Save our Samphire

This is an open letter to the Chief Executive of the National Trust to express the disappointment of all the loyal customers of  the Farm Shop ‘Samphire’ of Blickling Hall, Norfolk. Samphire is being closed due to their lease not being renewed by the National Trust. Please leave a comment on this blog entry so we can gather support to demonstrate to the National Trust that Samphire must stay open or be rehoused.

Dear Dame Fiona Reynolds,

As a member of the National Trust I feel it necessary to write an open letter in support of the tenant shop Samphire of Blickling Hall, Norfolk. This letter will enable all Samphire devotees to express their thoughts about the impending closure of this delightful shop.

My question to you is this: How can you let us fall in love with Samphire, give it the beautiful surroundings of Blickling Hall, make it a must  for people near and far and then take it away? This is like cold turkey – is there no place for Samphire elsewhere at Blickling Hall? What have we, the National Trust members, done wrong? I am unhappy and disappointed.

Without Samphire Blickling becomes just another National Trust property, with the same corporate feel that the National Trust is beginning to have wherever you go; for some, every property seems to have the same cafe, the same shop, the same produce and the same welcome area. As a National Trust member I visit properties regularly and Samphire made Blickling different.

It is ironic that earlier this year I had considered writing to you to commend Samphire and request more local shops at other properties as at Blickling. Now, instead, I’m writing this letter begging you to reconsider the decision to take away this gem, and the reason many people visit Blickling so regularly.

As a young Mum whenever I visit Blickling Hall I eat a picnic in the garden. My son plays on the climbing frame with other children, while I chat to other parents. Whenever I visit I always meet others who come to have food from Samphire and to eat it in the Blickling grounds. How can we picnic now? I suppose we’ll have to make some sad sandwiches and remember the good times visiting Samphire and enjoying their exquisite produce.

National Trust, I understand you must redevelop your entrance area and I encourage this. However, please do not deprive us – find it in your hearts to rehouse Samphire somewhere else on the estate. You really will do more damage than you realise if Samphire is gone for good.

The National Trust seems to promote relations with the local community and to provide local produce, so why does it seem that every property is becoming the same – please do something before it is too late! In return there are so many of us who will stay as loyal to Blickling Hall as ever.

I ask three questions:

  1. What is Blickling Hall currently doing to support local business and local people?
  2. What procedures are in place to take account of the views of local people, and National Trust members, when making decision regarding longstanding tenants?
  3. Can another place be found on the estate to house Samphire?

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Victoria Currell.

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78 Responses to Save our Samphire

  1. Ben says:

    It is such a shame that such a great community resource is being shutdown. I thought the National Trust was supposed to help with things like keeping trade local, not hinder!

  2. Peter Easby says:

    I can only agree with Victoria’s letter – it would seem that National Trust are being thoughtless and unreasonable in bringing Samphire’s lease to an end, particularly at this time when we are being encouraged to set up new businesses. Here we are with NT forcing a great small business to close down, with the consequent loss of jobs in the area. My wife and I are Life Members of the Trust and would ask you please to reconsider this. It is VERY bad local publicity for the Trust and is being thoughtlessly handled by someone.

    Peter Easby

  3. Alison Bailey says:

    A terrible shame that this wonderful little shop is about to close. We are National Trust Members from Hampshire with family local to Blickling, and we visit Samphire everytime we are here in Norfolk.
    We haven’t seen anything like Samphire at any of the other NT properties we have visited. Come on National Trust …..what are you thinking!

    Alison Bailey

  4. Ian Summers says:

    Finding somewhere else on the estate would be good if this is not too late.

  5. Maria Batson says:

    Victoria, how true and I agree how sad. I too am an NT member and am deeply disappointed with the NT’s decision not to renew the Samphire lease. It is a great shop and Karen and Jeff have worked so hard to make it what it is today. When shops close people assume it’s because it’s not working – how wrong can this be about Samphire. The NT’s decision will make people think Samphire has failed….it hasn’t ! It will also do a lot of damage to many local suppliers. Well done NT…..I’ve been a member for years but maybe not forever !!!

  6. J and A Cooper says:

    As a parallel communication to this, and for concerned fellow Samphire supporters, we sent an e-mail (reproduced below) to the NT at Blicking when we learned of the closure of the Samphire shop, which was on the 13th December this year. We received a prompt and courteous reply from the NT, which I also reproduce below:
    Initial e-mail:

    It is with a heavy heart that we have been advised of the closure of the Samphire shop based on the Blickling estate.

    Whenever we visit Blickling, that shop has been a major aspect of our attraction to the estate, both when we’ve stayed at NT cottages (several times now) and on other visits.

    Is the no alternative to this? surely a lease might be granted on another NT building to allow this enterprise to continue?

    Please let us know the NT rationale behind this closure, as members and visitors, we are very interested in what you have to say.

    Regards

    J and A Cooper

    …and the NT response:

    Dear Mr and Mrs Cooper,

    Many thanks for your email regarding the Samphire Farm shop which has been passed to me to respond to on behalf of the National Trust. I’m sorry to hear of your disappointment regarding our decision not to renew the lease.

