CRUSADING villagers who saved their local shop with a united front are off to the House of Lords – with their sights on national glory.
Two years after facing closure, Humshaugh Village Shop in west Northumberland is a thriving success story.
And the team of volunteers who run the shop is on the verge of picking up the prestigious Countryside Alliance national award for Village Shop/Post Office category.
Tomorrow in the Lords, Countryside Alliance top brass will select their ultimate winners from a dozen candidates in each of four categories.
And there representing Humshaugh Community Ventures will be directors Steve Robins, Dick Moules and Brian Earl, as well as volunteers Jennifer Hewitt, Jimmy Duncan and Brian’s wife Margaret Earl.
“We are up against some tough competition,” said Steve.
“But this is a proud day for the whole village and to win the top award would be a tribute to everyone who has contributed to the shop.
“If we do win it, this will be our fifth award in two years since it all started to happen after the post office franchise was lost and the shop faced closure. Last week we received a double Pride in Tynedale Award – for Community and Overall sections – while in 2009, just a week after we opened, we were commended in Pride in Tynedale. And last year of course we won the Countryside Alliance regional award.”
The Humshaugh story has been a headline-grabber ever since the Post Office withdrew its franchise and owners Pat and Rob Gray retired in July 2008.
Determined not to let their cherished shop fade and die, the villagers formed their own volunteer group which now has well over 200 members.
For a time in May and June 2010 they sold groceries from the village pub, The Crown, then with £35,000 of funding revived the shop and reopened it in November last year.
Millionaire businessman Graham Wylie, who lives nearby and is a daily visitor to the shop, performed the opening.
The Humshaugh delegation is setting off on the 6.13am train from Hexham to Newcastle tomorrow to arrive in London by 10am. At the Lords, they will attend a drinks reception where Countryside Alliance chairman Kate Hoey MP and chief executive Alice Barnard will announce the prizewinners.
Defra Minister Richard Benyon will then present the awards to the winner from 12 regional sections across England, Scotland and Wales.