A VILLAGE shop set up in a Herefordshire church and run entirely by volunteers has been voted the best in the UK.
Yarpole Village Shop and Post Office saw off competition from outlets across the country to be awarded the accolade by the Countryside Alliance.
The presentation at the House of Lords caps a remarkable six years for the shop which started life in a temporary hut in the grounds of the village pub.
Now almost half the village’s population has nonredeemable shares in the venture, effectively making it a charity.
“We were totally surprised at the award,” said Julian Stokes, chair of the shop’s management board. “What makes us stand out is the fact that we are the first full-time shop in a church.
“It really is quite remarkable and not bad for a parish of just 700.”
The shop was established following the closure of the village’s last remaining store in 2004 – a far cry from the 1950s when the parish boasted seven shops.
When the final one closed villagers drew up a parish plan which stated a shop must be retained in Yarpole, meaning residents were spared journeys into Leominster or Ludlow for everyday items.
Last October, the move into St Leonard’s Church was secured as part of the place of worship’s renovation project.
Parishioners raised around £36,000 towards the £250,000 needed for the project which was helped by donations from various bodies.
The shop now has a committee, around 30 volunteers who run the shop, and stock which includes Fairtrade items and produce grown within a 30 mile radius of Yarpole.
A cafe is also housed in the church gallery.
“It’s quite an achievement to be where we are. We are all delighted,” added Julian.
Six of the shop’s volunteers travelled to London for the awards.
Leominster MP Bill Wiggin and his Ludlow colleague Philip Dunne both attended and later congratulated those behind the scheme.