    The Nethercotts have made a great contribution to the overall visitor experience at Blickling since their arrival five years ago. The quality of Samphire’s produce and their philosophy fits perfectly with the National Trust’s commitment to celebrating and using produce that is both local and seasonal.

    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 Blickling Hall and the wider estate. We have been discussing the future with our tenants for some time now. The building in which Samphire is located also needs some major work which will involve, amongst other things, the replacement of the roof.

    We welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors each year and encourage feedback. In response to their needs, and to offer more to the local community in particular, we have developed some exciting plans for Blickling over the next few years and this is the first step in what we hope will transform the atmosphere and facilities in this particular area. We know just how much people like Samphire’s delicious range of produce and we hope to continue to offer a varied choice of delicious, locally produced food with which they will supply us.

    We are grateful for the contribution that Samphire has made to what we offer and hope that the redevelopment of the area will enhance everyone’s experience even more. We wish them continued success with their other shop and with the many other enterprises they undertake.

    Many thanks for taking the time to contact us.

    We ask fellow Samphire followers, please share YOUR views and experiences here so that the NT may get a view as to the importance of the Samphire shop to the Blickling estate visitor. It is our understanding that monies made by and on the estate go directly to benefit it, so surely Samphire must reprsent value for the trust?

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  8. Attleborough says:

    A disappointing decision by the Nature Trust and at odds with the statement on its own website promoting local food (quote from Farmers Markets) – “Here at the National Trust, we take our food very seriously. Local, seasonal and high quality foods are our priority, whether you are enjoying a slice of home made cake in our tea-rooms, or buying some vegetables from the estate farm shop”.

    For many, the loss of Samphire from Blickling could indeed turn out to be a reason to go elsewhere and I hope the National Trust will reflect on its decision to find a satisfactory solution for both parties.

  9. Bernice O'Neill says:

    Brilliant letter Victoria – I agree with every point you make!
    I too can’t believe the NT is prepared to lose Samphire from Blickling. I have been a regular customer since the shop opened. It is one of the only shops you can garantee that the meat you buy is produced to the highest welfare standards and buy produce from truly local producers – over a 100 of them.How can they have such little regard for the needs of the local community?
    I can only hope that they will reconsider.

  10. Vicky says:

    Chris, thank you for your reference to National Trust local food policy. I agree that there are many people that will go elsewhere to shop/picnic rather than travel to Blickling.

  11. CoCo Hilton says:

    What are those of us who live overseas to do about our baskets of Samphires assorted yummy foods that we might wish to send up the road to people like dear Jane? We easily did this because our friends at Samphire could be reached and they knew exactly what to put into each basket, because they know all the local people, as well as us, who are far away, at this time.
    This decision is ridiculous, and smells like greed and gluttony, as somehow reading between the carefully chosen NT PR words, it might be that they see such a good thing, (that they did not think of) and want to create a replica (not possible under the NT corporate branding) of Samphire, reaping most of the revenue and tossing crumbs to the providers of the local goods. They don’t get it at corporate, people want to see the faces, hear the voices, ask questions,of the local people who provide the food, while they make up their picnic food, or hampers.
    We can only hope that because there is a plethora of magnificent stately homes open to the public in Norfolk, they will be imploring you to open up at another good location. Better still, put them in another spot on the property.
    Shame on the National Trust ….. BIG BAH HUMBUG!

  12. Lucy Woodnuttq says:

    I am going to cancel my National Trust Membership – it is disgraceful that the Trust can destroy local businesses. Samphire has been such a welcome addition to Blickling. It is particularly disgraceful that they see fit to close down something that is award winning and that Samphire will have to close their second shop as a result of Blickling closing.

  13. Michael Churchouse says:

    My wife and I visit Blickling Park on a regular basis – possibly up to ten times per year, to use the Park and surrounding countryside for walking. We never fail to visit Samphire because the quality of their food and the service we receive at their shop is excellent. It would be a disaster if they are forced to leave Blickling and although we understand that the National Trust may want to reroof the Barn and to reorganise the reception area, surely there are other parts of the buildings which Samphire could use on a temporary basis while the work is being done. What about the area near the bookshop and plant sales? I fear that if Samphire are compelled to close, the National Trust (of which I am a member) will lose a lot of goodwill in this area.

  14. Derek Jackson says:

    I too wrote to the NT and received the same reply as Mr & Mrs Cooper.

    We often made visits to Blickling, many times with friends, just to shop at Samphire. We shall certainly not be visiting so frequently in the future!

  15. I completely agree with Victoria’s letter. I am a NT member and also have friends near Blickling and on my first visit to the house discovered Samphire and its beautiful produce…so every time I was nearby I visited both the house and Samphire. Samphire is a gem and enhances Blickling’s estate…surely another site could be made available? I don’t think the NT realises just what a draw Samphire is and it fits so well with the NT’s stance on locally produced foods. There must be many more people who are bitterly disappointed at this closure. Please please please reconsider or rehouse them. Samphire is unique.

  16. Jackie and Steve Lewis says:

    In a time of crisis surely we should all be supporting local businesses even more. I find it difficult to understand how the mutual benefit to the NT resulting from the customers of Samphire makes business sense to end this relationship. We can only hope that they will reconsider!

