Reprinted with permission from the Watlington Times (March 2019). Pick up your copy from the Co-op for just 50p.
"The Village that keeps on giving". That was the comment made by a well off west London friend of my daughter-in-law who had driven up from London to visit for lunch. As she walked down the High Street yet one more enticing shop after another allowed her to do almost all her Christmas shopping here.
Over the last few years Watlington's High Street has acquired some interesting new shops and the old ones have been revamped. We hear lots of anecdotal news that it has become a 'destination'. Actually it has gone beyond and anecdote and is true.
On the corner Bella Luce with its spectacular lights in the window catches the eye of passing traffic topped at the Town Hall, especially at night when the lamps are lit. As a result they get customers from as far as Cheltenham and Nottingham who make a special stop to visit the shop. You will have noticed the lady with umbrella lamps, these are hand made in Greece and dozens have been sold.
The Italian Handbag Shop despite being small also attracts the attention of passing drivers sitting in traffic. For the owner, Catherine Johnson, business has been good; she has a wide price range from £25 - £250 so lots of customers come in to buy small presents. She buys all her bags from small family run leather workshops outside Florence. It shows just how far the incompetence of our government reaches in that at present she buys small quantities at each order so if a line does not sell she is not stuck with stock, but with Brexit looming should she now take a risk and spend thousands of pounds stockpiling bags that might not sell?
When I walked into K is for kitchen I was assailed by a lovely smell of cooking... It was Wednesday and Wendy was preparing quiches on their dinky little single plate Aga. It's like an Aladdin's cave and a testament to Amanda Hinton's imagination that apart from selling kitchen stuff they hold cookery demonstrations prepare food to order for parties, baptisms, business lunches etc. have started a wedding list service, sell Cook Ready Meals and Ice Cream and kitchen units. I enquired about their best seller, apparently Self Sealing Lids, they are silicone suction lids you can use on frying pans and in the fridge. I was given a demonstration, put a lid on a glass and lift it up by the lid's handle and it sticks... Magic!
The revamped Calnan's Butchers also draws in customers from quite a distance, as far as Aylesbury. Their best seller is the ready prepared dishes; they are all made in the shop, many by Tom Calnan himself.
Robin at the Granary hopes that his new more spacious shop will allow people to find things more easily. The extra space lets him have a whole wall of local - well from between London and Bristol - bottled beers. The bigger café now has a quieter side where people feel more able to work and have business meetings. Let's hope the longer stays translate into more spending.
Drapes, the interior designers, have been in Watlington for 37 years and their workshop in the High Street making all types of soft furnishings, curtains and upholstery, etc. Their shop in Couching Street with such decorative window displays is really the show room for their dozen of textile sample books.
I can't mention every shop but now we hardly need to leave Watlington, we can buy presents for all occasions and things for the house, Mercy in Action has given us a clothes shop and the Rhubarb Tree has taken over selling stationery from the old Post Office, Angela provides vegetables and we have fresh fish from the back of a van on Thursday.
We might criticise the Co-op for running out of stock, but what would we do without it and as far as I can see it's not the staff's fault, all decisions on stock are taken by the head office in Warwick and not the local managers. How mad is that? Our branch is a 'Premium Store' which means we have more of their high end 'Truly Irresistible' range and which is why there are 41 different teas. I asked what their best seller was - Prosecco and salmon fillets. What a lot of lushes we are! That is why so much shelf space is given over to white wine.
When so many villages are losing not just their shops but pubs too, we must keep on 'use it or lose it' to ensure the High Street stays as vibrant as it is now and hope the Edge Road won't divert all the passing trade as well as the traffic. The big unknown of course is what is going to happen to the newly refurbished Home Care shop, the letting agents have been inundated with enquiries.
Spring had well and truly sprung this morning, with the sun shining and the High Street bustling with customers.
A short wander into town with the kids in tow, we headed straight to the Paddock to burn off some energy before settling down to a restorative cup of the good stuff (freshly ground of course!) and a delicious bacon sandwich, on the tastiest fresh bread, at The Granary.
After devouring our breakfast, we doubled back to drop off some books at our ever so handy local library and fought our way through the crowds to buy some of Kitty Tait's mouth-watering creations at The Orange Bakery's latest pop-up in The Social (sugary cinnamon buns & donuts - delish!).
Fully laden with baked goods we popped into my husband's favourite shop - Calnan Brothers. With so much variety it's always hard to choose what to buy here, but eventually we settled for some chipolatas, two juicy rib-eyes and a heart-shaped brie!
Final stop at The Undercroft to stock up on veggies and couldn't resist a sunny bunch of daffodils to bring a little of the Spring home.
