HEATHER Tingle will be taking a break next month from the village cafe, shop and post office that she opens every day of the year with the exception of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
For she has a date at the House of Lords after being judged as having the best village shop in Yorkshire.
She only opened Flask End in Low Bradfield seven months ago, taking the radical step of switching from her career as a self-employed sales manager to take over what used to be called the Postcard Cafe and Store.
Her success in establishing the business at the heart of the community won her the regional award in the competition run by the Countryside Alliance, which have been nicknamed the ‘Rural Oscars’.
“We are off to the House of Lords for a champagne reception and awards ceremony,” said Heather, who will go with friend Tessa Hull. “I’m absolutely over the moon.”
Flask End was nominated by its customers, who squeeze into the place near the village cricket pitch for their groceries, to use the post office, for a cup of tea or coffee or to take advantage of a book exchange scheme. Nomination forms kept flying off the counter, said Heather.
“I have only been here since June so to get nominated was lovely, and to get through to the regionals finals was amazing. Then I got a phone call to say what we are doing is a great template for a community shop.”
The place had been closed for two years until Bradfield Parish Council decided to renovate and extend it and rent it out as a cafe. Heather took over last summer from Steve and Karen Dennis, who succeeded Shaz Thompson.
“There was so much potential. I knew the place quite well from when I was a customer. It has a lot of atmosphere, and there were a lot of things I could see that I could build upon.”
It was the village shop when Heather, now aged 35, was growing up in Dungworth.
“We’d walk to Bradfield, have an ice cream, go on the stepping stones and feed the ducks.”
Now she opens the premises 363 days a year, from 8am to 6pm during the week and on Saturdays and from 9am to 6pm on Sundays.
The focus is on local produce and trying to help local traders and artists. “We try to keep the money in the community.”
Flask End - the name comes from nearby Dam Flask and the refreshments that are provided - was the only South Yorkshire business to be nominated in the five categories of the Countryside Alliance awards,
Heather will come away from the House of Lords on March 13 with a plaque and aprons for her nine part-time staff.
“The judge came around and said he was very impressed by how much we do for the community. It’s lovely recognition of seven months hard work that hopefully we can improve on even more. We want a refurbishment and to get even more local produce.”
Heather will be presented with her award by Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with the support of the Countryside Alliance, which has become the major British campaigning organisation on rural issues.
Then she can look forward to the 2014 Tour de France passing her doorstep on its second day in Yorkshire, as featured last month in the Sheffield Telegraph.
Bradfield - highlighted before the Olympics by Deputy Prime Minister and Hallam MP Nick Clegg as a relatively unknown little gem for visitors - is on the route from York to Sheffield, which also passes through Langsett, Oughtibridge, Grenoside, Parson Cross, Fox Hill, Wadsley Bridge, Fir Vale and Wincobank before ending up at the Sheffield Arena.