  17. Ian sharpe says:

    What gives???? I’ve supported the national trust for as long as I can remember but if it continues with it’s plan to close a much loved and respected business as samphire then I will withdraw my support and I know of many others who will do the same, many of the running cost for all the NT properties and parks comes from public donations and all I can say is wait and see what happens when the coffers run dry.

    Don’t take what has be come an attraction in it’s own right away from us this business has been built on honest trading and bloody hard work and it would be an insult to the owners and staff to ignore this and to deprive them of what is a passion and not just the run of the mill dead end job

  18. Vicky says:

    Michael, I agree with your comments that the National Trust (particularly at Blickling) may lose a lot of goodwill. I had also thought there might be space for Samphire near the bookshop – a good idea!

  19. Vicky says:

    Derek, I agree, I will not drive over to Blickling as often as I did once Samphire are gone. I always made a trip there whenever at our family cottage in Norfolk, but now I’ll vary my trips and visit other places instead.

  20. Vicky says:

    Jackie & Steve you are right Samphire did provide customers for the National Trust just as the National Trust provided customers for Samphire. They need to keep working together!

  21. Vicky says:

    Ian – well put! Also to add to your points I have met National Trust staff/volunteers who use Samphire before/after/during work, enjoy the shop and its produce. Most of these people are local and I wonder what they think about the closure?

  22. Jen de Polo says:

    I am stunned and quite frankly disgusted by this decision made by the National Trust to close the Samphire shop at Blickling Hall. The produce they supply is unparalleled elsewhere, and it is a terrific little shop that serves the local community. My parents and i have gone to visit Blicking numerous times, and never fail to buy a fridge full of produce!

    The thought that the NT will replace this shop with a cafe is flabbergasting, and i for one will not visit it!! I dare say our visits to Blickling will vastly reduce in number over the coming yrs, as we have no reason to now, with Samphire not being there….

  23. Michael says:

    I was very dismayed to hear that Samphire is to close. Notwithstanding NT’s need to redevelop/repair the existing building, their response to J & A Cooper has all the hallmarks of corporate ignorance and indifference. NT professes to support local busineeses and produce but appears ignorant of the link between an award winning local business, its suppliers, customers and the number of visitors to Blickling Hall. Further, while they wished Samphire every success with their other shop NT appears blissfully unaware that survival of the latter was dependant on the continued existence of the Blickling shop.The stated “redevelopment of the area will enhance everyone’s experience even more” will result no doubt in yet another bog standard NT cafe with the usual expensive, second rate produce; what made Blickling a little different will have gone. NT has made a mistake and should reconsider.

  24. Helen T says:

    Like many others I find this decision quite at odds with the National Trust’s policy on supporting local food. It seems this is a long standing business (I would call any business lasting 5 years well established and long standing) and there seems no one to really benefit out of this, apart from if the National Trust think they can run it as well themselves. And for the sake of local goodwill, would it surely not be better to forgo any small gain in revenue they think they are going to get?

    Very poorly thought out decision in my view, very short term. Wishing the Samphire team, and all the locals who enjoy shopping with them, the best of luck in fighting this.

  25. Francis & Catherine says:

    We to ( as customers and volunteers) have asked the NT to explain themselves and have received the same corporate letter. They did not appear to be aware that the second shop was also being affected. (As they gave their best wishes for the future !)
    However much they claim to want to enhance the vistor experience, the NT are inherently unable to furnish a shop of similar quality because the do not have the passion required or the ability to vary from the NT corporate model.

  26. Andrew Gillie says:

    Have only used shop / cafe in Wymondham and mail order service as we live near Edinburgh. Excellent produce. Sad news. I fully endorse your comments.

  27. Kassie Melnyk says:

    I have no doubts that the master plan of the NT will be to replace an independent retailer with their own ‘cloned’ retail outlet, from which they will expect to derive more profit than from rent on a lease.
    I enjoy supporting local products and local independent outlets as it gives me a wide choice of high quality produce and helps provide work in the struggling rural economy of my home county.
    I fear that the vision of a struggling NT will be to maximise profit at the expense of any other mission to promote a varied and successful local economy. I am sorry that they don’t feel there is a business case that will accommodate both. Many regular visitors to Blickiling clearly spend time there as a by product of shopping at Samphire and will vote with their feet, I hope that the NT will reconsider and reappraise the value of such a valued establishment on it’s doorstep.

  28. Jane Bailey says:

    Victoria’s letter is perfect. Every point made by her is relevant and poignant. Samphire came into being through the sheer hard work and determination of Karen and Jeff built up over the years. They knew what they were doing, what they wanted to achieve and by golly, they did it!
    They have an excellent rapport with their suppliers and equally with the tremendous staff who work in the shop. This does not come about as the result of a Committee. It is probably hard for the NT to understand just what a strong and passionate following Samphire has. It is all a breath of fresh air and a tremendous example of just what can be achieved. Some lateral thinking is needed here to save the day – not only for Samphire but also for the way in which the NT is perceived.

