2015 Time for a new approach

In August 2014 David and I had a difficult decision to make. Our house and shop had been “on the market” for approaching three years and we were really no further ahead in finding a buyer despite substantially reducing the price (in fact by 10% under the bricks and mortar valuation of the property). It was time to look at the bigger picture and discuss the alternatives.

We have worked hard in our time here to create a shop with products people want in a clean and pleasant environment. However, the property inside which the shop is currently located is expensive due to its location and character and as such is beyond the reach of those with an interest in taking on the business despite its success. Add to this the reluctance of banks to lend to small businesses and the fact that the “retail” element of the property is too large to get a residential mortgage the challenges are just too numerous.

With this in mind we approached the Parish Council to see if a solution could be reached, our hope was that the village would see the benefit in taking on the business in a new location along with current staff and suppliers to ensure as much consistency as possible. We would obviously offer our services to help ensure the transfer was a smooth one whilst at the same time re-marketing our property as residential and increasing our opportunity for a sale.

Our initial discussions were well received and your Parish Councillors have been working hard to find a new location for your village shop. Please, if you believe as we do that it is important for a village to have a shop, lend your support to any project and please get involved!

What’s the value in a village shop?

Zoopla Houses for Sale in Chilbolton

The last month has seen the arrival of quite a few new faces in the village and its been lovely to meet everyone. It’s also been lovely to hear that one of their reasons for buying a house in Chilbolton, is that it has a village shop and pub.  Community has been one of the common points mentioned and the fact that Chilbolton feels like it has a genuine community spirit.

Great to hear I think you’ll agree, but it got me thinking; does a shop and pub add value to property?

homes-increasing-in-value1Apparently so from a few conversations with estate agents and searching on the web. The general feeling is that a village adds around 5% to property within the village (that’s 25,000 on a £500,000 house), but hopefully its more than that.

Just think about how many times you meet friends walking down to, or in the shop. How would people keep up with the village bush telegraph and gossip? Births, marriages and sadly the inevitable deaths are all events that
pass across people’s lips when in the village shop.

Certainly Jo and I love the fact that Chilbolton Stores is a key part of the community. Whether you are young, old or somewhere in between we’ve always worked to make sure that everyone is welcome and we’re so pleased when new arrivals come down and say “We’re so glad we moved to Chilbolton, we’re so lucky to have a village shop like this”.

Its always good to feel valued and hopefully we’re here more for than just your morning newspaper or a stamp…

I’m proud of Chilbolton Stores

Malibu Camper Van from retro Camper Van Hire

Malibu – A Type 2 VW Camper Van hired from Retro VW Campervans. Highly recommended.

Jo and I have just spent a lovely few days meandering around Dorset in an old VW Camper Van. A great way to explore all those hidden villages and gems that are on our doorstep, but we’ve never been to, as we’re always on our way somewhere else.

During those few days we visited a lot of small villages similar to Chilbolton; tucked away, off the beaten track, which could take you back a hundred years in time. All of these villages had two things in common, a pub and a village shop. Sound familar?

 

 

 

There are Village Shops and then there are Village Shops

The sad thing was that in several villages the village shop was looking a bit forlorn. Empty shelves, limited stock, old fridges, no local produce, no nice cheeses or fresh bread and little to entice us to purchase more than a packet of crisps and a couple of drinks. This was even true of the Co-ops we visited, which although large had nothing in the way of fresh produce, meat or fish. If we had wanted a tin of beans and some frozen burgers or chips we would have been fine, but it’s a bit difficult to pop some baked beans on the barbie 😉

Free Range Meat from Parsonage Farm and Greenfields Pork

Proud of Chilbolton Stores

Although it meant our BBQ had to be content with sausages (from Hampshire – we were in Lyme Regis!!) and a Lynda McCartney Burger (which as bit ‘interesting’), I had a real sense of pride, when I thought about our own village shop, Chilbolton Stores. People often say you can’t do a ‘proper shop’ in the village shop, but I’ll challenge that. Whatever day of the week it is, you could always pick up something for dinner. Whether it’s fresh meat or fish, or a frozen ready meal, there is always plenty to choose from. In fact I would go so far to say that we have more choice in fresh vegetables, meat, fish and cheese than many of the Co-ops. So we may not have 12 different cereals or tinned meatballs, but you definitely won’t go hungry.

