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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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