  29. Vicky says:

    Jane – thank you for your thoughts; I agree with everything you say!

  30. James Currell says:

    In the word’s of Giles Coren – “they’re the best pork pies I’ve ever eaten”. I am in total agreement, and this little shop has become very special to Vicky, myself and our little boy who knows that a visit here results in lovely pork pies and sausage rolls (his favourite!) ready to be eaten whilst playing in the grounds of the beautiful Blickling Hall.

    It is a real shame that this shop may be forced to leave this site – I know it will adversely affect our frequency of visits to Blicking in future. As an NT member for over 5 years, Samphire offers the most pure and earthy, back-to-nature emphasis on fantastic food and drink that we have experienced across all of the many NT properties we have visited in the UK.

    Please, please re-think this decision before it is too late…

  31. Tina Gibbons says:

    All I can say is it’s a bloody disgrace…

    my sister told me the news this morning and its put me in a bad mood all day..I am ashamed of those in the Blickling management team particularly as some of them live in my village Ingworth..I have no doubt that the plan is to replace Samphire with a National Trust replica once the ‘cover story’ of restoration of the roof has completed..I sincerely hope this falls flat on it’s face and that the masses vote with their feet..

    What goes around, comes around. National Trust Blickling team you are a disgrace and I am ashamed of you!

  32. Linda says:

    Aylsham is close by, has one or two empty shops, free car parks and plenty of street parking and is building a reputation as a foodie place. Could Samphire not move there, temporarily at least?

  33. Vicky says:

    Tina – on the day I head the news I was in a bad mood too. I found it very difficult to tell my husband and parents who all love the shop, they were all so upset too and confused by the decision.
    Currently we do not know what will happen to the shop space, just that the National Trust want to redevelop the welcome area.

  34. Angela says:

    We are life members of the National Trust and have been members for over 40 years. We are very unhappy to hear of the closure of the Samphire shop.

    We visit Norfolk regularly and have quite a long drive from where we stay to get to Blickling. One of the main draws for us is the Samphire shop where we buy our picnic. Last time I went, the delicious pork pie didn’t reach the picnic spot on the estate as I had eaten it as soon as I left the shop! Not a great lover of pork pies, I think Samphire pies the best I have ever tasted! And the delight of their Tiffin is beyond compare!

    Though we may not always visit the house every time, we visit the shop and usually spend quite a bit of money in there, as we do in all the NT shops we visit. They provide such lovely items for presents. We also always visit the cafe. I doubt if we would bother to make the journey so often if Samphire was there no longer.

    We feel very disappointed in the decision of the NT to close Samphire as we thought it is part of their vision to encourage local produce and to consider local good will.

  35. Anne Powley says:

    Vicky – this is a wonderful letter and I will be doing my bit to further its publicity.

    The closure of Samphire is tragic and I can’t help but think that Kassie is right with her thoughts that the NT are planning to replicate the store with their own NT version.

  36. sally miller says:

    We are one of the local suppliers who have been supplying the samphire shop with fresh hand made bread daily. In the present economic climate it is a struggle for small businesses to keep their heads above water and the loss of samphire will make it very difficult for us in the upcoming year. I know that we not alone in this and the impact of this closure on many of samphires suppliers will be severe.

  37. Vicky says:

    Anne – thank you and please do tell as many people as possible, we need more comments – I’ve contacted the EDP but no response, does anybody locally know a journalist who could help?

  38. Vicky says:

    Sally, I’m sorry to hear how the closure is effecting you. I’m going to check out your website and what bread you make.

  39. kristina says:

    We’re so upset over the closing of Samphire. We live in London but vacation in Norfolk, and since it opened, Samphire has been one of the highlights of our Norfolk holidays. Indeed, on our last holiday we bought all our provisions for the week at Samphire! Without Samphire, we will no longer be visiting Blickling. Very badly done, National Trust.

  40. Steve Golding says:

    As a National Trust member I feel disgusted about the way the Trust seems to steamroller over individual enterprises. It’s okay for the trust to save our heritage but at what expense to the local area. I have used Samphire a couple of times when visiting Blickling, traveling down from Northamptonshire.
    Well done for the letter and hope that things work out for the better.

  41. Andrew Dorman says:

    Totally agree with this letter. Giving small local companies an opportunity should be part of the NT’s remit. The entrance area should be nearer Blickling itself – and the Samphire shop expanded.

  42. Tina Gibbons says:

    http://steve-ee-g.tumblr.com/..another blog with commentary..

    Trees at Blickling Hall. What a lovely place, good old National Trust. What I love about Blickling is that it’s not quite the same as every other NT property, with the same shops, same restaurant, same plants, and same produce and food. You know you are at Blickling because they have a lovely shop called Samphire which sells local food, bread, sausages, cider, and pork pies. Oh, hang on, they need some more space in the 4,777 acre estate to sell some corporate NT marmalade. Better shut down the only Samphire shop in the country.

