Shopkeeper’s new Mattishall challenge suits her to a tea

Stroll on, we could really do with a cuppa...

When Gill Currie isn't immersed in the rigours of running the family business, there's nothing she likes more than pounding the footpaths around her Norfolk village with her 20-month-old red labrador, Amber.

And now she is hoping thirsty ramblers who share her enthusiasm will be among the regular clientele of her latest venture: Tabnabs, a tea and coffee shop set behind her Victoria Stores at Mattishall, near Dereham.

It has just opened in a historic building off Church Plain that has served the village in the past as a chapel, schoolroom, barn, the parish office and a dress shop, and is the fulfilment of a long-held dream for Mrs Currie.

The mother-of-four is well used to working 14-hour days juggling the diverse demands of a 21st century village shop: at various times this has diversified into everything from wines to floristry as well as providing the usual grocery staples.


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To unwind, she heads for the open country, putting in up to eight miles of yomping when she can.

'We're really lucky around here,' she said. 'The footpaths are well looked after and you can do a 12-mile circuit in lovely countryside. I take the dog out every day; we're usually out for two hours, though I feel a bit guilty because I haven't had time this past couple of weeks.

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'We have lots of ramblers come and park on Church Plain to go off on the paths, and we hope to serve them. And we've had a very good response in the village so far – people have been keen as mustard.'

The caf� takes its name from the tabnab, a Merchant Navy term for a small cake or biscuit, and therein lies a poignant story. Gill's late husband Barry, who ran Victoria Stores with her after they took it over from her mum and dad 25 years ago, had spent two decades travelling the world in the service.

At 17, he was reckoned to be the youngest man to go around the globe twice. Barry died two years ago. 'We just wanted a name that would remind us all of him,' said Mrs Currie.

In keeping with the maritime theme, the upstairs room, with more tables and comfy sofas, is called The Crow's Nest.

Mrs Currie will run the caf� with the help of chef Richard Childs, from Swanton Morley, and her youngest son Matthew – the others are Sam, Jamie and Stuart – and she hopes to to be very much involved with the baking. 'Of course, we'll have to have a special Victoria sponge because we're Victoria Stores,' she said.

Tabnabs is open Mondays to Saturdays from 8am to 5pm. More information at www.tabnabs.co.uk

Mrs Currie is seeking pictures of the cafe building in days gone by, particularly in its chapel days. Call her on 01362 850082 if you have any to lend her.

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