The church of St Nicholas in the small Rutland village of Thistleton is enjoying a new lease of life as a pop-up café, partly thanks to a donation from the Larkfleet Homes Community Fund.
The former parish church is set to continue as the venue for a popular community café offering a range of hot and cold snacks with the help of a donation of £250 from the fund.
A group called the Friends of Thistleton Church (FOTC) was established to save the former parish church of St Nicholas from closure so that the building could be used for the benefit of the residents of Thistleton and the wider public.
FOTC treasurer Beverley Hancock said: “Last April we introduced a Saturday morning cafe serving hot and cold drinks and cakes.
“The café became increasingly successful as the summer progressed, regularly attracting 25 people or more during its two-hour opening time.
“We are extending the menu from cakes to provide soup and snacks. This generous donation from the Larkfleet Community Fund has helped us to do this with the money being used to buy a counter-top cooker, soup maker and crockery.”
The Saturday morning café has created an opportunity for local people to come together to help with the social and fundraising activities that are necessary to meet the costs of keeping the historic church open. The café has already reopened for the Spring and the weekend offerings have been dubbed ‘Souper Saturdays’.
“There are no cafes in the neighbouring villages, so we also have visitors from the wider community dropping in. Additionally, Thistleton is situated on two popular walking routes, the Rutland Round and the Viking Way so the Saturday morning cafe was also used by walkers last year and this is something that we hope to develop further if we can expand the menu from cakes to include healthier snacks.”
The cafe raised just over £1,000 in its first season and FOTC wants to increase this amount this year. It is hoped that the community café will eventually cover the basic running costs of keeping the church open, approximately £2,500.
Beverley added: “With an expanded menu including hot food we will be able to open for longer over the weekends and extend our service in the colder months as well as the spring and summer.
“FOTC will then be able to devote more time to developing further community activities for the benefit of local residents with a little less focus on fundraising. We will also be able to use the additional catering equipment to provide a mid-week luncheon club.”
The Larkfleet Homes Community Fund supports groups that enhance or develop local communities. It makes grants to charities or voluntary organisations within ten miles (16 kilometres) of any housing development by Larkfleet Homes or Allison Homes, both part of The Larkfleet Group of Companies which is based in Bourne, Lincolnshire.
Karl Hick, CEO of The Larkfleet Group of Companies, said: “We were particularly pleased to support this project because of the positive impact it’s having on the local community. We have a strong community ethos at Larkfleet – our developments are carefully designed to provide a sense of place and provide real communities in which people want to live.”
Cambridgeshire Community Foundation manages The Larkfleet Homes Community Fund on Larkfleet’s behalf. Any community or voluntary group wishing to find out more about the fund can visit www.tiny.cc/larkfleet-fund.