Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Finally, village cheers new shop and recreation ground

A COMMUNITY shop and a revamped recreation ground have been opened in South Stoke.

A COMMUNITY shop and a revamped recreation ground have been opened in South Stoke.

Villagers and the parish council spent four years developing the project.

The shop, which was officially opened last week, stocks a wide range of groceries, fresh bread, frozen food and greetings cards. All profits will be used to benefit the community.

Local suppliers include R G Park family butchers in Cholsey, ready meal caterer the Late Chef, based in Moulsford, Susie’s Preserves, of Hermitage, and Tim’s Dairy, of Little Chalfont.

There are also plans to sell beers from Ridgeway Brewing, which is based in the village, and introduce laundry and dry cleaning services.

Forty-five volunteers have signed up to help in the shop, which will be open from Tuesday to Sunday each week.

Geoff Ward, chairman of the parish council, said: “It’s more than just a shop — it’s a community meeting place and has the potential to be the heart of the village.

“The shop has been a lot of hard work. We started the project with no money and no premises, so we set about sourcing an alternative anti-vandal unit from suppliers in Wales who specialise in re-modelling second-hand units. This was an idea solution as we were able to demonstrate sustainability as well as being able to design the layout.””

The shop topped the villagers’ wish list in a survey of 47 households carried out by the council in 2009, followed by a new recreation ground.

The shop cost about £61,000. South Oxfordshire District Council gave a £15,000 grant with another £31,203 coming from Oxfordshire County Council’s Big Society fund.

Additional donations were made by Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, the parish council and villagers. The official opening was carried out by Ann Ducker, leader of the district council, on Saturday. She arrived in a vintage car with Cllr Ward, Nicky Kennedy, the shop project manager, and Kevin Flynn, project manager of the recreation ground, watched by about 150 villagers.

Councillor Ducker said she hoped the shop would bring the community together.

Mrs Kennedy said: “There are parts of the community that don’t know each other, their paths don’t cross, and young couples really struggle to do anything over and above trying to earn a living, so it’s really important to have something like this in the village.” The recreation ground has been overhauled after the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents rated it as the worst playing field in Oxfordshire five years ago.

The field has been landscaped, English trees have been planted and a “hang-out area” for teenagers has been created.

Other additions include a toddlers’ area, a fire pit, beacon, small netball court and junior football pitch.

The total cost of the project was about £80,000. Grants were awarded by the district council (£29,534), Waste Recycling Environment (£46,406) and the Government’s Big Tree Fund (£979). The remainder was raised by the parish council and villagers, with much of the digging, planting and sowing of wildflower seeds carried out by the community.

Mr Flynn said: “The success of the playground will be during the summer when we will see people playing up here. It was a disgrace but we now have people coming from Goring, Woodcote and Ewelme to enjoy our facility.”

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