The Lively Business of a Village Store

In the heart of East Leicestershire lies the picturesque village of Tilton on the Hill. With its hills and rural countryside it is easy to see why the village was voted ‘Best Village in Leicestershire’ in 2009. 

Here, just at the turnoff on the B6047 on the way to Melton Mowbray, you will find Tilton Village Store. A unique blend of old-world village life and modern convenience. While you sit and wait for your latte and bacon cob you get a curiously amusing insight into village and shop life. 

Everybody comes in for a friendly ‘hallo’ and a good chat, whilst also buying their newspaper and milk for the morning. Children and mothers come in and out of the shop for essential pack-up goodies before they are taken to school. 

Fresh fruit and vegetables are dropped off daily by the friendly Sarah from Paul Reid Fruit and Vegetables. Straight away Sarah is drawn into a conversation by a customer about the merits of processed carrots versus fresh ones with tops on. 

Pulling up, John Dwyer Bakery makes a dash for the front door, with his brown bread trays. Daily fresh bread delivery is the order of the day here. Some customers have standing bread orders and the kitchen, at the shop; rely on this delivery for their sandwiches. 

A local farmer pulls up outside and cuts a bee line for the shop. Four eager dogs peer from outside his Land Rover. A box of dog biscuits appears from behind the serving desk. A handful of biscuits are deposited in the hand, together with the change for crisps and cold drinks. The farmer bumps into a relation and a conversation ensues about lambs and harvests. 

One by one morning customers find their way to work and peace is restored. A quick cup of tea for the staff and the filling up of shelves and ordering of stock starts. Cold drinks in the chiller, chocolates and sweets on the stand, tins of baked beans 

and tomatoes, flour and cereals, coffee and tea, all find their way onto the shelves. 

The phone starts ringing on the windowsill. It is an order for the kitchen. Sandwiches and cooked breakfast to take away for a starving customer. Trays of jumbo sausage rolls and pastries appear from out of the kitchen. The aroma of cooked pastry and fresh coffee fills the air...aaaaaah, bliss. 

The staff have a smile and a friendly ‘Hallo’ for everyone coming through the door. Conversations and discussions on every topic take place. One does have the sense of being part of the village and the broader community. 

Clarkes Butchers, from Queniborough, rings. Would the shop like to try some of their award winning pork pies? Half an hour later a little white van appears outside. A man with a white overcoat and a Clarkes logo on the coat pocket comes smiling in to the shop. He carries a polystyrene box laden with pork pies, frozen meals, sausages, bacon, steak, mince and chicken. All essentials needed to knock up a winning meal or a quick supper. 

It is nearing 12 o’clock and trays of freshly made sandwiches and cobs have made their way into the chiller. All ready for the lunchtime rush. Slowly locals are making their way to this bustling little shop for their lunch. Some decide to sit at the tables in the shop and have their lunch. Animatedly they chat to each other and the staff. 

Cups of tea, coffee, lattes and cappuccinos leave the shop. Nothing like a caffeine hit at lunchtime to pick you up for an afternoons work. Lunch time is truly a cacophony of banter, orders and smells. 

Come 2 o’clock, the kitchen is winding down and closed. Everyone has had their bit of lunch, but in the chiller there are some more cobs and cakes. Just in case.... 

David, the milkman, appears through the door. High-fiving a member of staff and smiling at the customers in the shop. A barrage of ‘David, where have you been’ follows. The milk fridge is replenished. While the milkman carries in his heavy load, Manor Farm Yoghurts arrive. Their award-winning yoghurts are a hit in the village and apparently highly addictive. 

A man with a blue shirt and backpack pulls up on his yellow push-bike. Red socks down to his ankles he professes that he cycled all the way from Skeffington for these yoghurts. He introduces himself as Nick from Nick’s Pop-up Parties... “Tents and canopies for all occasions” he says with a wink. Quickly he fills his backpack with loads of yoghurt and tries to squeeze a bottle of milk in also. He straps his backpack on his back and makes himself comfortable on his bicycle seat. “Are we seeing you at our ‘pop-up cafe’ at the shop on the 5th and 6th of August?” he asks. “All for Loros you know”, he says while strapping his feet into the peddles. “You might”, I replied and with a wave of his hand and a smile he is off. 

Time for a quick cup of tea with the afternoon staff. Customers come into the shop, pay and leave. Some stay to chat and some just quickly grab something to eat before the school run starts again. 

I am collecting my pen and scribble pad full of little doodles and notes. Cups are cleared away and I thank my ‘host’ for a lovely day spent at the shop. With a promise to be back, I give a wave and start to make my way to my car. I see the school buses arrive; children disembark, making their way to the shop for sweets. Parents pulling up and running in for bread and evening essentials, I smile, because these scenes are part of our daily lives... more so evident at Tilton Village Store where village life continues to thrive.