The Village Shop in Lodsworth Larder

PUBLISHED: 18:27 24 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:54 20 February 2013

The Village Shop in Lodsworth Larder

The Village Shop in Lodsworth Larder

Village shops are taste of the month at the moment, particularly with the story about the battle to save Ambridge's store in The Archers. At least one community in Sussex was ahead of them, the incredibly eco-friendly Lodsworth Larder...

Lodsworth Larder is a particularly modern success story. It all started with Juliet Bristow, the village publicans wife, musing one night in the bar about how good it would be to have a shop again.

As recently as 1988, the village of 350 households had two shops, including the post office, two pubs and two garages. Now there was just one pub, the one she was standing in, the Hollist Arms.

These musings led to her calling a public meeting and the germ of an idea that would become reality was planted.

Locals backed the scheme by bearing shares in the shop and supporting fundraising ventures such as stalls at the village fete and fashion evenings. They continue to support the venture by volunteering to work there and, of course, by shopping there.

The owner of the Hollist Arms, Tony Barnes, helped by allowing the shop to lease the land in the pub car park for 1 a year.

More grant money was attracted when the organising committee decided to take the green build route and engaged villager and famous woodsman Ben Law to build the shop from sustainable timber and other eco-friendly materials.

Bens quote was not only much cheaper than alternative, more conventional means of production but allowed the committee to pursue a wide range of grants available to greener projects.

Now villagers have a shop to be proud of that is a real hub for the community. There are two full-time members of staff, Reba Weller and Andy Mills who between them cover 60 hours a week as well as 30 volunteers.

The total cost, including the initial stock came in at around 160,000. The shop is aiming for a turnover of around 200,000, or an average of around 4,000 a week, or 5 per customer, to remain viable. The fact it is celebrating its first anniversary is a testament to the hard work and commitment of all involved.

The building generates much of its own electricity from photovoltaic panels on the roof and the shop team estimates that it saves about 4,000 miles of travel a week for its 800 customers because they come to them rather than travelling further afield.

It offers full services for the Royal Mail but not Post Office services like pensions. It is also a collection centre for prescriptions. It has web access which is popular in the village and has been used by a midwife to send test results back to the local hospital when she couldnt get a signal on her own equipment.

The shop opened on November 7, 2010. Now the aim is to cement and build on its success and keep going.

The shop which was designed by Petworth-based architect Valerie Hinde, won a Public & Community Award from the Sussex Heritage Trust in their 2010 awards.

Martin Lester

Martin, who was in advertising, before he retired, is chairman of Lodsworth Larder Ltd, which is incorporated as an industrial provident society registered as a not- for-profit community shop

He took over from James Tree who saw the whole plan through from inception until he retired from the committee in February this year.

We raised about 14,000 through shareholders. The village then raised money from the village fete, from running dress shows, bric a brac and cake stalls. I think we raised another 4,000 that way.

Then we got our first breakthrough with the Plunkett Foundation virsa. They give grants to village shops to start with matching loans from the Co-op.

Then everything from there on was matching funds. Originally we were going to build a stone and brick building and some of the villagers thought it was too big and it would have been two and a half times the amount of money we paid for having it built this way.

After we decided to go with Ben Law, we had a mission statement saying that we would serve the local community with local produce in a building built locally and from materials that have been sourced locally. We also got tremendous help from W L West and Sons, the local timber merchants.

Martin has followed the storyline in The Archers with interest. I wrote to the producer to say why dont you get some of the cast down here to learn how to run a village shop.

What is interesting is that we have people outside the village who come here to shop and say wed like to come and work here for a couple of hours a week because they love the atmosphere so much.

He says that the shop is a real boon to the community already.

It has become a real community hub. It is in here that you suddenly hear, Have you seen Mabel today because shes normally out.

We will deliver to people who are ill. If they just phone in the morning, we will take the shopping out to them.

Martin says the shop fits well with the community-minded nature of the village.