  43. Sue Lovett says:

    The National Trust ran three weekends before Christmas as fairs, they were a total disaster, absolutely nothing like the previous ones organised by Eastern Events. If the NT is taking on the organisation of a new cafe and shop in the place of Samphire, it will just be a clone of the one they already have, very boring. They are very short sighted in not renewing the lease. I shall miss this shop and the lovely people running it. I do not belong to the NT anymore having heard of their mishandling of certain bequests. I believe Jocelyn Stevens wants to make a visit to a National Trust property more user friendly and an ‘experience’. If the Christmas Fairs are anything to go by he will fail.

  44. Fully support the comments made by numerous people on this blog. Such a shame the NT is not renewing the lease for Samphire. It’s a great shop, showcasing local producers.

  45. Simon says:

    Tragic & completely unnecessary!

    Karen & Jeff have worked so hard to build up this unique business, to me they are like the 21st century ‘Tom & Barbara’ who have made a success from the good life concept. The produce provided from their small holding was of the highest quality which won awards & commendations, far removed from the cheap filth we are sold in supermarkets! Have we really forgotten what ‘real’ food tastes like? Is it too late for anyone to realise what’s going to happen if we lose more & more independent businesses like this? A nation fed on cheap mass produced food that zoo animals would find hard to palette!

    So is the future of the NT to be more corporate & clinical with no diversity? Do we really need it to be like Tesco’s where every NT property layout is virtually the same? Part of the charm of all NT properties is how it absorbs aspects of it’s surroundings & culture which compliment each site.

    This is devastating news for Karen & Jeff, for the community & for small businesses in general. Here we have a thriving business which employs many staff at both locations when we are in the depths of the worst recession this generation has known, for the NT to wilfully destroy such a treasure is both perverse & a disgrace when we have been encouraged to work hard, be enterprising & create new niche businesses which benefit the community like Samphire has done for almost six years.

    It is clear that the Chief Executive & staff are woefully out of touch with reality, we all thought preserving unique treasures was what the NT was about…. come on guys, listen to what the public want, really it’s time to wake up!

  46. Julie says:

    The N.T move in mysterious ways! Visited Samphire for the last time today. We will really miss you and our supplies of Tiffin.
    Perhaps for once the powers that be at the N.T will step out side of their ivory towers and listen to their customers. It was the uniqueness of Samphire that brought people to Blickling. N.T properties need to diversify to keep up with an ever changing world. They cannot stay cocooned in their own little world without letting some of the real world in. Samphire was the real world, run by real people, bringing us local, real food.
    Perhaps if the N.T took a little time to communicate and listen to those who have business connections with them they might realise that they’re not always right.

  47. Louise says:

    I am so sorry to hear that Samphire is being forced to close, clearly the consultation process that the national trust undertook did not extend to fully considering the effects of their actions on the business as a whole.
    As a National Trust member for the last 20 years I have been most saddened to see how many of the properties and estates are being sculpted to the same mold. When I visit each venue I expect to experience something new, not just revisit another NT theme park in a different guise.
    The inclusion of local businesses should be part of the overall mission. How the properties and their history are seated in the local community is crucial to bringing history alive and making it real for visitors, and the most natural way to achieve this is to continue those links to the current day. By that I mean not just as suppliers, but as an active part of the property.

  48. steve covell says:

    As a manufacturer for the meat products for Samphire we were very saddened by their forced closure at Blickling and Wymondham,We have supplied them from the start and it has been good to watch it grow into a successful business,I felt proud to tell people” we make sausages for Samphire” and nearly everyone you spoke to could relate to their shops.A big part of our working week is geared up to supply Samphire (probably about 20-30 man hours) so it will leave a big hole which we now need to fill.
    SO NT HOPE YOU ARE PROUD OFF YOURSELVES YOU HAVE DONE A LOT OF PEOPLE NO GOOD AT ALL !!!

  49. David Powell says:

    I went for my annual walk round Blickling and called in, as always, at the wonderful bookshop and the excellent Samphire shop, only to be shocked to discover it is closing. It seems particularly shocking in that it seems to me Samphire is so in tune with the modern National Trust in the way it uses local produce for all our benefit. I know it is very late in the day but please think again and save this wonderful farm shop.

  50. Colin Thomas says:

    My wife and I have been members of the National Trust for about ten years and I am sorely tempted to cancel my subscription because of the appalling behavior of the Trust toward Samphire – such a deserving endeavour that promotes local business and jobs. The Trust already has a large cafe and restaurant at Blickling and to close Samphire in order to open another cafe seems to be a waste of members money at a time of such economic difficulty – it could be put to much better use in preserving the heritage of this and other properties around the Country. I believe the National Trust is doing damage to its reputation and to ‘turn its back’ on such a worthy local enterprise that raises the profile of the National Trust can only be seen as one thing………greed! Come on National Trust, sort yourself out.

  51. Barbara Bennett says:

    I can only agree wholeheartedly with the comments that have already been made regarding the regrettable closure of the Samphire shop. As a member of the National Trust, I feel that the organisation’s powers-that-be have definitely got it wrong this time.

  52. Karen Gilmour says:

    I’m so disappointed with the National Trust. We live locally to Blickling and visit Samphire regularly. Without it the estate will be just the same as all the other NT houses. A very bad decision by the National Trust.

