“Built by and for local people who really care about keeping their villages alive”

“Built by and for local people who really care about keeping their villages alive”

Post Offices across the UK are run by many diverse people.

On 22 June, Lord Sainsbury, who is Life President of Sainsbury’s supermarket, officially opened newly-built Preston Candover Post Office and Candover Valley Store and coffee area, near Aylesbury.

The store, Post Office and coffee area are managed by Garry Green and assistant Emma Simpson, local resident and mother of two, who are store employees.  A band of 45 volunteers provide them with support on a rota basis and are vital to the success of the enterprise.

Lord Sainsbury provides land rent-free for new Post Office

Lord Sainsbury, also known as Baron Sainsbury of Preston Candover, opened the community-run venture which stocks groceries and local Hampshire produce. He has given enormous support in many different ways, including leasing his land rent-free for the new 95 square metre community-owned and run shop.

He said: “I am delighted to open the Candover Valley Store. Lady Sainsbury and I have been very interested in the project from the start some years ago. We have watched it progress since building began last November and we are now very pleased to see it completed and open for business.” 

A big community celebration with a local ukulele band provided entertainment and guests enjoyed tea, homemade cake and ice creams to mark the opening.

People overjoyed with their new community store

Richard Saunders, treasurer of Candover Valley Community Store committee said: “People are overjoyed with their new community store. We are ideally located in the centre of the village. It looks fantastic and there is a great welcoming atmosphere.  The shop is well stocked and we are supporting many local producers. It was crucial to keep a post office in the village, but we have achieved that and a great deal more.  The coffee area is already proving to be a popular meeting place.”

Candover Valley Store offers a range of household essentials from groceries to baby food, fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers, chilled and frozen foods including prepared meals, cards, gifts and locally produced cheeses, artisan coffee, real ale and award-winning English sparkling wine. Exhibitions of art and crafts by local residents will be held from time to time. 

In the true spirit of community, the store offers prescription services and will seek to assist older and housebound residents with home deliveries wherever possible. 

A coffee area with tables and chairs tempts shoppers, passing hikers and cyclists with locally roasted coffee, homemade cakes and sandwiches.  High chairs, free WiFi and USB charging points are also provided. An outdoor deck overlooking the glorious Hampshire countryside provides additional seating for sunny days and bike racks and tethering points (and water bowls) for dogs mean that all visitors are catered for.

Volunteering helps combat rural isolation

The Bishop of Basingstoke, the Rt Revd David Williams, said: “This is a true community undertaking, built by and for local people who really care about keeping their villages alive.  It is run by them too. Volunteering at the shop is very rewarding for those involved.  It is a wonderful way of combatting rural isolation which can be a serious concern for both young and old.”

The money to build, fit out and stock the store was raised through a combination of donations from many supporters, grants as well as a community share scheme with over 250 participants which raised around £60,000. Grant funding was received from National Lottery Awards for All; Prince’s Countryside Fund; The Linbury Trust; Hampshire County Council; Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council; The LEADER Programme; The Plunkett Foundation and Power to Change.