Were a very social village. Two years ago we started having films at the village hall and its a sell-out. We had 130 people for Mamma Mia. We have bridge, we have tennis, we have football, we have cricket, we have a book club. There are so many activities, its just unreal.

He is proud of the range of the stock on offer in the shop: Some of our 1,400 items are luxuries rather than necessities, like Bendicks chocolates and things like that.

We sell local meat, bread, milk and wherever possible it is all produced in Sussex. We sell surplus produce from the allotment too, so it is truly local.

Jill Halfhide

Jill who lives in the village has been a volunteer at the shop since it opened.

She does one morning a week from 8.30 to 1. She got involved because she wanted the shop to do well and because she gets to meet other locals.

Its sociable, you meet all the people in the village and its one way to meet people by being here.

I think everyone should do something voluntary if they can for some charity or whatever. Apart from being somewhere to meet, when you suddenly want something in a hurry you can rush up here and get it.

Juliet Bristow

Juliet came up with the idea of opening a shop about two-and-a-half years ago while pondering on the village in the bar of her and her husband Georges pub, the Hollist Arms.

She called a meeting in the pub where 80 people turned up which was the beginning of all the work that ended with Lodsworth Larder opening on 7 November, 2009.

I had been thinking of it for a long, long time. Weve lived here for a long, long time. The one thing my children would have loved when they were growing up was a village shop they could have cycled to.

Nowadays people are very interested in things local and if it didnt work now it was never going to work ever.

Juliet thinks that a key moment was when Ben Law got involved. The original idea had been to renovate some of the pubs old buildings but then the committee members realised they could do something really special.

It really took off because suddenly it became a community, eco-friendly local sustainable business that we could get grants for.

She said the support in the village and from further afield was amazing.

The village have been fantastic and very, very supportive. Many of them are shareholders which is a way of being a supporter.

People were fascinated by the work. It wasnt a noisy build and we had shareholders from London, Edinburgh and Birmingham. Then we sold tiles. We had the tiles on the bar and people signed their names on the back for 1. So every single tile on that roof has somebodys name on it.

Juliet believes that the pub and shop fit well together: It was my idea and I feel they work with each other as opposed to being against each other.

The overlap is very little and we work together. Its a great place to come and have lunch here and go and do your shopping afterwards. It gives people a destination.

Ben Law

Ben Law lives and works at Prickly Nut Woods in West Sussex, where apart from making a living from coppicing he trains apprentices and runs courses on sustainable woodland management, ecobuilding and permaculture design. He is author of The Woodland Way, a permaculture approach to sustainable woodland management and The Woodland House, which charts the building of his unique cruck framed home in the woods. The building of his house was filmed for Channel 4's Grand Designs programme and proved to be the most popular programme of the series. Ben now runs occasional open days in response to the popular demand.

He has written another book about his building techniques which includes Lodsworth Larder called Roundwood Timber Framing.

Ben says he got involved because he wanted to support the local community where he lived.

I supported the plan for the shop from the start as it would be useful for me to use and I believe in reducing the mileage travelled to shop.

Later he quoted for building the shop and it was much cheaper than the cost of the conventional plans that were considered at first.

Our costs are lower because we arent bringing things in from all over the place.

Ben said most of the main materials in the building, apart from the glass, came from a 10-mile radius.

The main frame, cladding and floorboards all come from within Lodsworth parish about two miles away. The shingles come from the Cowdray Estate.

The building stands on Fittleworth stone and reclaimed York stone slabs.Ben said the building should lasta couple of hundred years with proper maintenance.

Just look at some of the buildings at the Weald and Downland Museum if you want to see how long they can last.

Ben said that now the shopwas running, he is one of themain customers.

I use it all the time. I dont have to shop anywhere else for most ofmy basics. Village shops will only survive if they are well stocked. Lodsworth Larder is really doing that.

I think the whole community side of it has been brilliant. There are two main communities in a village. You have the village pub and the church. The shop is the place where the two meet.

Latest from the Sussex Life