Exciting time’ for rural hub despite coronavirus

AS a place designed to support and showcase local businesses, Kirkharle courtyard became a vital community hub for rural communities throughout lockdown.

Kirkharle Courtyard provides a unique Northumberland shopping experience in the historic farm setting near Wallington.

As well as being the birthplace of the famed royal landscape gardener – Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown – Kirkharle Courtyard has a number of galleries and shops to visit and watch the artists at work.

Claire Cocker, business development manager at the courtyard, said staff had to quickly think on their feet to adapt to the changes.

She said: “I was recruited in March and was working to develop it into its next phase and then Covid-19 had shut all the units but one.”

Brown’s Lakeside Larder remained open and transformed into a local one-stop-shop for the rural North Tyne and Redesdale.

Claire explained: “We quickly had to develop an e-commerce presence and put together an online ordering system, which catapulted us further to become the local go-to business to provide local support.”

The launch of the evening Kirkharle Curries takeaway service proved a huge hit with the surrounding communities who often have to travel to Ponteland for a takeaway meal.

“We had to get into delivery mode and we covered an area from Hexham to Morpeth and in between.”

Businesses at the courtyard benefited from a Ray Wind Fund grant to help them reopen and purchase vital health and safety equipment.

And despite four months of lockdown, Claire remains confident about the future and building the profile of the shopping space.

“Overall Covid-19 had provided us with a lot of opportunities and given us lots of ideas. It’s a really exciting time.”

 

By Bill Edgar @CourantBill