This this is a bit of trumpet blowing, but sometimes I think we need to do it. At the end of the day if Jo and I lived in Chilbolton, we’d be glad that we had a shop like Chilbolton Stores and we hope you are too.

Thanks for reading

David

Chilbolton Stores Book Swap

Recycle your read books!

How it works…

  • All approved books are marked with a red sticker, books must be in a fit state to be read and brought back
  • Choose your book from the selection and take it to the counter along with any books you have to swap.
  • A member of staff will check that the book to be swapped is acceptable and mark it with a red sticker.
  • If you do not have a book to swap the price of each book is £1.
  • If you do have a book to swap the price is 50p.
  • You may swap more than one book at a time but the minimum price is 50p per book taken away, regardless of how many books you bring in.
  • Read, enjoy and return.

Introducing Parsonage Farm

cow_2411288bAs most of you are already aware, we here at Chilbolton Stores love a local food hero.  We already stock many of your favourites from the farmers markets, meaning you can access local produce easily between market days: Greenfields pork and sausages, Lyburn cheese, River Test Smokery smoked fish, Taste cakes and marmalade and Lower Woodgate Farm eggs and meringues to mention just a few.

Now we would like to introduce you to Parsonage Farm beef and lamb!

Like us, Sarah and John are passionate about bringing you fantastic, quality products at a great price and a convenient venue.  One customer recently remarked “it really is the same price as the supermarket, or less, and not their finest range either, the standard stuff”.  So basically you are getting top of the range product for bottom of the range prices.  How do we do this you say?

Well, we buy direct from the farm, they butcher their own products and deliver, so there are no middle men or distribution costs to pay.  Add this to the fact that you only have to travel to the village shop to get it!

Quality, local, free-range produce, that is good value and convenient… where?  Chilbolton Stores is where!

For more information about Parsonage Farm, visit the Parsonage Farm Free-Range Meat section on our website

Chilbolton Cow Common in early summer

Weather, Autumn and Comfort Food in Chilbolton

Whilst tramping round the common this evening with Blue, as the rain was thrashing down, the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes” came to mind. I turned up the collar on my re-waterpoofed jacket and Blue fluffed up his coat, trotting off ahead across the purleygig bridge, with his tail wafting, happily sniffing to see who’d been around.

There’s definitely been an autumnal feel to Chilbolton over the last week, with the leaves turning and the first frost. Unlike recent years, I don’t feel that we have been cheated out of summer, in fact today, I think, is the first really wet day we’ve had since July. I know I got very wet watching the dressage at the Olympics, where the forecast for light showers, was accurate…if you were in Dehli!! But since then its been pretty good, not too hot, not too cold, a traditional British summer.

Chilbolton Cow Common in early summer

Today though I could feel that winter wasn’t too far away and with the smell of wood smoke in my nostrils I stood and looked across the common. A scene I’ve seen every day, in all weather, for almost 6 years. Timeless, yet ever changing. The Egrets standing hunched at the river edge, some Gulls squabbling over some tit bit or fish and the cows standing eye-ing Blue and I suspiciously, with water gently dripping from their ears. They’re looking pretty good this year, with so much good grass to eat – I can see some lovely prime rib roasts and steaks to come…

It doesn’t matter what the weather is, as long as you’ve got the right clothes, its always good to be out. In fact on days like today, when no-one else is around, there’s nothing better than stomping round the common in my boots, a waterproof jacket with my hat pulled down low. Then when you get home  and Jo says, I thought I’d make fish pie, a good bit of warming comfort food; it just doesn’t get any better.

Roll on winter, with your hard frosts, early morning mist, crunchy leaves and snow. I’ll counter that with warm jackets, gloves, scarves, log fires, hot chocolate and steaming plates of warming comfort food. I’m ready for you.

Tree Runners - Go Ape but Better

Its Not Go Ape – Its Tree Runners in Hampshire

Tree Runners - Go Ape but betterSunday night normally sees Jo and I relaxing in front of the TV after our afternoon off, but last Sunday was slightly different… Tree Running at Night!

TreeRunners is the newest venture to arrive in Chilbolton and Wherwell and for those of you who have been to a Go Ape site and enjoyed leaping from tree to tree using a variety of wires, ropes and logs, you’ll know what a great day out this is.

TreeRunners have upped the excitement level and Ben, who was the inspiration behind TreeRunners should have known better when he asked Jo if she knew anyone who would volunteer to attempt the course at night!