  53. Matt says:

    Great campaign!

  54. Tina Gibbons says:

    Victoria,

    Today was Samphire’s last day..my sister and I visited just before 4pm and Samphire was just closing up for the last time and the shelves were bare. It was really sad.

    I have started a Facebook Group called Save Samphire and I’d like to appeal to people to join and help provide pressure for the National Trust to re-consider their decision.

    If any of your readers would like to join, I’d be grateful for their help. The associated email is savesamphire@gmail.com.

    This is what I have written…

    The National Trust have given the Blickling Samphire shop notice that they will not be renewing their lease which they have held for 5 years. The main rationale is that the ‘National Trust want the specific space to allow them to enhance their customer’s experience’. For us having the Samphire shop at Blickling is the part of the experience that we love and value. I am curious to know and understand the basis the National Trust have conducted their research and whether they really have listened to the genuine visitors to Blickling and the local community; or whether this is the result of a management consultant exercise.

    The closing of Samphire means that as a direct result not only are five local people now unemployed, but many local suppliers who work with Samphire have also lost vital business. The second shop in nearby Wymondham has already closed following the National Trust decision due to the fact that it is unsustainable without the Blickling shop. The couple who own and run Samphire will continue to sell at local fairs and farmers’ markets and try to develop their web and wholesale trade. But the bottom line is unless they can make these alternative avenues work in the next 12 months Samphire may cease to exist.

    It’s not just the regulars who love the rare breed meat, Gary Rhodes said the sausages were the best he’d ever tasted and Giles Coren declared the he had found the holy grail of pork pies and gave them an unprecedented 10/10. Ethical farming is at the heart of Samphire, the cornerstone of their business model and they have been recognised by the RSPCA for their outstanding commitment to animal welfare. In theory these attributes are wholly congruent to the National Trust’s own ethos and their claim to champion the development of people’s skills and the sense of community and the quality of the local environment in both town and country – in practice and particularly in this example this is not bearing true.

    I have no doubt that all too soon a National Trust corporate replica will open in Samphire’s place as the management at Blickling try to cash in on five years worth of Samphire’s hard work and originality.

    It is terribly disappointing and quite frankly a disgrace. National Trust should be helping and encouraging small businesses like Samphire develop and grow as they represent the fabric and essence of British life. National Trust’s mantra is ‘The National Trust protects special places in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, for ever, for everyone’ – seemingly not in this case!

    The Blickling Samphire shop closed its’ doors for business on Monday 3rd January.

    Please join this group to enable us to show the National Trust the strength of feeling about the closure of Blickling Samphire shop and persuade them to re-consider their decision and Save our Samphire.

    Add ‘Save Our Samphire’ as a Friend: savesamphire@gmail.com

  55. Jen says:

    Yes, great that you’ve written this open letter to raise awareness about this and to get something happening. I haven’t visited there myself but have tried the pies and they are very tasty. Hopefully this attention can get the National Trust to reconsider.

  56. Brian & Sheila says:

    I am so disappointed in the NT’s behaviour over this. We complained to the NT and received a reply from Helen Bailey that was disingenuous to say the least. Others could draw a more unpleasant conclusion. This sort of behaviour betrays the founding ethos of the National Trust – it is after all in place to help sustain heritage and rural economies. We have been members for many many years and have become alarmed at the commercial attitudes the NT is taking in many places to the detriment of their stated values. This is yet another cynical demonstration of the same. We will be reconsidering renewal this year.

  57. Samphire Staffmember says:

    I have worked at Samphire for several years and naturally the shop closure has affected me personally. However as a consumer, I think it is a terrible shame that Samphire has to close. The shop had that magical mix of great products, great location, and great footfall.

    Samphire’s clientelle was a pretty even mix of local shoppers, estate visitors, even National Trust employees and volunteers. Samphire sourced products from many many local and often very smallscale producers, and this attention to detail, not to mention the fantastic rare breed meat, created a point of difference and a memorable shopping experience. Time and time again, I heard from people who holidayed annually in Norfolk and visiting Samphire always featured near the top of their to-do lists. Naturally the National Trust brought people to Samphire, but Samphire also brought people to Blickling.

    If a shop sells all the same products that can be found anywhere else, then customers will simple go somewhere else.

  58. As one of the small scale local producers that Samphire sourced products from the closure has come as a great disappointment. This type of independent shop together with its location was an ideal outlet for my products. What a shame that such a great shopping experience based on a very sound ethos in the heart of rural Norfolk is lost!

  59. Kelly says:

    As a National Trust member for the past 7 years I am really dissapointed and frankly disgusted. The complete lack of care or consideration for the people involved is amazing and as a result I will not be renewing my membership this year. I’ll instead find a more worthy local cause to donate £80 to. National Trust, shame on you.

  60. Nick Alexander says:

    I have supplied Samphire since the shop first opened. My rare-breed livestock enterprise has expanded with Samphire’s success. I am therefore very disappointed that the National Trust’s decision is not supporting this Norfolk Tenant Farmer. I have enjoyed working in conjunction with all those at Samphire and would like to see the shop re-instated.

