The community-owned White Horse pub at Upton in the Norfolk Broads has now opened a village shop with the support of rural pub champions Pub is The Hub and funding from Norfolk County Council, Broadland District Council and Upton with Fishley Parish Council.
Serving the community for over 200 years and in the hands of its’ own villagers for nearly three, the White Horse has branched out into retail to restore an essential service back to the village.
Back in 2012 and threatened with closure, over £120,000 worth of shares for the pub were snapped up by the locals with additional help from The Prince’s Countryside Fund, Broadland Community Grants, Broadland Community Renewables and the Norfolk Community Foundation. Since then they have improved facilities and now Upton has a thriving pub and restaurant.
After hearing about Pub is The Hub and local funding the White Horse management team were able to apply for two grants to create their shop in an outside storeroom: A capital grant from Broadland District Council has been used to fund the building and construction work and professional services whilst the £4k grant from Norfolk County Council’s Community Services Fund has been used to pay for freezers, fridges, electronics, shelving display systems, security and lighting, and general shop fittings. Further funding was provided by the parish council.
Serving newspapers, local produce and other essential and convenience items the White Horse Community Shop is open between 8.00 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Saturday and 9.00 am to noon on Sundays. It is staffed by volunteers from a pool of twenty-five, with a paid coordinator for 16 hours a week and sells locally sourced goods such as home-grown vegetables, locally produced delicatessen items, baked goods and bottled beers and ciders produced by five breweries within a five mile radius.
With a population of 700 Upton has a higher percentage of older residents at 28.38% compared to the Norfolk average of 24.94%, and a lower average of 16 -29 year olds at 6.83% compared to the Norfolk average of 10.99% many of whom are disadvantaged as a result of rural isolation. There is a village hall but no shop, post office, school or other public amenity other than the White Horse. With virtually no public transport there are problems with social exclusion and isolation for people unable to drive although being on the edge of the river Bure, Upton benefits from tourists visiting the village in summer.
Peter Crook, Director and Company Secretary for The White Horse Development Trust said: “I am happy to say that the shop was on our to ‘do list’ when we took the pub over in 2012 together with a lot of other projects such as a micro-brewery, installation of camping pods and a central fruit press for local produce. It was the announcement of grant availability from Norfolk County Council by Pub is The Hub that rapidly elevated the shop to the top of our list, and the reality that it has now become. It would have been some years away otherwise.
“As a community enterprise the shop extends our role in the village to a wider clientele and has particular benefits for the older residents. As with the pub business we need to pay our way to be viable, but the real return is the social and community benefits the village enjoys.
“I remember a time when the village had three shops, a post office, a school and a chapel. They’ve all gone and taken some of the heart out of the community – we are now putting it back.”
Terry Stork, regional advisor for Pub is The Hub added: “Peter and his colleagues have achieved so much in three years; we are delighted to support this next step in creating the community hub that is the White Horse.”
Councillor Tom Garrod added: “It is great to see the White Horse thriving, and fulfilling its role as a great community resource. I am delighted that our contribution was able to bring forward the community shop project and I hope it helps to embed the pub’s importance to the community even more.”
In partnership with Pub is The Hub, Norfolk’s Community Services Fund was established last July to help pubs in Norfolk to diversify into new services provision for their own communities. In launching the fund, Norfolk County Council recognised that good licensees today can work with the public, private and voluntary sector to improve the local economy.
The photograph shows: Peter Crook for the White Horse Development Company, Terry Stork from Pub is The Hub and Tom Garrod, Norfolk County Councillor