Tree Runners Night Time Adventure

Its very dark when you’re half way up a tree at night with TreeRunners

Well of course that was it and Sunday night saw Jo, David join fellow volunteers, or should that read nutters, at the White Lion. Kimberley, who many will know from the Priory where she is more used to riding than swinging through the trees, was a little surprised to find out that her quiet Sunday drink with friends was becoming a little more active… but she grabbed her trainers and off we went (she may forgive Emma given time and space 😉 ).

By now its dark and I’m talking seriously dark, so whilst Emma told us about the witches and various other forest dwellers, we arrived in the middle of Harewood Forest.

Trooping out of our cars we were all extremely confident or was it simply nervous bravado, Andy and Ben quickly set us up with harnesses and head torches. A quick instruction on the practice course, where Kimberley demonstrated her instructors methods. Left, no left hand, no that’s your right hand, the other left….! We were already to climb up onto the Green Course.

Fantastic, amazing, scream if you want to go faster cool – TreeRunning is awesome. Relatively simple hirewires (yes I said simple), turned into wobbling logs, a climbing wall (!!!!) and then the rope swing. Fun in the day, but an inspired leap into the unknown in the dark, before weaving in an out of hoops. You don’t realise how high you are, until you get to the next platform. Then you see a pin pick of light below and Ben yells ‘Wave to the camera…’.

Jumping off at Tree Runners - Go Ape but better

Following Jo, as she climbs out into the darkeness, we end up at the Zip Line. All I can say is WOW(very loudly) as I streaked through the blackness. Then the landing area rapidly looms into the small pool of light from my head torch and you’ve arrived! The final landing stage is a leap of faith, as you clip onto the descender and jump into the dark…Some of us landing more gracefully than others, Ed ;-).

As we all gathered back at the lodge and enjoyed our well needed glass of wine, we were like a bunch of kids at a birthday party, chattering away about how cool it was and what a fantastic experience we just had and when could we go back. All oblivious to the fact that its almost midnight.

All I can say is don’t Go Ape, go TreeRunning in Harewood Forest, Hampshire. Its a fantastic activity day out.

 

ITS AWESOME 🙂

We will be back in the day light

www.treerunners.com

www.facebook.com/treerunnersuk

Here’s a video of what its like in the day 🙂

Chilbolton Stores Fresh Coffee

5 years in Chilbolton and counting…

Chilbolton Stores Fresh CoffeeLast November was the 5 year anniversary of David and I walking through the doors of Chilbolton Stores as the new owners.  Enthusiastic and maybe just a little naive, at 33 I don’t think I was what most people expected of a shopkeeper but as I said at the time… I may not have retail experience but I am really good at shopping!

In hindsight the first couple of years were fairly straight forward, although it didn’t seem like it at the time.  We had to cope with road closures, broken fridges, replacement tills, making our home watertight (a new thatch doesn’t come cheap) but the economy was buoyant and people were keen to support us.  Introducing new ranges was relatively easy and caught on quickly.

Move forward to 2009 and things were a little different, the credit crunch had started to take hold and even in Chilbolton people were starting to feel the pinch.  We had to work just that little bit harder, cutting costs where we could and really trying to differentiate ourselves.  Customers would no longer buy things from us just because it was convenient, we had to give them things they couldn’t get elsewhere and then most crucially “tell them about it”.

Inside Chilbolton Stores
The website and Facebook page were really born from a need to keep people informed about the refurbishment program at the beginning of 2010.  With a grant from Hampshire County Council and SEEDA we were planning the most extensive works to the shop for many decades.  There would be disruption and we needed to keep our villagers informed.

At the end of the work, I think everyone agreed it was worth the small amount of pain.  The new layout is fresh and bright and makes running the shop much easier and more efficient.

We continued with the social media as it was popular and growing all the time, a competition to photograph your Chilbolton Stores Bag to win a Kindle was a highlight and it is the perfect place to tell people of new products and our regular wine tasting events.  The website too has been popular, bringing in orders from further a field and many extra customers for our local free-range turkeys at Christmas… not just from the village but from around Hampshire.

