26 May 2015

Let Us Talk of ... The Village Shop

Vote Here

It is occasionally hard to think what to write about when attempting to keep up a weekly post here on  my "Tuesday Talk" slot.

 Often I take the easy option and invite guests to write something.
(I'm open to volunteers!) but today I want to highlight our Village Shop.

Chittlehamholt is a small village in North Devon. The nearest town is South Molton, about six miles by road away. It was originally 'a clearing in the wood' and became a logging station to which the people of the  nearby village, Chittlehampton, came to cut timber. Eventually it grew into a separate hamlet. Through the Middle Ages to the reign of Henry VIII, the land was a park belonging to the earls of Devon, and until 1885, a part of Chittlehampton - known as the South Quarter.

Chittlehamholt Woods
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Chittlehamholt like this:

"CHITTLEHAM-HOLT, a chapelry in Chittlehampton parish, Devon; on the river Taw, 3½ miles SW of South Molton, and 5 E of Umberleighr. station. Post town, South Molton, North Devon. Pop., 317. The manor belongs to the family of Brown. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Exeter. Value, £82. Patrons, the Trustees of Lord Rolle. The church is a modern structure in the early English style, founded by the late Lord Rolle."

The Village Pub - The Exeter Inn, is a sixteenth century coaching inn. The road through Chittlehamholt was, then, the main Barnstaple to Exeter road - Exeter being about thirty miles away. I assume the Exeter Inn was probably a place where they changed horses. When it came on the market in 1918 it was sold for £550.

Chittlehamholt Village Hall
We have a very nice Village Hall where various functions from the monthly Parish Council meetings to a Dance Club and Quiz Nights are held. Once a month there is a 'drop in' lunch provided by some of the fabulous cooks of the village. Ron (my husband ) and I try not to miss these! But like many rural villages, the public buildings and facilities have disappeared: the bus service vanished, the Mobile Library comes but once a month, the school house is no longer a school, and the Post Office and small General Store closed.

But there is something wonderful about Village Life that you don't get in larger towns - and most definitely not in cities beyond the immediate neighbours in your street. 
And that something is Community.
Everyone knows everyone else - and mostly care about everyone else. If someone is ill, people notice and offer help; we say hello and stop and chat, and even when there is a difference of opinion over something, on the whole, feelings remain friendly. 

The Taw Valley, North Devon near Chittlehamholt
In January 2013 we moved from a London Suburb to an eighteenth century farmhouse about one mile outside the village. We were immediately welcomed into the community - I know most of the villagers (at least by sight if not name ... my fault I can't remember names!) Back in Walthamstow I knew one neighbour as a friend and one neighbour as a downright 100% nuisance because of the noise and her continuous stream of crude language (this despite her young children). Beyond that... no idea of anyone. I did not even know the local shop keepers (partly because one had no  knowledge of English whatsoever.)

What has made Chittlehamholt expand its "friendliness" is the opening of our Village Shop two years ago. 
A Community Shop, not run for profit, and 'manned' by Volunteers. I am not one of the Volunteers (my poor eyesight couldn't cope with small labels and the buttons on the till - but I do manage the Village Blog instead - so I do my bit!)

It is a log-cabin style, not very large and does not stock an enormous quantity of goods (well the village has less than 100 houses in it!) But for fresh milk, butter, cheese (Devon made) Bread, meat, (also local) and household essentials the shop provides nicely. 

And then there is the homemade or homegrown produce - cakes, pasties, jam, marmalade (oh you should try the marmalade!) Fruit, veg, salad ... and all of it topped by a cheery volunteer manning the Till ... and the coffee bar in one corner, where, unless it is a nice day and villagers and visitors can sit on the bench outside, it is enjoyable to sit and chat.

And this is where I want to share our Shop and Community with you. 
We have been nominated for the People's Choice Award, run by the Plunkett Foundation Community Co-operative Awards 2015. The Plunkett Foundation helps rural communities through co-operatives and community-ownership, to take control of the issues affecting them - i.e. helps with setting up a Community Shop like ours.

Our Shop is one of three enterprises nominated for the shortlist.
For this award the judges were looking for exemplary community enterprises making a difference to a vulnerable individual or group of people; it could have been on a one-off occasion or continually. 

