Last week, the shop announced that it had been voted Best Rural Retailer for the South Region in the Countryside Alliance’s annual competition.
This new award is from the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, one of 38 rural community councils in England, whose aim is to promote thriving, sustainable rural communities and to alleviate the disadvantage experienced by many people who live in them.
Village Shop of the Year is an annual competition, with a certificate and a cheque for £250 to the winner. In 2005, the Ascott shop was runner-up.
Opened in November 2003 by Radio Oxford’s Bill Heine, the shop recently starred in BBC’s Countryfile and ITV’s Heart of the Country programme on the nationwide revival in sourcing and buying locally.
The Ascott enterprise has always promoted a strong policy of purchasing goods from businesses in the area and encouraging local shopping. It is a member of the Local Food project, purchasing from outlets such as the Foxbury Farm Shop and Callow’s Farm at Stonesfield and buying Huffkins bread and cakes from Burford and rape-seed oil from Gloucestershire. The knowledgeable staff are eager to discuss sources and qualities of food with the customers. This ethos led to the introduction of jute shopping bags to replace plastic. Prices are continuously monitored to compare favourably with local supermarkets.
The shop is run by a group of over 40 volunteers who are passionate about serving and uniting the local community and devote countless hours to supporting the business. When parts of the village were overwhelmed by floods in July, the shop acted as a lifeline, donating emergency packs to the needy and serving a never-ending stream of customers with staples, ready meals and some wine to calm shattered nerves. Not only that, the store became a centre for help and information.
The judge for Best Village Shop commented that he was particularly taken by the passion and commitment shown by so many people.
Alan Chubb, Chairman of the shop’s management committee said: “Wow! – two awards in one week! We’re all so thrilled and excited. This is a tribute to all those involved in the shop and to our loyal customers, too. Ascott under Wychwood is just a super community.”