COMMUNITY-MINDED volunteers have stepped up to keep a “vital” village shop open after its owners were forced into self-isolation.

The Longparish Village Shop and Post Office is the only place where villagers can stock up on supplies without having to drive to a neighbouring town after the government introduced strict measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

And when shop owners Pat and Anne Burke and their staff self-isolated, Longparish faced losing an essential lifeline.

But instead the community swung into action, building up a volunteer base of 30 people to keep the shop open for at least two hours a day so that residents can still get supplies.

The effort has been led by Longparish Community Support Group, and they have set up a two week rota which includes deliveries for people most in need.

Volunteer Andy Joliffe said: “Keeping the shop open, stocked and able to supply those in need has been vital for this village.

“As a community we have always been a really strong one. This is another challenge that we have had to turn to each other and find a solution.”

Villagers had previously been focusing their efforts on saving the local pub, the Plough Inn, by taking it into community ownership by selling shares in an effort to raise £750,000.

But when the project to sell shares was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, the community effort to save the pub was quickly translated into helping to keep their small village shop up and running.

Andy added: “Trying to save The Plough Inn had opened up channels in terms of connections between people and has meant we were well placed to spring into action when this latest challenge faced us.”

Maintaining supplies to the shop during the crisis and whilst it is being operated by volunteers has been another challenge for villagers. But thanks to the lobbying of the local MP Caroline Noakes supplies are still getting through to the shop.

The villagers working to save the Plough Inn had mobilised under the Longparish Community Pub group, which is backed by the Plunkett Foundation, a national charity which support rural community businesses.

James Alcock, chief executive of the Plunkett Foundation, said: “The residents of Longparish clearly have a passion to protect rural services, as we can see in their efforts to save the local pub.

“It is impressive to see how quickly they have managed to spur local volunteers into action and keep their local shop up and running, and importantly keeping vital supplies available for those most in need.

“This kind of can-do spirit will surely serve them well as they strive to take their local pub into community ownership. Issues such as loss of amenities and isolation in rural areas are well known. And we know from the many pubs we have supported that when they are in community ownership they can do so much more than just be a pub as they help tackle these issues.”