Hub of village life

New community shop and post office are the ‘hub’ of village
life

Years of hard work and fund-raising by people in a
Gloucestershire village have paid off with the opening of a shop
and Post Office in new premises at the heart of their
community.

Villagers ran the Down Ampney village shop in a portable
building for 12 years and the Post Office was sited in a cottage on
the outskirts of the village. Now both are in a more accessible
‘hub’ in the centre of Down Ampney as the result of a joint venture
between the respective committees of the village hall, the shop
society, the parish council and the Rural Development Programme for
England (RDPE).

Proudly promoted with the slogan ‘run by the community for the
community’, the new annexe of the hall has been fitted out as shop,
Post Office and café. It will be run as a social enterprise, with
volunteers staffing it. The new 100 square metre extension to the
recently re-built village hall was made possible by a grant from
the RDPE which supplied £196,045 of the £261,935 total project
costs. The RDPE funding is part of the social and community
enterprise theme to improve or maintain the living conditions and
welfare of people living in rural areas.

The official opening of the shop, Post Office and cafe in
September was undertaken by Brian Robinson, a member of the South
West RDA’s Board. Julie Girling, MEP, also attended along with
representatives from surrounding villages. They were among more
than 150 people at the opening, demonstrating the tremendous
support for the new facility.

 

“It is very clear that there is tremendous local support for
this hub and it’s pleasing to see how the Rural Development
Programme for England has contributed to its success,” Brian
Robinson said.

“A facility like this is such a good beacon site for other rural
communities who need the same level of community spirit if they are
to retain their identity in the challenging times ahead.”

It was a proud and satisfying moment for local people who had
raised more than £30,000 towards the costs of the new village hall
through a range of innovative fund raising events over the
years.

“The Village Shop has provided a vital addition to life in Down
Ampney over the years and we are very proud of what local people
have achieved,” said David Job, Chairman of the Village Hall
Committee.

“With the new premises we are now able to offer new services
including a café area and freshly baked bread. We also hope to
increase our lines in organic, fair trade and locally sourced
produce.”

The story began 12 years ago when the village’s privately run
shop closed. Concerned at the loss of the much-needed facility, the
Down Ampney Village Shop Society set up a community shop in a
portable building. They undertook a variety of fund-raising
activities and it was through Gloucestershire Rural Community
Council (GRCC) that they heard about the RDPE.

“The initial shop in the portacabin was always intended as a
temporary solution as we aimed to have a permanent facility for the
shop and Post Office,” said Sheila Bull, chairman of the Shop
Society since 1999.

“This has now been achieved and we are very grateful to the RDPE
for all its help and support along with the other funding
organisations such as the Village CORE Programme, Gloucestershire
Community Foundation, Gloucestershire First Business Support and
Enhancement (GCC), Gloucestershire Rural Community Council (GRCC),
the landowner the Co-operative Group and our own Village Hall
Committee and the Parish Council.”

“Of course, we cannot stress too much how this whole venture
over the years has only been possible because of our large band of
dedicated volunteers and members.”

The annex has been built with environmentally sustainable
systems to reduce carbon footprint and features solar and
photovoltaic panels, light tubes, an air source heat pump and
rainwater harvesting.

David Job is proud of the way the hub has been developed over
the past 20 years and he is delighted with the way in which
villagers worked together and sought the right help and advice for
the final stage.

“We had excellent advice from James Lloyd and Alan Titcombe at
the RDPE who explained the process to us and how we might qualify
for a grant,” he said.

“It’s a real pat on the back for everyone involved but if it
hadn’t have been for Sheila’s efforts all those years ago when the
privately-run shop closed, things might never have got off the
ground.”

Down Ampney, which is a popular destination for tourists in the
Cotswolds, is the birth place of Ralph Vaughan Williams and is the
location of the Veterans’ Arnhem Memorial commemorating war time
operations from Down Ampney Airfield.

Images

Image shows: Celebrating the opening of the new shop and post
office are (left to right) Mr Preston, Brian Robinson, Sheila Bull
Chair of Down Ampney Village Shop Society, Pam Cook Secretary;
Keith Cook; Co-opted member and joint manager for the build
project. Photo taken by Keith Cook.