Shopping in small, isolated, rural, farming communities is not always easy. Shops like Tully's make it both easier and delightful.
Tully's is in Rothbury, the `capital' of the farming community of Coquetdale in north Northumberland.
Rothbury has a population of some 2,500 inhabitants, and there are another 1,500 in the surrounding sparsely populated valley community.
The nearest town of Alnwick is 12 miles away and with a population of just 9,000 the choice of quality food shops is inevitably limited. Morpeth, in the other direction, is 16 miles away.
For people further up the valley you can add anything up to another 10 miles to these distances. So it is wonderful to have a superb shop like Tully's offering such a wide variety of excellent foods in so small a rural community. Those who appreciate good food do not have to make the round trip of up to 50 miles to get it.
Tully's calls itself a delicatessen, but it is so much more than this, for it contains a wide range of good quality everyday foods as well. One of its main strengths is that it specializes in locally produced Northumbrian foods, including an impressive array of cheeses, honeys, and free range organic chicken. Much of this is produced within a radius of about 30 miles.
This delightful shop also caters for specialist dietary requirements such as vegetarian and ethically produced foods. Indeed, Tully's takes the ethical dimension of food production very seriously and stocks a good range of Fairtrade produce.
For those, and there are many, who find the journey into Rothbury difficult, Tully's offers a local mail order and delivery service.
It is a small shop and its frontage, with traditional canvas awning and open pavement stalls of fresh fruit and locally grown vegetables, suggests quality and once you step inside your anticipation is immediately satisfied, for there you will see tightly packed shelves of preserves, spices, chutneys, teas, coffees, honeys and pickles.
Further on are the flours, some national, others produced at Hetherslaw some 25 miles to the north. Then there are the dried pulses and grains, the meats and fishes (fresh and cured), cakes, pastries, pâtés, olives of every description, sun dried tomatoes, stuffed peppers, local yoghurts, hams, bacons, cold meats galore, and a remarkable array of local cheeses, fruits and vegetables. And you collect it all, not in wire but in cane baskets!
Tully's has been serving the valley community for 100 years. In this time its frontage has changed little. Whilst so many shops, particularly supermarkets, seem to purvey ever increasing quantities of processed or semi-processed food, it is delightful to be able to shop at Tully's, where the emphasis is on good quality, locally produced and unadulterated food.
If there is something you want that you cannot see, Rich and Sue Hurst, the proprietors, will get it for you if it is available. It is a delightful shop.
Tully's is an exemplary example of what food retailing should be striving to be.
Tully's Top Twenty Local Companies
n Artisan Foods (Beckleberries Ice Cream and Patisseries)
n Borderfields Rape Seed Oil
n Carroll's Heritage Potatoes
n Chainbridge Honey Farm (honey and honey products)
n Doddington Dairy (cheese and ice cream)
n Gilchesters (organic flour and meat)
n Havens Organics (vegetables)
n Heatherslaw Bakery (flour, cereals, biscuits and cakes)
n Jenkins & Hustwit (hand made cakes)
Kielder Organic Meats
n L. Robson & Sons (Craster Kippers & other smoked fish)
n Lotions & Potions (ecological cleaning and cosmetics)
n Northumberland Cheese Company
n Oxenrigg Free Range Eggs
n Proof of the Pudding (sticky toffee and chocolate puddings)
n Pumphrey's Coffee
n Reivers Well Trout Farm
n Ross' Pickles
n Rothbury Heather Honey
n Turnbull's of Alnwick (sausages, bacon, pies and prepared meals)
Traditions still thrive in these changing times
TULLY'S of Rothbury have been operating a grocery service in the Coquet valley for over 100 years.
In the early days they used to take a travelling shop, a horse and cart in those days, as far as Otterburn and the North Coquet valley where members of the farming communities would meet them at trading points.
At one point there were more than a dozen general stores in Rothbury and several more up the Coquet valley. Tully's is now the last one but, having traded in several positions in the village, they now occupy a prime position on Rothbury High Street.
In 1998 Edwin Tully, the third generation of this family of grocers, wishing to retire along with his wife Mary and having no-one to pass the business on to, sold the concern to Rich and Sue Hurst who have dedicated the last nine years to carrying on the tradition of fine foods in the Coquet valley.
Recent refurbishment and restoration of the shop interior has exposed the original full wood panelling, once the hallmark of this type of shop.
Original features were retained or modified to suit. One interesting feature is the tradition of people carving their initials into the brickwork of the side passageway, some dating back many decades.