The villages of Seavington St Mary and Seavington St Michael in South Somerset

Community Spirit

The reopening of a shop in the Seavingtons has undoubtedly seen a resurgence of community spirit for both staff and customers within the village. Although there are already several organisations which foster this spirit (Church, the Volly, Clubs and other organisations), an ever increasing number of community projects run by or in the store and cafe have also been instrumental in rekindling this spirit. A recent meeting in the cafe by Somerset Tourism officers elicited the following comment ” It was interesting to hear how the shop and cafe came about. A lot of hard work and commitment for everyone involved. Extremely good food”. This is a typical response by the ever increasing number of groups who use the facility.

As a small not for profit organisation, our turnover is quite low as is any surplus funding. Very often we therefore find ourselves knowing ways to improve on our facility but unable to implement the idea due to lack of funding. The partition between the shop and the cafe has fallen into this category for some time. The benefits of less noise in the cafe from the shop chillers and better security should we decide to use the cafe when the shop is closed are well understood. It is with great pleasure therefore that due to the magnificent fundraising efforts of Jo Mills, we have been able to implement all the partition work.

The pancake evening was primarily targeted at the youth elements in the villages but has led to a number of initiatives. Individuals are serving in the shop as part of their Duke of Edinburgh community time, others have used volunteer service to meet the community project time needed as part of the national curriculum whilst others have merely gained valuable skills, confidence and experience before going on to full employment. Further projects such as the tree planting have also helped to supplement the various youth activities which are provided by the existing youth services and organisations within the village.

But it is not only the youngsters who are benefitting. Many of us now regularly call in the shop to pick up one or two items we have run out of or simply forgotten to get with our weekly shop. A small number even use the store for their weekly shop as it saves them having to go in to Ilminster or South Petherton. The shop is stocked as a convenience store and probably hasn’t got all the items an average family would need in it’s weekly shop. That said, the cost of driving in to Ilminster/Petherton for goods you have forgotten is approx £1. With shop prices already lower than leading supermarkets on a number of items, using the shop with only minimal transport costs from the village can save you money on those items you have forgotten in your weekly shop. And remember, every little saving helps.

The shop’s emphasis on sourcing local produce sees us currently stocking goods from over 29 local suppliers and this number is ever increasing. This effectively allows the shop and our customers to support our local Somerset businesses which we know in the current economic climate is welcomed by them all.

The theme of new residents to our village volunteering for service in the store as a means of quickly getting to know other villagers has taken off with several volunteers now doing this and other potential movers in looking to do the same. One couple who were house-hunting from London said they specifically targeted only villages with a shop in. Whilst a local estate agent has made it clear that property prices in Seavington have raised specifically because of there being a shop here.

Last year’s Christmas get together saw a number of villagers visit the shop (More than for the Countess of Wessex grand opening visit). Father Christmas was on hand , carols were sung in abundance, prizes were handed out at the Christmas raffle and good fare and drink was handed out in copious quantities. This sort of get together exemplifies what the shop and cafe can do for the Seavingtons community bringing many residents together and I look forward to the next christmas do.

The cafe is coming into its own now that it is established and is regularly used as a meeting place not just for groups such as walkers, mothers and toddlers, Seavington get together group, Local Council, school holidays pizza day, monthly seniors lunches etc but also for individuals wanting peace, company and good fare from within our villages and immediate area, further afield and an increasing number of people passing through the region. Most importantly it is clearly offering a place where villagers can meet and get to know each other. One volunteer commented they had met more villagers in the 3 months they have been working at the shop than in the 11 previous years they had lived in the village.

The free internet on the PC in the cafe is regularly used by young and old alike for all number of things whilst the free wifi allows you to bring your own laptop and connect whilst having a welcome drink or more.

The small office/back room has been used by our local MP to hold his surgery, by a hypnotherapy clinic, for our village craft fair and many other events but because of a shortage of space we have turned it back into the office allowing the more space to be used for shop goods and a regularly changing Art and craft display of goods.

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