Prince’s Countryside Fund grant helps community services in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire thrive

PUBLISHED: 16:29 05 November 2014 | UPDATED: 16:29 05 November 2014

The church that opens as a shop for villagers -

The church that opens as a shop for villagers -

Among this summer’s grants by the Prince’s Countryside Fund of over £600,000, nearly £50,000 was allocated so that The Plunkett Foundation can support more rural people in setting up new community owned services that meet local needs. The foundation will promote ‘community ownership’ as a solution for rural communities that have lost, or are at risk of losing, vital local services.

Among those already thriving is the fantastic community shop in the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin at Beech Hill in Berkshire, a stunning Grade II Listed building.

According to the Plunkett Foundation in 1993 there were just 23 community-owned shops. Twenty years on and there are now over 300, with another 30 opening last year alone. It was the foundation that villager Sam Moore went to for help and advice armed with her idea of a shop in the church: “They visited and told us we were mad. The concept was for it to stay a church but also be the shop as well, which no one else has done yet, that’s where we are unique.”

The church is now used for services but has a shop within it that magically ‘disappears’ into cupboards. Fresh fruit and vegetables comes from nearby Burghfield and there are donations of excess produce from local allotment holders. Cheese makers in Riseley and the now famous Barkham Blue suppliers at Arborfield sell their wares alongside Berkshire milk and honey.

In north Buckinghamshire, Twyford Village Store started out in three portable buildings but now has pretty, purpose-built premises built by local farmer Stephen Hodges. It offers a huge range of stock, and is fitted out with new equipment, much of it achieved through grants, such as a bread making facility, courtesy of Bucks County Council Local Area Forum.

The Prince’s Countryside Fund, which has contributed £4.4 million in grants in the four years since its inception, was set up by HRH The Prince of Wales to provide support to the multitude of remarkable organisations and individuals working tirelessly to keep farmers farming and our rural communities alive. What makes the Fund unique is that it doesn’t support the environment, buildings or wildlife but the people who manage and maintain the countryside.

Helen Aldis, Manager at The Prince’s Countryside Fund, explains: “The countryside faces many challenges; 60,000 new entrants are needed in the UK farming industry in the next decade and 40% of the total food consumed in Britain is imported and the proportion is rising. But with the help of our marvellous supporting companies, we are able to back the people, organisations and communities working to protect and ensure a long term future for British farming, agriculture and the wider rural economy.”

Since 2010, The Prince’s Countryside Fund has given grants to support 140 rural communities; 3,400 farm businesses through funding projects that work directly with farmers to improve efficiency and profitability and 880 rural enterprises through supporting innovative rural business projects. 4,380 young people have benefitted from projects offering training opportunities and 18,000 children will be educated in food and farming in a sustainable countryside.

The companies that support the Fund are: Asda, Aquascot, Barbour, Barclays, Booths, Coutts, Dairy Crest, Dalehead Foods, Dovecote Park, Duchy Original, Ginsters, HSBC, Hunter, Jordans & Ryvita, Kerry Foods, Land Rover, Lloyds, McDonald’s, Marks & Spencer, Moy Park, Musto, Produce World, Strutt & Parker, United Biscuits and Waitrose.


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