At midday on 8 August 2016, I walked into a small stone hut in a car park in the village of Burnsall, North Yorkshire and the previous owners, who’d had it for 21 years, walked out.
That was almost five months ago – and although the days have been jam packed with stories, thoughts and things to remember and share, I’ve struggled to write it all down.
So as we pass into 2017, I have just one resolution – and it’s not diet related (I’m munching blue cheese and Christmas cake with a glass of wine as I write).
This is the first chapter of my Riverbank story…
The beautiful riverbank at Burnsall, North Yorkshire
8 August 2016 to 1 Jan 2017 – The Research Phase:
Who comes to Burnsall and who visits the little stone hut in the car park? What do they buy now and what might they buy in the future? Are they in a hurry? Do they want to chat? This was my opportunity to watch and listen. To engage and ask questions and to learn on the job.
Having lived in the neighbouring village for 12 years I had an idea of the the answers to these questions – but the opportunity to confirm or alter my understanding has been invaluable. That immediate interaction with customers has been amazing – and they are so generous (and thankfully – so patient!). I’ve always had a vision for this little project and the experience of the last five months hasn’t changed it much – but the flow of ideas from customers, friends, family, suppliers and even competitors, has been mind-blowing and I’m more excited than ever about the year ahead.
There have been desperate days and dark moments though. When the rain lashes down, the cakes go unnoticed – and the scones get packed up and given away. When it’s freezing cold (even in August) and everything aches – but in amongst the fear and doubt I also feel a huge sense of achievement, love, support, excitement and optimism – and I sleep so well!
As I write this first post, there is just one day left of the Christmas break. Tomorrow, Bank Holiday Monday 2 Jan will be my eighth consecutive day of working during a time when most people (and in my old world this would have included me), have been enjoying some time off with family and friends. The upside of course is that the people that have chosen Burnsall for a walk with their loved ones, have been in a happy place, and really lovely to be around. Yes, it’s been hard work, and my hands are sore, but I’ve enjoyed it too – and I’ve even managed some precious time with my partner and my lovely family and friends and I’ve appreciated that more than ever before.