THE Exmoor village of Exford is rejoicing as the village shop is set to return this week after being closed for nearly 18 months.

For many years Exmoor Village Stores had been run by Trevor and Sally Gilbert, but the shop was closed and put on the market after Sally passed away in April 2019.

It was a tough time for the rural village as the shop had been a hub in the heart of the village for many years.

With the shop struggling to find a buyer initially, three local investors decided to club together and buy the premises and work to get it open.

They are Sir Stephen Wales-Cohen, Anna Connell and Henry Rawson.

It was hoped that the business would be open again at around Easter this year.

However the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the building work had to stop.

Since the end of lockdown, it’s been full steam ahead and a very busy time for Hayley Hunter, who has taken on the role of Exmoor Village Stores manager.

Investor Anna Connell said: “We are delighted to be able to open the village shop again.

“Since purchasing it we have funded some major renovation work so the store is now bigger, brighter and cleaner, with a new roof, windows and electrics.

“It has been difficult without a village shop for Exford’s residents, many of whom are elderly and the shop not only provides vital resources in close proximity, but also plays a big part in the village’s sense of community.”

Mrs Connell said many of the villagers had resorted to getting deliveries from the major supermarkets, while others had opted to shop with the village store in Withypool, two miles down the road.

“It is our hope now to woo them all back,” Mrs Connell said.

The store also has two new self-contained flats above, which will provide affordable accommodation for local residents.

The shop will be opened by Revd David Weir of Exford at 7.30am on Saturday, September 5.

It will then be open 7.30pm to 6pm Monday to Saturday and 9am to 12.30pm on Sundays.