  61. Gramps says:

    Although I have not visited Samphire but I would like to say that I am moved by the depth of feeling that this appeal to the National Trust has generated. I have visited a considerable number of what are called ‘Visitor Centres’, from RHS gardens and cathedrals to NT properties. They all have a similar corporate image and cater for expensive tastes. I fully support any initiative that will give an added variety to our experience of these venues – in this particular case, Samphire.

  62. Carla & Andy Daniels says:

    As long standing tenants of Blickling we were delighted to finally have, not just a shop in the village, but a shop which represented everything we agreed with – local produce, low food miles, fantastic food, supporting small producers and staff who genuinely cared about the standard of produce they sold. What an utterly disgraceful decision by the National Trust not to renew Samphire’s lease. As tenants we received a letter from Helen Bailey explaining the decision – once it had been made!! What a shame that the National Trust didn’t see fit to obtain opinions of the local community before making their decision. I understand they took advice from visitors comment cards. Well that’s all well and good but those visitors DO NOT LIVE HERE! We do and it’s about time they realised that Blickling is not just a tourist attraction – its a community! Shame on you NT.

  63. Isabelle Collins says:

    It really is outrageous that the National Trust is on the one hand talking about supporting the local community and at the same time effectively closing a local business – and adversely affecting all their suppliers which will have a huge impact on the local economy.

    I’m not talking about “how nice it is” or any of that tosh in the reply but the cold hard economic fact – say one thing, do the opposite is the clear message here. It’s outrageous.

    I would love to see how the Trust think they will benefit in any way financially from this given the loss of income and the level of investment they will need to make. IF they actually find themselves in a position to go ahead which is, apparently, moot.

  64. Susan & Paul says:

    We heartily agree with the above writers. Samphire was a gem in Blicklings crown, now gone.
    National Trust must have a very good plan for the Esatate Barn now that Samphire has closed –
    but what is it?
    Samphire fullfilled all of the National Trust requirements as a food producer and in addition to
    their superb pork pies, sausage rolls and tiffin, brought us a whole range of delicious, fresh,
    local food. No wonder the likes of Garry Rhodes and Giles Coren liked it.

    Bring back Samphire – Please.

  65. Sally and Colin Bowden says:

    We agree wholeheartedly with all the above comments. Samphire was exactly the sort of business the NT says it wants to encourage. To say the Trust needs Samphire’s premises to “enhance the visitor experience” is utter rubbish -the existence of Samphire already enhanced the experience of many different sorts of visitors. Probably the truth is that the cafe was taking customers away from the expensive NT tearoom. I frequently find myself defending the Trust’s more “corporate” decisions, but this one is indefensible. It is a disgrace – as is the apparent lack of consultation and the employment of a “consultant” to tell the Trust what it no doubt wanted to hear. If I weren’t a Life Member, I would not now renew my subscription.

  66. Len says:

    Just wait and see what inferior idea The National Trust cobbles together to ha ha “enhance the visitor experience”. I’ve only just rejoined after several year of boycotting the National Trust because of their bad attitudes, I had hoped the Trust had changed alas it seems not. Its quite clear that the National Trust has not got the visitors interests at heart. Just some Jealous Trust Officials coveting the Samphire Shops success.

  67. Mike says:

    Just over half a mile away from the ‘crush’ of the Blickling Estate Car parks you will find the tranquil Village of Itteringham. Nestling in the Valley of the river Bure it boasts a thriving Community Village Shop, Cafe and Gallery stocked with tasty local provisions from Farm, Bakery and Dairies within the area. Most importantly it has just started stocking a few prime Samphire produce (pork pies, tiffin, sausage rolls and shortly sausages). Whilst it is not Samphire at Blickling, visitors will be delighted to discover this ‘Oasis’ in a desert. A genuine welcome awaits all visitors and your support will help both the community shop (increased sales) and Samphire (by continuing to be able to purchase their products locally). Who knows this could register a shift away from food sales at Blickling – a case of democracy in action!

  68. Vicky says:

    Thanks Mike, my parents have visited the village shop and recommended it to me. I will be up for a visit next time I’m in Norfolk and I’m glad we can get some Samphire treats! Please can you let us know opening times?

  69. Kate says:

    Well Mike, it sounds as if Blickling’s loss is your Itteringham’s gain – and I commend the community shop. I was really sad to hear of Samphire’s demise at Blickling. I think it’s a short sighted decision on the National Trust’s behalf and my thoughst have already been eloquently expressed above. On a personal (and selfish level) I’m delighted that Itteringham is only a few minutes further for me to go for my ‘tiffin and pie fix’.

  70. Corinne says:

    I had become so used to using the Wymondham shop, near to where I live and also the Blickling Samphire shop when we go for family walks around the Blickling estate that it’s hard to believe they’re not there anymore. Never to be forgotten was one winter lunchtime after a brisk walk arriving at the Blickling shop to buy hot freshly baked onion marmalade pork pies. Simply delicious! As Kate says Blickling’s loss is Itteringham’s gain and in future we will be along to their community shop to purchase our pies. Cannot believe the National Trust’s short sighted attitude!