How lucky we are to be in Watlington!
Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) have informed us that they have given permission for Thames Water to close High Street to traffic from 11 - 15 March inclusive to allow for the installation of a new water connection.
A diversion will be in place along Love Lane & Chapel Street.
For further information please contact OCC.
The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed a slight change to our website. We've had a long overdue update to simplify and modernise our virtual shop window. We're not experts at web design so please do bear with us whilst we update the site, and if you spot any glitches or typos please do let us know on email@example.com.
You can now apply for membership of the WBA online by clicking on JOIN NOW and completing the form.
Our Business Directory is also getting a comprehensive update. If you spot any out of date information again please do let us know. Members of the WBA will benefit from a listing in our directory. We hope to develop the functionality of the directory in due course.
Let us know if there are any other features you would like to see. Check back regularly for updates as we continue to build the site.
A huge thank you to The Tree Barn for donating our tree again this year, and to everyone who helped to put it up this morning. Special thanks to Kenny Wilkinson from Benson Sawmills.
It's nearly that time again! Are you aware that traditionally the shopkeepers in Watlington, and funds raised by the Christmas Fair pay for the Christmas trees in the town? Feedback from local residents, visitors to Watlington, and local business people, has told us that the trees are appreciated by all. This year we would like to offer all local businesses the chance to 'sponsor' a tree.
Sponsorship is £40 and will include the purchase of the tree, lights, putting up and taking down of the tree. Your sponsorship will be listed on signs in the High Street, on the WBA website, and also in the local press.
For more information, and to sponsor a tree please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WBA New Website
Our Business Directory has been extended and upgraded. Please check your listing and email any changes or additions/deletions using the online form. The WBA website gets a lot of visitors, especially the Business Directory. As well as an enhanced entry which includes a logo, members now also have the option to have a whole page within the directory. Any members that would like to take advantage of this service should get in touch.
The new website also includes a blog/news page. Any member is very welcome to post a blog entry, just email us with your prose and we'll post it for you. You can also sign up to receive news updates by clicking here.
We ran a survey earlier in the year to get some feedback from the membership about what type of activities you would like to see from the WBA. More networking events was the most popular suggestion by far! Therefore please join us for a:
Tuesday 25th November
8am - 9am
The Fat Fox
£10.00A great opportunity to meet other local businesses in Watlington, whilst enjoying breakfast at The Fat Fox.
Guest Speaker: Raphael Mahoney - Computer Assistance
Raphael is the founder of Computer Assistance, an Oxford based IT support company offering a wide range of professional IT services to business and organisations. Raphael is a regular speaker on BBC Radio Oxford providing help and advice to their audience in an understandable language!
'Business in the Cloud'
Cloud computing has proved a huge benefit to business - especially small businesses. With cloud services, small businesses reap the benefits of not having to deploy physical infrastructure like file and e-mail servers, storage systems or packaged software. The availability of these solutions, means hassle-free collaboration among business partners and employees.
Reserve your place now by clicking here.
Places are limited so best to book early!
Watlington Business Association reviewing commercial priorities, whilst supporting local youth groups at AGM.
Once again Watlington Business Association has had a successful year, with its flagship event, the Christmas Fair raising enough funds to pay for the town Christmas lights with enough left over to support local youth groups. As well as the usual presentation of cheques to local youth organisations at this years AGM, held at the Fat Fox on 13 May, Chair Simon Jones of Jones & Jacobs also announced that the WBA is reviewing its future and the services it provides to its members. As the business climate has changed during recent years, it has been decided to canvass opinion and see what members really want from their association to ensure that the WBA continues to meet the requirements of Watlington’s thriving and vibrant business community.
An online survey has been sent to all those businesses in Watlington known to the WBA. Anyone who has not received a copy and would like to take part should visit the website where there is a link www.watlingtonba.com or email email@example.com
The AGM proceeded smoothly, with the existing executive committee being voted back in.
Cheques totally £800 were presented to the Watlington Youth Club, Watlington Football Club, the Fire Cadets and the Scouts. Simon Jones stated; “We are delighted to be able to give back to the community, and are pleased to be able to support four local youth organisations within the town. The donations are also in part, to say thank you for the support that the WBA has received from the groups during the various events that we hold during the year.”
It’s your Business Association – tell us what you want.
The pace of business is changing rapidly for all businesses. Adapt or die the business gurus tell us. Well, at the WBA we are also considering our future, trying to decide where to go from here, and we need to hear from the business community within Watlington.
We have put together this short survey to gather your opinion and would appreciate your time to complete it and tell us what you think.
Another Christmas Tree donated by The Tree Barn at Christmas Common and organised by the Watlington Business Association. Enjoy!