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‘It looked like a warzone’: farm shop is back after devastating fire

PUBLISHED: 13:35 15 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:54 15 December 2019

Marina Hargreaves at the Hillside Nurseries farm shop in Toftwood, which has reopened following a devastating fire. Picture: Archant

Marina Hargreaves at the Hillside Nurseries farm shop in Toftwood, which has reopened following a devastating fire. Picture: Archant

Archant

A much-loved farm shop which was destroyed in a fire is up and running again in a makeshift new location.

Randells Garden Machinery and the farm shop at Hillside Nurseries in Toftwood were destroyed by a devastating fire. Picture: ArchantRandells Garden Machinery and the farm shop at Hillside Nurseries in Toftwood were destroyed by a devastating fire. Picture: Archant

Hillside Nurseries' farm shop, off Shipdham Road in Toftwood, was left completely gutted by a fierce blaze in October.

The fire is thought to have started at another business on the site, Randells Garden Machinery, and one of its employees was taken to hospital with burn injuries.

As the flames tore through Randells and the adjacent farm shop, Marina Hargreaves - who has been manager for about 20 years - was suddenly deprived of her livelihood.

Marina Hargreaves at the Hillside Nurseries farm shop in Toftwood, which has reopened following a devastating fire. Picture: ArchantMarina Hargreaves at the Hillside Nurseries farm shop in Toftwood, which has reopened following a devastating fire. Picture: Archant

Desperate to get the business back on its feet again, Mrs Hargreaves worked tirelessly to replace what was lost in the fire while her boss and site owner, Kees Anema, spent five weeks building a temporary store.

The new shop, located just 30 yards from the wreckage of the original, has been welcoming both regular and new customers for the last three weeks.

Recalling the "distressing" October day, Mrs Hargreaves - who was at home in Shipdham at the time - said: "I was getting phone calls saying the shop was on fire and was absolutely horrified.

The Hillside Nurseries farm shop in Toftwood was destroyed in a devastating fire. Picture: ArchantThe Hillside Nurseries farm shop in Toftwood was destroyed in a devastating fire. Picture: Archant

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"To work here for 20-odd years and suddenly think 'the shop is gone' was awful. I called Daniel, who works in the glass house next door, and he said 'it's terrible, you don't want to come down'.

"When I first came in it looked like a warzone - it really was heartbreaking."

Marina Hargreaves at the Hillside Nurseries farm shop in Toftwood, which has reopened following a devastating fire. Picture: ArchantMarina Hargreaves at the Hillside Nurseries farm shop in Toftwood, which has reopened following a devastating fire. Picture: Archant

Firefighters were initially called to Randells at around 3pm on Friday, October 11, and spent several hours battling the worst of the flames.

They remained at the scene until the following morning and had to return 24 hours later when the blaze reignited.

In the following weeks, Mrs Hargreaves set about restocking the shop and reordering equipment including scales, the till and fridge freezers.

Randells Garden Machinery at Hillside Nurseries in Toftwood was destroyed by a devastating fire. Picture: ArchantRandells Garden Machinery at Hillside Nurseries in Toftwood was destroyed by a devastating fire. Picture: Archant

"I was having to do it all from memory because all my books were in the shop office and were lost in the fire," she added.

"We have a lot of local produce, so fortunately it was quite easy to get because all my suppliers are nearby."

A health and safety investigation into the blaze, being undertaken by Breckland Council, is ongoing.


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