Successful food shops to close

An award-winning and successful specialist food shop based at Blickling Hall has been given its marching orders by the National Trust.

Samphire, based beside the car park at the stately home near Aylsham, will close its doors on January 3 after five-and-a-half years of trading because the trust has decided not to renew its lease.

And Samphire's satellite shop, which opened on Wymondham's Brewery Lane in September last year, will put up the shutters for good on Christmas Eve because it would not be viable to keep it running alone, according to Karen Nethercott, who runs the businesses with her husband Jeff.

The closures will lead to the loss of five jobs and will affect between 100 and 150 Norfolk suppliers, some of whom rank Samphire as their biggest customer, according to Mrs Nethercott, 48.

'We feel very sad,' she said. 'We put an awful lot of effort into creating Samphire at Blickling and it complemented the National Trust's ethos perfectly because we are a niche business, using local, seasonal food, from hand-picked small producers with a strong focus on animal welfare.'

The shop, based in a mid-18th century Dutch-gabled barn, had been ideally positioned to catch the attention of thousands of visitors to Blickling Hall.

Talks with the trust to try and find alternative accommodation on the Blickling estate had been unsuccessful, she added.

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Samphire had gone from strength to strength each year and had just enjoyed its best-ever summer. It was currently experiencing its busiest-ever Christmas, said Mrs Nethercott.

Customers had been ringing and emailing to express their shock and disappointment at the closure news.

The Nethercotts now plan to focus on expanding their on-line and wholesale businesses, add to the number of farmers markets they already attend in Norfolk, Suffolk and London, and develop their smallholding at Tibenham, near Diss.

Wholesale customers include the National Trust, who sell Samphire pork pies.

Helen Bailey, manager at Blickling, said the Samphire building needed major work, including a new roof.

'As the lease was coming to an end we wanted to take the opportunity to review how we welcomed visitors in that area who come to enjoy the wider estate,' she said.