Community Spirit

I’m straying from my usual crafty ramblings  to share a little bit of the real life and community outside Planet Penny for once.  If you’ve been following this blog for a while you will know that I live in quite a rural part of Norfolk in the UK.  A corner of a muddy field as I frequently say!

Our ‘patch’ is a virtual island, with the river and Broads to one side of us, and the main Norwich to Great Yarmouth road creating a boundary on the other side, and in the middle three parishes which, while each having fiercely protected individual characters of their own, operate together very effectively.

Over the years things have changed, as is true in rural areas all over the UK, and gradually the local industry which kept the communities thriving has died away.  It takes a real effort of will to keep the community spirit thriving, and I’m so proud of where I live and what has been achieved.

In 2009 our wonderful eco built Village Hall was opened after many years of fundraising and diligent application for grants and this is now a thriving hub for the community.  We have a vibrant amateur dramatics company who keep us entertained two or three times a year, a Farmers Market, a Community Gym, WI, a choir, a band, Gardening club, well, I could go and on!

But last year we were all despair when we lost our last remaining village shop.  It had been in decline for sometime after the enterprising couple who had been running it very successfully moved on to pastures new, and things started to fall apart after that.   Less than a year ago the building was in the hands of the receivers, an undiscovered water leak had led to mould and rot throughout and it seemed all hope of having a shop was lost.

White House Stores Community Shop

But that was before a small group of enterprising and determined people got together.   Within a matter of weeks they had formed the The Three Villages Community Association Limited, come up with a business plan, got the local housing association on board, the Plunkett Foundation and the Lottery Fund and got the village together to put forward the proposal that we, as a community, would buy the premises and run it as a shop.

In order to qualify for the grants on offer the village had to come up with a certain proportion of the money, a not inconsiderable sum. Thanks to the hard work of the committee in working out a system whereby everyone could buy shares in affordable amounts we raised the amount just in time to qualify for the grants.

White House Store Community Shop

Unbelievable that was in July last year and with work starting in the depths of winter, and a huge amount of commitment being put in by volunteers, and donations from local businesses the shop opened today!

We had the most appalling weather for the Grand Opening.  The rain came down in buckets, the main street in the village had a virtual river running down it, but still dozens of people donned wellies, put up their colourful brollies and turned up to celebrate.

White House Store Community Shop Opening

Our MP, Norman Lamb came hotfoot from making waves in Westminster to make a speech and cut the ribbon. Everyone cheered and the visiting dog barked in all the right places!  It was all terribly British, especially the rain!

Tr Hon Norman Lamb MP opening shop

It’s run by volunteers, so the community spirit doesn’t stop here, but carries on.  I’m still trying to pluck up courage to man the till, I have a bad track record with tills, and am convinced I’ll either bankrupt the place in a week, or blow it up… I’m the window dresser though, and running the Facebook page and Twitter, and doing my shopping there, which is the most important thing!! Eat your heart out Mr Tesco…

White House Stores Community Shop Window

I wanted to share this with you because it just shows what can be achieved with the right community spirit.  Who knows, it might even make someone else think, yes, we can do this too and put the heart back into another village.  And last, but not least, anyone on holiday on the Norfolk Broads and finds themselves on Barton Broad can make a short trip down the dyke, walk a few hundred yards down the road, and find out for themselves just what a community shop is all about.

I might even see you there!

And now? Well the pub is up for sale….. any takers?

P.S.  If you would like to find out more, and see photos of the work and progress over the weeks visit the White House Stores Facebook Page and or follow us on Twitter @whitehousestore




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19 thoughts on “Community Spirit

  1. Aimee

    I wish I could have been there today! Very proud to have grown up in Neatishead. I can’t wait to see it!

  2. Trish

    Fantastic. We have a shop a post office and two pubs and we really couldn’t cope without them. The pub right across the road from us has changed landlord three times in two years and trade was dwindling. It has now been taken on by two local couples who are doing an excellent job of keeping it going.

  3. Toffeeapple

    What a marvellous story Penny, so heart-warming.

    I can’t cope with tills either, stay away from them, you’ll have enough to do with the window dressing and the internet doodahs.

    Good luck to all concerned!

  4. Debbie de Spon

    Congratulations. What a fantastic achievement. We could do with a community shop here in Ashwellthorpe, and they need one in Thurton too.

  5. Andrea

    A heartening story. Thanks for sharing it. I hope the project is well-supported and long may it last.

  6. RosMadeMe

    Well if you want something done, ask busy people… and look what has happened at your village… you should all be really proud!

    I love the clock, I think that there is something about a village clock that just brings a community together. All the very best with the shop!

  7. Fran

    What an amazing diversion from your crafty activities and lovely to hear about a community being just that…thank you for sharing

  8. spinthrift

    I just wanted to say how pleased I am to hear from you again. I was quite worried that your last post was “Feeling Blue & Grey” & then you seemed to fall off the radar! So how lovely to log on today & find 2 lovely upbeat posts from you. Your shop sounds lovely. I don’t do facebook (banned by my children!), but next time we are in Norfolk I’ll be in touch to find out where your village is to see if we can make a detour & buy some teabags or something.
    Take care
    Jane x

  9. spinthrift

    PS Just seen the first comment which mentions your village name ….. Neatishead is one of the places we go to in Norfolk because of the radar museum (my dad used to be in the RAF & loves to walk around shaking his head saying that these are the sorts of things that he used to work with everyday & he can’t believe that they are in a museum). Definitely hope to call at your shop now!

  10. Mrs. Micawber

    Penny, this is wonderful. Congratulations to all of you who worked so hard and faithfully to bring your village shop back to life. (I have read of a similar story in the U.S.)

    I work for a village shop myself, so I really appreciate those who are committed to supporting their local businesses.

    Your windows are sure to draw many customers! 🙂

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