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Holt springs eternal as town welcomes back visitors

PUBLISHED: 13:05 20 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:05 20 July 2020

Holt's Georgian character and wealth of independent shops make it a must-visit shopping destination   Picture: Chris Taylor/Love Holt

Holt's Georgian character and wealth of independent shops make it a must-visit shopping destination Picture: Chris Taylor/Love Holt

Copyright christaylorphoto.co.uk

Holt has long been recognised as a fantastic shopping destination, with the perfect combination of Georgian character, independent shops and great places to eat. The message is loud and clear: Holt is well and truly back open for business.

Molly Morston was painted by Holt resident and internationally-acclaimed young artist Kieron Williamson  Picture: CT Baker GroupMolly Morston was painted by Holt resident and internationally-acclaimed young artist Kieron Williamson Picture: CT Baker Group

The sense of community spirit in Holt is palpable. It runs through every resident, every organisation and every shop.

With its Georgian architecture, independent retailers, galleries and green spaces, appreciating the character of this quintessentially English market town is possible on an afternoon walk along its quaint Roman streets. But even considering the picturesque setting, it’s the people of Holt that infuse the town with its rare personality.

Like every town, village and city in the country, for the last few months Holt has been enjoyed only by its residents; but with restrictions easing, the message from the town’s shops and businesses is that Holt is very much back open for business.

“We are hopeful that residents and visitors alike will continue to enjoy the independent shopping that Holt has to offer, and will do so knowing that we are both open for business and that it’s safe and sensible to do so,” says Sarah Tribe from Love Holt, the rebranded District Chamber of Trade and Commerce.

Holt's shops are back open and ready to welcome shoppers    Picture: Chris Taylor/Love HoltHolt's shops are back open and ready to welcome shoppers Picture: Chris Taylor/Love Holt

“As a town, as shown through the coronavirus lockdown, we will all stand together and provide support for each other.”

The coronavirus has resulted in difficult times for many shops, and in Holt this was compounded by the fire that destroyed the town’s only supermarket, Budgens, on June 20. But the town was determined to continue its plans to re-open and welcome shoppers back.

“The timing of the fire has proved difficult, as it occurred just at the point of Holt reopening again for business,” says Sarah. “However, we are fortunate that our independent retail offering extends to groceries and everyday needs, as we have two fish mongers, three butchers, one bakery and two newsagents.”

The flagship Bakers & Larners of Holt department store was also quick to respond and pick up some of the services offered by Budgens. A ‘pop-up’ Post Office service was created within the store just five days after the fire, and the CT Baker Group, which owns both Budgens and Bakers & Larners, also reinstated Budgens’ home delivery service within a week.

“Fellow traders in the town have pulled together to fill the gap left by the loss of the much-loved store,” says Louise Cowell of Bakers & Larners. “2020 has been an extraordinary year for the CT Baker Group, but perhaps not for the reasons we anticipated when making plans to mark its 250th anniversary. Having re-opened on June 15, following 12 weeks of closure, our focus has been on ensuring Bakers & Larners is a safe and welcoming place to work and shop.

“One of the measures we’ve introduced has been the ‘zoning’ of the store, which has ensured that customers have the space to shop safely and with confidence. Parking onsite is also free of charge until further notice.”

Visitors to the town can also enjoy the fantastic 1.6m owl sculpture painted by internationally-acclaimed Holt artist Kieron Williamson, which is currently perched in one of Bakers & Larners’ windows. It’s part of the department store’s support for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) in its anniversary year, with a commitment to raise £25,000 to help support local families and their children. Using his exceptional talent, Kieron painted the landscape of Morston Harbour onto the owl sculpture, which has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Molly Morston’. Molly will soon spread her wings to The Gallery, Lees Yard, where she will be the key feature of an exclusive Kieron Williamson exhibition hosted from July 24 – August 4 (Kieron’s 18th birthday). It is intended that Molly will go to auction later this year.

“2020 has presented by far the biggest challenge Bakers & Larners of Holt has faced in living memory, so it has been fantastic to be able to welcome customers back to store with the message that Holt is very much open for business,” says Louise.

A sense of community spirit is one of the defining characteristics of the town. As the seriousness of the coronavirus situation unfolded, Love Holt and key town players implemented several community initiatives. This resulted in Facebook support groups and volunteering schemes to deliver medical prescriptions and help those most affected, while businesses adapted to government health measures by offering home deliveries.

Perhaps the community response to Covid-19 and the Budgens fire in Holt can be used as an example of how people can come together and transform a crisis into a catalyst for positive change. All it requires of us is collaboration.

Sarah from Love Holt concludes: “We all value what a special place this is. There’s something about this community that makes it natural for us all to lean inwards and look to help each other.

“We hope that Holt continues to thrive, cementing still further its determination and destination market town status.”

For more information to help you plan your visit to Holt, please visit loveholt.com


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