How the villagers of Bishop's Caundle saved their Post Office
PUBLISHED: 10:54 15 November 2016
When their Post Office was under threat of closure the villagers of Bishop’s Caundle fought hard to keep it as part of their community shop, local Liz Lyon takes up the story
Our community shop opened in April 2011 after the closure of the original village shop in Bishop’s Caundle. A small group of villagers worked hard to find a way of running the shop because the community was very keen to keep this valuable amenity. The cost of buying the premises proved prohibitive, but Sherborne Castle Estate stepped in and agreed to purchase the property and lease it to the Committee. They have proved to be very generous landlords.
In 2015 our sub-postmistress and shop manager decided to change her job and the Post Office appointed temporary cover while negotiations over the future of our village Post Office took place. After a year of discussion and the intervention of Oliver Letwin, our MP, the Post Office finally agreed to let the shop apply to run a Post Office Local Plus for 16.5 hours a week. In January, once the change over is completed, the shop will be paid commission for every Post Office transaction so we urge people to use the service as much as possible.
The community shop is run by paid staff and volunteers, aged between 17 and 80 plus, and we are always on the look-out for new people to join our friendly team. Other tasks such as carpentry, accounting and pay-roll are also carried out by volunteers.
We are grateful to the Plunkett Foundation (plunkett.co.uk), the Rural Shops Alliance and Dorset Community Action (dorsetcommunityaction.org.uk) all of whom have given us enormous support and encouragement. Since we opened we have received grants from several organisations which have enabled us to buy essential equipment for running this venture.
The Village Stores is an important hub for the local community; over recent weeks we have reunited lost dogs and rabbits with their owners, given directions and sold excess garden produce! The shop also sells a wide selection of local food and drink including Dorset Blue Vinny, Honeybun’s cakes, flour from Sturminster Newton Mill, meat and pies from Else’s in Stalbridge, honey and wine from Sherborne Castle, frozen meals from Olive’s Kitchen and locally made fruit juices, jams, pickles and sandwiches. We also sell local crafts and run a book swap and weekly village lottery.
Community Shops like ours provide a valuable service and we work together, sharing ideas and information on an informal basis. The Management Committee has recently started a Facebook group - Community Shops (South-West) - so people can contribute and share their expertise.
Our aim is to serve all sections of the community; we keep our prices competitive and to keep wastage as low as possible, we encourage customers to order fresh meat and vegetables in advance. Laundry and dry-cleaning can also be dropped off at the shop.
As well as our regular locals, customers come from nearby villages such as Stourton Caundle and Holwell and there is a steady stream of passing trade from motorists on the A3030.
Like other community shops, we are very optimistic about our future. Our customers welcome the choice and personal service we offer and the opportunity to ‘buy local’. It’s important that we cherish and support amenities like this as they provide a valuable resource for Dorset’s rural communities.
Find out more at bishopscaundleshop.co.uk.
Liz Lyon moved to Bishop’s Caundle from Shaftesbury four years after retiring from teaching. She soon took on a shift in the shop as a volunteer and, a few months later, was elected to the Management Committee. In February, 2015 she took over the chair, little suspecting that the battle with the Post Office would begin the following August. She enjoys village life and is also a Parish Councillor. Her village commitments and musical activities mean that she finds it hard to make time to keep the garden under control!
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