Posted in Personal life

Deliver Us From Tesco

Camberwick Green - idyllic village in the children's TV programme

Trying to free up some space on my over-crowded bookshelves, I take down an old ring-binder that hasn’t been moved for as long as I can remember. Admittedly these days that could be as little as five minutes, but the dust indicates a period of years.

The label on the spine has come adrift, so I have to open the ring-binder to find out what’s inside: a collection of unpublished articles I wrote 20 years ago, just after I moved to Hawkesbury.

I’m soon reliving my first impressions and reflecting that in some ways, very little has changed. Rather, it’s me that’s adjusted to village life. But one article startles me: the one about the many charming local retail services that were flourishing then, long before the supermarkets started delivering to our doors.

There was Charlie Orchard the fishmonger, for example, who every Friday slipped fresh fish through our letterbox while we were out. A fish and chip van stopped outside our house on Tuesdays. To signal we wanted to order, we left our curtains open. A wonderful Village Market offered home produced goods. It was like having a village fete every fortnight.

When I wrote the article, many such services thrived within our village. But while my ring-binder’s lain unopened, gathering dust, virtually all of them have quietly fallen away. Reading the article was a sobering trip down memory lane. I hope that in another 20 years’ time, we’re not talking in the past tense about the few local services that still remain, particularly our Village Shop, Post Office and pubs. We use them or lose them, folks. May Hawkesbury be delivered from dependence on faceless, charmless supermarket chains. Every little helps local shops too, you know.

You can read some of these old articles about Hawkesbury’s local delivery services under the Hawkesbury Tales – A Village Memoir tab at the top of this page. The one about the delivery services is called Who Will Buy?

This post was originally written for the March 2013 issue of Hawkesbury Parish News.


English author of warm, witty cosy mystery novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Gemma Lamb/St Bride's School series. Novels published by Boldwood Books, all other books by Hawkesbury Press. Represented by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agents. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. Course tutor for Jericho Writers. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors. Lives and writes in her Victorian cottage in the heart of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

8 thoughts on “Deliver Us From Tesco

  1. I feel very lucky where I live in Bristol that our local high street has a veg shop, a butchers, an artisan bakers, a post office, numerous cafes, a fantastic theatre (at the Tobacco Factory) and a Sunday market selling lots of locally produced food and crafts. There is of course the obligatory Co-op and a Tescos too, yet the independent shops are well used and loved and hopefully will remain so. I think it’s so sad that villages are losing their shops – big name stores take away a village or an areas personality and community feel and that’s such a shame.

    1. Sounds lovely, Kate – and quite unusual in a city centre! It’s so important to keep all of these things – wherever you live, they add so much to the community. Thanks for commenting!

  2. You know, it’s funny, Debbie, because I love all the small, independent shops in the center of my town, Burien. Then, when one closes, I’m so sad, but then I realize, “oh, well, I haven’t been there for a year, now, have I?”

    With the economy being what it’s been in the U.S., the local business chamber organized some Saturday morning events called “Flash Mob Shopping.” People would meet at 9 am at a designated spot and commit to spending at least $20 at a shop, but they wouldn’t know which shop they were going to until they arrived. It was made into quite a fun event.

    1. Flash Mob Shopping – what a brilliant idea! Wonder if we could manage that in Hawkesbury? Although we only have one shop, we also have a post office with a gift section, two pubs and a hairdresser, and two farm shops within easy reach of the village centre. Thanks, Laura, I’ll pass that idea on!

  3. I must say I find this depressing. Not the post … the fact that our villages are losing their infrastructure to the dreaded supermarkets. I have a particular hatred (no, not too strong a word) of Tesco (*spits*) as it seems to want to dominate every aspect of our lives. I actually crowed when their profits were down!
    Our village has no shop and it is a 15 minute walk to the pub and most of us feel the lack. I often wonder if village shops could make a comeback if petrol became too expensive and we couldn’t get to the supermarkets.
    Village life in modern Britain … it’s still wonderful but it could be even wonderfuller.
    Thought provoking post, Debbie …

    1. Thanks for your comment, Angela. I must admit I was quite shocked at the difference that I’ve seen in the village just in my time here, and that’s why I have shared it here and in our parish mag – I’m hoping it will be a bit of a wake-up call to those who take the village shop for granted but never actually use it. Someone worked out that if each household in the village spent just £5 a week, it would do really well, but sadly very few do. I must admit to using Ocado for my bulk shopping deliveries but we do make a conscious effort to use the village shop, buying newspapers, bread and eggs there, so at least £10 a week, and various other bits and pieces. We are very lucky to still have two flourishing pubs on our high street, both of which draw in outsiders (i.e. those who don’t live in our village!) One of these was saved a year ago after a few years of near failure, by a brilliant young couple who are really making a go of it as an Italian bistro. He is Italian, she is Polish. The irony is not lost on me that immigrant workers are saving a traditional English village. It makes me fume when people bang on about immigrant workers who I think by and large are FAB!

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