  71. Alan says:

    We have been National Trust members for a long time now but have written to them to point out that as a result of their refusal to renew Samphire’s lease we will no longer be renewing our family membership. We live in Wymondham and consequently have lost not only the Blickling shop but our local village source of Samphire produce – a shop which now sits, empty and forlorn in the centre of the town, as a monument to the cold, analytical, box-ticking business approach which NT seems to have adopted in place of the ‘local’ values still cynically stated on their web site. Not an organisation with which we wish to be associated any longer, I’m afraid.

  72. Marc Dunn says:

    Having been a frequent visitor to Blickling Hall over the decade, I’m very disappointed to see that Samphire is closed. Heading to Samphire for picnic food and then enjoying Blickling’s grounds was one of my, and my friends’ and family’s, favourite things to do in Norfolk. It was always great to come home from University and enjoy the Norfolk countryside with some scrumptious local food. We enjoyed the pork pies and chocolate tiffin at least every month. With the closure of the shop our visits will be far less frequent. My feeling, and that of everyone I’ve told, is that Blickling has lost something great.

  73. Dr. Oliver Springate-Baginski says:

    I’d like to add my voice to the above chorus of disappointment, plus my personal outrage and anger at such a appalling decision by the National Trust. We demand an explanation of why as a community we have been deprived of the best local shop in the area and one of the main reasons to live here in the first place!

    I work in Norwich and commute from near Blickling for the nature, the beauty of the walks and wonderful local food, but I am increasingly appalled by the new lows of the National Trust mismanagement. (Has anyone noticed the dissaperance of ancient hedges and indigenous trees near the Mill or the devastation of the wild flower meadow or the overactive use of noisy machinery etc etc etc – I could go on, but this is getting off the subject).

    Withdrawing Karen’s lease is one of the worst actions of this unaccountable organisation. Personally I need an explanation about what happened and I want Karen’s shop reinstated. . And if we Karen doesn’t come back, we should think of meaningful pressure to apply to the NT.

    Thank you for writing this blog, Victoria
    Oliver

  74. Madeline Tucker says:

    I have been a member of the National Trust for many years and I too am disappointed at the NT’s decision not to renew the lease for Samphire. It is a shop I have visited many times with friends and family after long walks with our dog around the estate. Unfortunately, my partner does not share my enthusiasm for historic houses but I could always persuade him to accompany me when there was a Samphire pork pie and a flapjack offered as an incentive!

    I also think it is at odds with the National Trust policy of supporting local, sustainably reared produce. I am sure the NT tea shop uses such produce but do not think they will appreciate me visiting with muddy boots and a lively bull terrier.

    We were thinking of visiting the estate today but it will not be the same. Maybe we will go to Holt or Sheringham instead?

  75. Bruce Gordon says:

    Bloody shame

    We visited Blickling on many occasions; often purely to visit Samphire, and buy some of their wonderful produce.

    No more Tiffin

    No more Pork Pies

    Mo more superb sausages.

    At a time when we all need local businesses to thrive, this looks like a retrograde step – especially as the business itself was sound.

    Bad show NT.

  76. Colin Bosher says:

    I fully endorse Vicotria’s letter and comments. Has she had a proper reply? Unlike the sanitized corporate speak waffle sent to J & A Cooper.
    My wife and I live in Hertfordshire but regularly visit Norfolk. Our first visit to Samphire was prompted by Giles Coren’s original eulogy over their pork pies. He spoke no lie! I have been regularly going back ever since to buy the pies, my latest visit being last Saturday, 5 March. Completely ignorant of the closure. So my fellow pie fans you can imagine my shock and horror. I suspected something foul when I could not find any sign directing me to Samphire’s new location. And indeed it is foul. I am apalled by the NT’s behaviour, which is cleary contrary to the messages it peddles to the membership and the wider public, some of which have already been aired by other contributors on the closure.
    Seemingly the NT has made no effort to try to rehouse what was a vibrant local business which, amongst other things, actually benefitted the NT with more visitors to Blickling than it would otherwise have got. Well here are 2 people, me and the wife, who will not be visting again in protest. I will also seriously consider not renewing our membership this Spring. Sadly I know it won’t make a blind bit of difference to Samphire’s loss, or the NT’s arrogant disdain, but it will make a difference to my conscience. Too often the small voice is trampled under the corporate juggernaut, which is how I now view the NT. Tesco’s by a different name!
    Regards to the co-commentarors, and a raspberry to the NT.
    Colin Bosher

  77. Robin & Ruth says:

    We fully support the views of other respondents. As NT members we are appalled by such an insensitive and probably counterproductive decision. Samphire has offered visitors to Blickling something highly unusual and of special quality. As other commentators have pointed out, as a national charity, the Trust should be encouraging, not destroying, such local initiatives.

  78. Heather says:

    We were and are disgusted by this move. (There is nowhere locally to buy decent bread anymore.) The National Trust has failed the local community greatly. Why take away something excellent to replace it with something mediocre? (Which it surely will).
    Where is the commitment to local growers, producers and customers????????
    The National Trust should be ashamed of themselves for this disgraceful treatment of their tenants and disinterest in their visitors needs and requirements.

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