A project that began as a business with the community of Blackboys at its heart is growing as a hub with activities open to people from surrounding villages and towns.
The Grove Farmhouse Cafe is now the base for craft, creative writing, book and walking groups, and even a community library.
The cafe continues to offer homemade meals and bakes, using local ingredients, and dates have been set for a new series of themed dining nights.
In addition The Grove – and a small room next door – can be hired for meetings, functions, and classes, after opening hours and on Saturdays.
This always was the dream of Andrew and Emma Doherty, and Andrew and Sarah Wright, who launched the business but it was a meeting with Suzi Lock from Action in Rural Sussex which injected new impetus to their ideas.
Andrew and Sarah are currently in Colorado studying at Charis Bible College for two years and new directors Sharon and Richard Burt and Gillian Clark have come on board.
The new beginning came after Suzi Lock, a village agent with Action in Rural Sussex, called in at the cafe and met Emma Doherty.
Suzi was on a mission to get to know more people in the area she covers, Uckfield and surrounding villages, offering support with community initiatives, either in developing activities already under way, or launching new ones.
Suzi told Uckfield News: “I wandered in and asked Emma if she knew of local people doing voluntary work who needed support. Emma told me about the vision The Grove had of becoming a community hub.
“I really liked the feeling of the cafe, such a lovely place. It was perfect to develop further, not from a business point of view but to encourage events in the community.”
An open meeting to share ideas over free tea and cake proved a great success and progress towards The Grove becoming a community hub has speeded up.
One aspect of Suzi’s work, funded by Big Lottery money, is to find people within the community to coordinate volunteers and build community initiatives.
Sharon Burt, who used to be coordinator for Uckfield Foodbank, was keen to take on this role for the Blackboys community hub, and Suzi said Sharon was her “ideal” candidate.
Suzi is supporting Sharon build a network with other community organisations and groups and helping to inform her on what people are looking for in the community.
The Community Hub is all about being “a place to meet”.
Sharon says people are always welcome when they would like the company of others, to join in the activities, and to chat. She can be found at Elevenses meetings every Tuesday at 11am and is open to more ideas for activities.
The ethos of The Community Hub is to provide to the community of Blackboys and further afield with:
- A high quality café with excellent customer service and a focus (where possible) on serving Fair Trade drinks and locally sourced food and ingredients
- Provide a high quality of service that enhances the community of the people of Blackboys and those further afield
- Support local business and producers
- A Community Hub and Meeting Point providing a pleasant meeting place for local residents and people from further afield
- A continued legacy for the village
- Work hand in hand with local churches
In short, a safe place, where any individual or group can rest, feel safe and instil a sense of wellbeing, joining in with other people when desired, to be part of, but in no way a complete solution to the isolation of those in the rural community. To be fully inclusive, to, but not limited to: the elderly, infirm, enabled (physical or mental), young families, and single mums.
Dates for your diary:
10am Get Crafty (weekly): Bring your knitting, crochet, small sewing or craft project and natter while you work at The Grove Farmhouse Cafe and Community Hub. Free to attend but it is requested that refreshments are purchased to thank The Grove for their hospitality. For more information email Sharon: email@example.com.
11am Elevenses (weekly): An opportunity to meet and get to know others living in the community. Free to attend but please purchase refreshments to thank The Grove for their hospitality. For more information email Sharon: firstname.lastname@example.org.
10am Book Group (monthly): The group meets on the first Wednesday of every month. Pick up this month’s book, discuss last month’s book and anything else you have read. Free to attend but please purchase refreshments to thank The Grove for their hospitality. For more information email Sharon: email@example.com.
2-3pm Creative Writing Group (every other Wednesday during term time): An opportunity to discuss your ideas and spend time writing them up. Free to attend but please purchase refreshments to thank The Grove for their hospitality. For more information email Sharon: firstname.lastname@example.org. Dates are: October 2 and 16; November 6 and 20; December 4 and 18. For more information email Sharon: email@example.com.
10am Walk with Company (weekly): Meet at Blackboys Recreation Ground in the High Street, Blackboys for an hour’s walk around the village. Bring your camera, plant/bird app to make the most of the beautiful countryside. Finish at The Grove Cafe, Brownings Farm Workshops, Lewes Road, for coffee. Dogs welcome on the walk but must stay in the courtyard during coffee. Free to attend but those taking part are asked to purchase refreshments to than The Grove for their hospitality. For more information email Sharon: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost £23.50 per person, includes three-course meal with a complimentary glass of Prosecco on arrival. The Grove is fully licensed and will have a range of drinks available to buy via a separate menu, or bring your own drinks, £4.00 corkage per table. The evenings run from 7.30 to 10.30pm. Booking is essential, book early to avoid disappointment, telephone: 01825 890415. For further information phone 01825 890415 or email: email@example.com
Saturday, October 12, Italian Night.
Saturday, 9 November, 2019, Spanish Night.
Saturday, 14 December, 2019, Greek Night.
Saturday, 25 January, 2020, Burns Night.
Friday, 14 February, 2020, Valentines Night.
• Suzi Lock from Action in Rural Sussex is always pleased to hear from people with ideas for community activities they would like help in developing. She can be contacted on 01273 473422 or take a look at their website: www.ruralsussex.org.uk