It's a crisp cold morning in Southwick - the sun, which was shining brightly at eight am, is now hiding behind the wintry clouds. I'm alone in the house, apart from Elsie the cat, who is still sleeping in the spot where the sun once lured her to lie. Mark is away for the weekend, walking and camping in Dartmoor. I smile when I hear the weather forecast - "2cm snow on Dartmoor expected today." I'm snuggled down in our cosy bed - missing him.
Eventually I get up and decide to have my hot-cross bun in the village tea room. It is Good Friday, after all. To make it even more interesting I take my notebook with me. The shop itself is busy, there is a happy feel about the place. Richard is busily baking more batches of Easter pasties and Hot Cross Buns. I am served by Rachel and go into the tea-room to wait for my elevenses. Two children play amicably on the floor, smile up at me and say "hello".
The menu in Southwick Village Tea Room is simple with croissants, sandwiches and baguettes, pies, pasties and sausage rolls, cakes, scones and toasted teacakes, all baked in-house, served with a choice of teas, coffees and soft drinks. A cooked Full English breakfast is served at weekends - certainly worth a try.
I sit where I can see into the front of the shop and watch as people come and go. It's good to see Southwick Stores come back to life with new energy. It's certainly creating a good buzz in the village again and complements the two pubs that Southwick is lucky to have.
Some may say that the tea-room could be a negative thing, being in competition with the pubs but I believe that a thriving shop and tea room can only enhance what we have in Southwick and bring more passing trade for the pubs as well. Although none of us want Southwick to become a 'tourist centre' or holiday resort, it is true already that many people come here to walk in the country or to cycle, even using the village hall as a start and finish point for cycle racing. Some come just to sample the pub fayre or to look around the Brewhouse and purchase Ales to take home. Many come to check out The Golden Lion pub, famous for Eisenhower and Montgomery drinking there at the time prior to the D-Day landings. During the summer months I have seen many a coach-load of tourists pass this way, often from as far afield as the USA. In the past many of these passers-by have been disappointed at not having anywhere to sit and enjoy a cup of tea before going on their way.
The Golden Lion is a thriving pub, with regular quiz nights, a thriving event which raises money for charity, Jazz on Tuesday evenings and bands playing on many a Friday night. The food served is excellent - not your normal pub-fayre. The Public Bar is friendly, welcoming and noisy at times, with a dart board and selection of games on demand, such as Jenga or Dominoes. If you want peace and quiet, the lounge bar is comfortable with sofas and an open fire. The lounge leads to a compact dining room but food can be served in the Public Bar also if you prefer an informal atmosphere.
The Red Lion has long had a reputation for high quality food with regular favourites on the menu as well as a 'Specials Board'. Another friendly pub with a welcoming atmosphere but without the bustle of a public bar, The Red Lion has long been the home of such events as Pumpkin Night and Pickle Tasting Night to raise funds for the Southwick Christmas Tree Lights - an event which raises money for The Rowans Hospice.
So a busy Village Stores and Tea Room can only be good for the village and especially for the pubs - whilst I have been sitting here this morning, I have seen many people come into the shop, pleasantly surprised at the friendly welcome and the range of items in stock and listened to them enquiring about village life.