CHALKE Valley residents are celebrating after their community-run shop and post office was voted the best in the land.
A team from Chalke Valley Stores went to the House of Lords on Wednesday last week to receive a Countryside Alliance ‘Rural Oscars’ plaque from Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.
The Daily Telegraph, which sponsors the award, praised the stores as “living, breathing testimony to what can be achieved if a rural population gets together behind a single project”.
The shop is part of a community hub that has transformed the United Reformed chapel at Broad Chalke into the centre of village life. Open since June last year, it turns over £1,000 a day.
Staffed almost entirely by volunteers, it sources 90 per cent of its products locally, and profits are ploughed back into the community, except for cigarette income, which goes to Cancer Research.
The hub also houses a village archive and a café that is used by community groups as well as providing a base for neighbourhood policeman Peter Jung, while church services are held there twice a month.
There is even talk of providing apprenticeships in the future.
Shop manager Ellen Smets said: “It’s a great honour to be the best in the UK. The whole village is celebrating.”
Community hub chairman Ashley Truluck said: “The chapel couldn’t have kept going much longer, so putting the shop in there killed two birds with one stone.
“We get all the passing trade, and it has made our High Road the centre of the village again.
“We persuaded Wiltshire Council to sort out the traffic with a car park and bus stop, so it’s a win-win all round. We all know how lucky we are to live in this beautiful valley and we want to keep it that way without preserving it in aspic.”
MP John Glen, a staunch supporter of the project, was at the award ceremony and called it “one of my proudest moments since being elected”.
He said: “This is a fantastic example of local people helping themselves and a reminder of the strength of volunteering and active citizenship in our rural communities.”