Samphire returns to Blickling Hall

Specialist food shop Samphire is heading back to Blickling Hall this month after reaching a new deal with the National Trust.

Owners Jeff and Karen Nethercott will be running a trial 'pop-up shop' in the stately home's courtyard over weekends and bank holidays from April 16 until the end of May.

And they say the move spells good news for some of the 80-100 local suppliers they had to stop using when they were forced to shut their previous shop in the grounds of Blickling Hall, near Aylsham, at the end of last year.

The public rallied to support the couple when the trust would not renew the lease on the estate barn, beside the car park, where they had run Samphire for five-and-a-half years.

Mrs Nethercott says it was the backing and encouragement of loyal customers which persuaded the couple to go back to the National Trust with the 'pop-up' proposal.

A 'Save our Samphire' page on social networking site Facebook attracted 263 followers, food critic Giles Coren described the closure as 'lunacy' in his Times column, food writer Victoria Currell condemned the move in her blog and the Itteringham Community Shop, near to Blickling, has become a stockist of Samphire products.

'We're delighted - it's like going home,' said Mrs Nethercott. 'The support we have had since we closed has made us realise how much we were wanted and spurred us on to go back to the National Trust with alternative ideas.'

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The shop will use tables and a gazebo in the courtyard, by the book shop, and will sell food including sausages, pork pies, sausage rolls and tiffin. Mrs Nethercott hopes they will be able to start using local suppliers again, including asparagus and strawberry producers.

If both the Nethercotts and the trust think the venture is a success, they will be allowed to stay longer.

A spokesman for the National Trust stressed that there had been no U-turn. The decision not to renew the lease had been taken because the trust needed to transform the estate barn into a much more approachable area for the hall's many hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Work had been going on in the barn to provide welcoming, retail and catering facilities and some of it would be open for Easter.

He added that the trust had been delighted when the Nethercotts came up with the alternative proposal and was very happy to give it a trial.

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