HAWKESBURY Upton, Coln St Aldwyns, Poulton, The Guitings and Down Ampney, all together with other select Cotswold villages all have something wonderful in common - village shops.

Recently Down Ampney quite properly had a celebration to mark the 21st anniversary of their excellent institution.

Like the others mentions their shop is run by the villagers themselves.

They know the needs of those they serve and they can tap into local produce.

It is a simple idea but of course it means hard, unpaid work for the dedicated people behind each establishment.

Village shops have enjoyed a chequered history.

My first memories go back to the days of rationing when one had to be a registered customer at your local shop.

For us in Sheepscombe this was the shop-cum-post office run by the Brown family.

They looked after us splendidly bringing the weekly order and collecting the appropriate coupons.

We still had our ‘order’ delivered when we lived near Tetbury when we were supplied by the International Stores. Mr Rogers was the cheerful delivery man. By then the dynamics of villages were changing. More and more motor cars meant a more mobile population, a population with choice. Village shops could not compete with prices in nearby towns and then of course came supermarkets. The closure of many village shops was inevitable.

However village life was to change further. As fewer agricultural workers were needed many couples came to villages to retire and of course subsequently grew older and needed a good local shop. Fortunately the surviving community spirit prevailed. The need was recognised and hence the wonderful establishments we see serving their locality so well.

Many go the extra mile and within them are cafés. I have promised Penny extensive research in finding the best and urge readers to make recommendations. My top choice so far is Hawkesbury Upton. The village shop there is a cornucopia of delights. Uptonians you are fortunate.