This is what was submitted for us, the Chilttlehamholt Community Shop, Devon:
Since this Community Shop opened, the volunteers have become a close, supportive group, conscious of the needs of the disadvantaged and quick to respond positively.  Typical of this is the case of Tim and Heather.
They arrived in the village at the time the shop was opening.  Heather suffers from MS relying on wheel-chair or motorised mobility scooter.  Tim, her husband, is full-time carer.  Attracted by the friendly atmosphere in the shop, Heather wanted to be part of this, ie a volunteer. 
Thanks to her tenacity, some encouragement and re-organisation she was soon behind the counter, serving.
Recognising her limitations, volunteers rallied to support her and maximise her input.  This included becoming responsible for the Volunteer Rota.  She is always keen to be in the shop and all of this was recognised when she was elected to the Management Committee.
Each Thursday volunteers take Heather to a day-long embroidery and quilting workshop.  This provides Tim with respite and a chance to play golf.  Heather can pursue her hobby.  Other volunteers ensure they have opportunities to socialise.
Heather confides that being appreciated has been a blessing, we notice the difference and importantly, so does her consultant.

Our Community Shop has become the heart of the village - it is not just a place to grab a pint of milk or bottle of ketchup because you forgot to buy it from the supermarket. Our shop is a place to come for a chat and a coffee, to meet other villagers, to cement that feeling of being part of a community or welcomed as a visitor, a place to share news (and a gossip). It is also the place to go if you want a good laugh!

Results will be announced at the end of June

And this is where YOU come in!
We need VOTES

graphic designed by AvalonGraphics

The Village of Chittlehamholt 
very much appreciates your support! 
Thank you!
(voting closes 1st June)


* * * * * 
Related Book to Read:

Purely by chance I came across a Facebook Post by my good friend, Historical Fiction author Elizabeth Chadwick today. Her Keeper Shelf Tuesday post, where she mentions one of her all-time favourite reads. 
It caught my attention:
"Today one of my non historical reads. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand joined my keeper shelf in 2010. What is it about? Here's the blurb from the back that explains it well.
'Major Ernest Pettigrew (Ret'd) is not interested in the frivolity of the modern world. Since his wife's death, he has tried to avoid the constant bother of the village women, his ambitious son and the suburbanisation of the English countryside. He prefers to lead a quiet life, upholding the values that people have lived by for generations – respectability, duty and a properly brewed cup of tea (very much not served in a polystyrene cup with the teabag left in). But when his brother's death, and a love of Kipling sparks an unexpected friendship with the widowed village shopkeeper, Mrs Ali, the Major is forced to confront the realities of the 21st century.'
A lovely, warm, humorous comfort blanket of a book that's never mawkish."

Village Life, Village Gossip  and the Village Shop? Well, I went straight to Amazon and downloaded a copy onto my Kindle!

Now that I've finished writing this, I might just go and sit in the garden and read it!
(and, my readers and friends you now know why my next book isn't written yet... Village Life and Country Living  you see!) 


  1. I've cast my vote for your shop, Helen. Let me tell you, while I'm here, about another village shop. I live in Shropshire in a place small enough to have no shop, no church and no pub. About 3 miles from here is a village where I lived for a number of years. The village is called Knockin. It has a shop (and a church, and a pub). And, yes, the shop is called what you imagine it would be called.

    1. Thanks John... of course I have no idea what you are implying about your village shop.... *laugh* !

  2. Thanks for all the details Helen. I have voted for your shop! I do love reading your blog excerpts. They're as welcome as tea and biscuits and a moment to relax and breathe out - although I know you've had to take the time and effort to write all those lovely breath of fresh air posts. Thank you!
    P.s. Hope you enjoy Major Pettigrew the novel. xx

    1. Thank you Elizabeth - especially as I know you are very busy proof-reading your next novel The Winter Queen. But talking of tea and biscuits, I need to send Ron up to the shop for some digestives....:)

    2. Oh forgot to add - I'm Loving Major Pettigrew, reminds me a bit of Mary Wesley's books (Camomile Lawn etc)


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