Chilbolton Stores in the spring sunshine

So the last six months have been some of the best, the business is growing and we are ”leaner and fitter” from a period of austerity.  I for one look back over the last five years fondly, I have always believed that you get out of something what you put in and that nothing really worth having comes easily.  We have had many, many good times and made lifelong friends in Chilbolton and I don’t regret a moment.  Here’s to 5 years and counting…

Hampshire Free Range Turkey from Chilbolton Stores

Hampshire Free Range Turkey at lower prices than Waitrose or M&S

Hampshire Free Range Turkey from Chilbolton StoresHampshire Free Range Turkey at lower prices than Waitrose and Marks & Spenser from Chilbolton Stores

After the success of last year we’re delighted to say Noah’s Ark Farm once more will be supplying us with their fantastic Free Range Bronze Turkeys and they’ll cost you less than almost anywhere else.

Why? Because we source them directly from the farm.

Last year I was able to realise one of my ambitions since our first Christmas in Chilbolton five years ago; to find local Hampshire Free Range Turkeys. The problem has been that the largest turkey farms are in Norfolk and East Anglia and one our aims when we bought Chilbolton Post Office & Stores, five years ago, was to source as much of our fresh produce and meat locally, as possible. There are a few farms in Hampshire that provide free range turkeys, but unfortunately they’ve either been too far away or simply too expensive.

After talking with Mike Smales, who make the wonderful Lyburn Cheese, he recommended a farm on the edge of the New Forest, where he gets his. A few calls later and I’m talking enthusiastically with the owners of Noah’s Ark Farm. They really care about the welfare of their turkeys and raise them from a day old, letting them roam in the fields (when they are old enough) and graze in a natural environment. When the day comes in December, the turkeys are processed on the farm, which reduces the stress on the animals and also food miles.

All of the birds are slow growing Bronze Turkeys which develop over 22-24 weeks, compared to the fast growing birds in supermarkets, which develop in 14-16 weeks. The Bronze has the flavour of the traditional Norfolk Black, but also more meat, so is a great Christmas alternative to the white turkeys. The care continues during the preparation stages, with all the turkeys being hand plucked and hung for a minimum of 10 days, which improves the flavour and tenderises the meat.

This Christmas Chilbolton Stores will providing the option of either a traditional Fresh Turkey from Randall Parker (formerly Bennetts) or a Hampshire Free Range Bronze Turkey. As I will need to drive down to the New Forest to collect these, we will be delivering these only on the 23rd December.

To order your turkey for Christmas 2014 click here:

Please note we only deliver in Chilbolton, Wherwell and the surrounding villages.

David

Free Range (Uncaged) Chickens in a Chicken House

How Free is your Free Range Chicken?

I sat on a bench at Waterloo Station with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall not long after he took on Tesco over chickens. Although he was cross because his car was late picking him up for a TV show, in the five minutes we spoke, we had an great meeting of minds over free range chicken.

When you buy free range chicken you picture the chickens running around the field, happy in their lives, enjoying the freedom. True?

I though the same until I started looking into this.

According to DEFRA Free Range Chicken must have outside access for over half their lives. This is the ‘standard’ Free Range Chicken you can buy in Supermarkets, but these chickens are raised in large sheds which although less intensively stocked than the traditional broiler, are probably far from the picture most would associate with Free Range.

Free Range (Uncaged) Chickens in a Chicken House

Is this your picture of Free Range Chicken?

The chickens in this picture are Free Range as they have access to the outside, but they are still fairly intensively stocked.

If you are looking for ‘real’ Free Range you might want to disregard those that are described as Free Range and look for labels which describe the birds as Traditional Free Range or Free Range Total Freedom.

Jamies Hampshire Free Range Chicken

Total Freedom Free Range Chicken

When we first met Jamie at Locks Drove Farm he was keen to impress on us the difference and that they believed that a Free Range Chicken should be kept in small sheds without restriction to their roaming. The slower growing birds develop more flavour and enjoy a more natural live, being able to scratch around and feed in a woodland environment as they did in times gone by.

We chose Jamie’s Free Range Chicken for Chilbolton Stores as they were not only local, but in my opinion the best type of chicken, as they are truly free to range, have 24-hour access to the outdoors, to breathe fresh air, to have access to a large meadow, field or orchard, to peck and scratch about and to have a truly natural existence; to be protected from foxes and other vermin by an electric security fence; to have shelter from the weather when needed; to have a place to roost and a plentiful supply of grain and fresh water.

Total Freedom Free Range Chicken are truly happy chickens…

…and they taste delicious 🙂