Peak District village shop receives High Sheriff's award for voluntary service
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Sheriff Theresa Peltier, who is fulfilling the ceremonial role on behalf of the King for 2023-24, visited Litton village shop on Friday, September 29, to meet the team who provide an essential service line to those living and visiting the sparsely-populated area.
She said: “My theme during my year in office as High Sheriff is 'unity is community', and Litton shop embodies that. I just think they are simply brilliant and I loved spending time with them.
“What struck me about this shop was that it is exclusively run by volunteers, providing postal services, groceries, items that would only usually be found in a hardware store, paintings and cards by local artists and the most scrumptious cake that can be savoured outside with a pot of tea on a warm, sunny day watching the world go by, or sitting reading a paper whilst the hustle and bustle of shoppers carries on around you.”
She added: “But that's only part of it, what the volunteers have are big hearts and they care about their village and all the people in it. Nothing is too much trouble and they are a lifeline for those who need vital supplies, delivering in all kinds of weather.
“The fact other villages have visited them for advice on how to set up something similar speaks volumes, and is testament of the value they are bringing, not only on a practical level, but in providing an emotional and social connection.”
The award was a particularly well-earned acknowledgement for the shop’s manager Carol Millington, 62, who has been involved in the shop for 18 years and took over the role from her mum Judith Cooper, who is still working regular shifts at the age of 82.
Carol, who hails from a family farm on Tideswell Moor and is one of the few staff to be paid for her work, said: “I have to say a huge thank you to our suppliers, volunteers and everyone that supports the shop. Without people’s support, we’re nothing – we’d go under.
“For the volunteers especially, the award is a sign that they’re recognised and appreciated. It makes people feel like this is something they want to be part of.”
The shop was established by residents in 1999 when a previous grocery business in the village closed down. At first it operated from the village hall, before taking over a former blacksmith’s forge and gradually expanding its footprint and its services.
The shop aims to stock most things local residents might need to get by if they were likely to be snowed in at home or short on ingredients for dinner, including meat supplied by Critchlows Farm Shop and milk, eggs and cheese from Peak District Dairy.
As the business has grown, it has also added to its range with wine, gifts, greeting cards, firewood, and houseplants.
Rather than competing with rival retailers, Litton Village Shop extends their reach with a home shopping service that brings all the convenience of a supermarket to people’s doorsteps.
Carol said: “Every year we’ve grown and through the Covid period we literally became a lifeline for some people. We did a lot of grocery shopping for residents who couldn’t get out. It made people realise how much they needed the shop, and we’ve kept a lot of that custom since.
“The Co-op in Bakewell have been great supporters, I can’t thank them enough. We do a weekly shop for customers who give us lists, and then the Co-op lets us go round and buy everything before they open in the morning.
“We’ve got people in the village with dementia, others with disabilities, one lady who had a stroke a while ago. In cases like those our service is very much needed.”
While there are still a few speciality shops down the road in Tideswell, Litton Village Shop is home to the last local Post Office, run by Louise Lambert, which helps bring in customers from further afield.
The brisk trade from walkers on the Monsal Trail helps too, many attracted by the shop’s reputation for exceptional homemade cakes baked by local resident Lynne Rayner.
There are around 20 people in the volunteer team who fill a rota of two-hour shifts behind the counter, and the low staffing costs is another factor in the shop’s survival through turbulent times in the wider economy.
Carol said: “Like any other shop, the most challenging thing is keeping up with the finances. In the last year or so, our bills have gone up, expenses have gone up. Sometimes I wonder if we can keep sustaining it but we seem to be ok.
“We have people coming here to learn about how to set up community shops, but every one is different – not all of them will have the same passing trade from tourism.”
She added: “I think it’s the whole concept that people buy into. The volunteers are always happy to be here and we get a lot of positive online reviews about how much they enjoyed visiting.
It’s the thing I like most too, the social aspect. We have a lot of fun in the shop, we get a lot of interesting holidaymakers coming in and we get to engage with customers and provide them with a valuable service.”
Litton village shop is open 8.30am to 6pm every weekday and 10am to 4pm at weekends. For more information, go to littonvillageshop.co.uk.