in the cafe is one of relaxation and welcome. There are only around 120 villagers in Lockton, but it seems the couple know most of them. During my short visit, I lost count of the number of people who came in to be greeted by their first name. One regular arrived offering bags of windfall apples. "Great, we'll make an apple crumble," says Janilaine.

The mackerel on the lunch menu today has been caught by another regular, fished out of the sea at Whitby.

It's worth making the 40-minute drive from York just to refuel on the homemade bakes. There's a stunning Victoria sponge, worthy of any candidate on Bake Off, as well as two pies (treacle with a sea salt crumble and chocolate malt). Gluten-free options include brownies, a pear and raspberry loaf and a pistachio and lemon slice. There are fresh scones and a plate of rocky road, popular with passing cyclists, says Kevin.

The tea rooms are open Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm until October then weekends only until next February.

Twice a month, they also run an evening bistro called Tags, where you can bring your own bottle, and enjoy the likes of roast ham hock and pistachio terrine, venison steak with butternut squash and cavolo nero, and mango cheesecake with coconut sorbet (two courses £22.95/ three course £26.95, bookings essential).

There is no pub in Lockton, so the tearooms have rapidly become the heart of the community. There are around a dozen artists in the village, who this year held their own open studios event. Many of them exhibit and sell work from the tearoom gallery, including local award-winning photographer Mike Nowill. There is also a visiting Yorkshire-based artist once a season. Art and gifts are on sale in the tearooms and Janilaine is planning to run a series of art workshops from the base too.

She says she loves the community aspect of their business. "I want people to come in and enjoy each other's company and enjoy looking at the work on the walls."

The couple also throw themselves into Pickering's popular annual wartime weekend, which this year runs from October 12 to 14. In 'Allo 'Allo style, the cafe is renamed Rene's and Janilaine and Kevin dress up in Forties clothes and give the menu a French make-over.

Kevin says: "We do crepes, boeuf bourguignon, French onion soup – that sort of thing. We dress up in war-time clothes and create a little bit of Yorkshire in France."


Lockton Tearooms & Gallery

Hudgin Lane, Lockton, Pickering YO18 7QA

T: 01751 460467


The Loft holiday accommodation above the tearooms and gallery can be booked through