How the Prince's Countryside Fund helped the community shop at Strood Green become a reality
PUBLISHED: 14:10 14 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:46 14 January 2014
Here in Surrey, one group that has already benefited from the Prince's Countryside Fund are the villagers of Strood Green. Having lost their Post Office, they grafted hard and now have a successful community-run shop
To donate to The Prince’s Countryside Fund, please go to www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/archant
Following the loss of their Post Office in 2005, the Strood Green community decided to stand together to try and bring back services to their village. By October 2008, nearly £80,000 had been raised in grants, donations, share sales and loans, enabling the Strood Green Shop Association to start renovations to a very dilapidated shop unit.
But without funding from the Plunkett Foundation, which helps rural communities tackle the problems they face and is supported by The Prince’s Countryside Fund, it might never have happened.
“We probably wouldn’t have been able to set up the shop without Plunkett, as at the time they were delivering a wonderful scheme whereby we had to
raise £20,000 from the village that they then matched,” says Helen Melia, a committee member for The Shop at Strood Green and community advisor for
the Plunkett Foundation. “This got us off the ground.” The shop was opened on March 21, 2009, by one of Strood Green’s older residents, John Beaven, along with Toby Songhurst, who at eight years old was the youngest volunteer at the shop.
“Since then, we have had several occasions when we have benefited from support and advice from Plunkett,” continues Helen. “Having become established, we have been proud to be able to help new-start community shops by hosting Plunkett-sponsored study visits, including one recently funded by the PCF.”
A social place
Today, a dedicated team of volunteers has created a true village shop at the heart of the community, where people come not just to shop, but to meet others and socially interact. The shop has expanded too, with a lovely new café being opened and with plans to increase its offering.
“Business is thriving and we are confident that we can offer not only what our local community wants but also support other groups such as cyclists and ramblers, who enjoy stopping for a cup of tea and a warm welcome,” says Helen.
Having seen their project grow and grow, they are now keen to pass on their experience and to encourage other villages that might themselves be in a similar situation. “A community shop is a very special place,” says Helen. “Sometimes it can be difficult, of course, to get the jobs done, find the right staff levels, keep the volunteer base up, and have the committee strength necessary to run a successful business – but our advice would be to
go for it, hold your nerve, keep campaigning for support, and trust in the power of community.”
The Strood Green story certainly inspires a second glance at any local premises that may have seen better days. Could the community shop wave catch on in Surrey?
The Shop at Strood Green, 1 Tynedale Road, Strood Green, Brockham RH3 7JD. For more information see, theshopatstroodgreen.co.uk