Slaidburn Central Stores and Post Office has won a rural ‘Oscar’ award from the Countryside Alliance for its role at the heart of the community – especially during last year’s lockdown.

The mother and daughter team who run the shop at the heart of Slaidburn became the hub of the local community as they coordinated a food parcel delivery operation which became a lifeline for vulnerable residents living in outlying areas.

Now in their 15th Year, The Countryside Alliance Awards, celebrate rural businesses that go the extra mile, who support their local economy and are the unsung heroes in every community. This year’s awards attracted a record-breaking 18,000 nominations across the UK.

One of just four regional winners from across the Northwest, the judges said of the shop: "Clare and Megan go out of their way to support residents in this remote village shop by offering great produce and a friendly smile. The village simply would not thrive without them."

Mum and daughter team Megan and Clare Hardcastle took over the shop in 2018 and have invested time and money in extending the shop’s offering to meet the needs of the community.

They were starting to build the business by stocking a wider range of local produce and catering to both residents and tourists when the pandemic arrived.

“Our first instinct when the lockdown was announced was: how can we help? The second was: How are we going to cope?!” said Clare. “Within a few days, we were sending parcels out all over the Hodder Valley.

“We were struggling to keep up with demand and we were almost totally reliant on volunteers to do the deliveries while we took the orders, sourced produce and packed the parcels so the volunteer drivers could collect and distribute them.

“We started to stock locally produced sausages, lamb, beef and eggs and our pie supplier – Clayton Park – started baking bread and cakes for us. Walkers Fruit & Veg stall on Clitheroe market provided us with fresh produce and I even managed to get one of the big Lancashire cheese manufacturers to deal direct with us.

“As the lockdown eased off and the weather improved, the socially distanced queue that formed every morning outside the shop and down the street became a real community hub, where people could get that little bit of social contact to keep them going.

“I think the new local supply lines that we established during lockdown are here to stay. As long as the demand is there, we will continue to stock items from local producers as that was always part of the plan since we took over back in 2018.”

At the heart of the community: Grace, Megan and Clare on the steps at Slaidburn Central Stores.

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