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Self help begins at home (in the shed).

Byline: By Hayley Beattie

Sub-postmistress Maureen Craig is fighting rural service cuts on the home front by opening a post office in her shed.

Mrs Craig, who has run the post office in Halton-Lea-Gate, near Haltwhistle, for 15 years, was devastated to hear it could be lost with the closure of the village Co-op this month.

So she began a desperate search for new premises ( and found them in her own backyard.

The outbuilding will now be transformed and ready to open on March 31, the day the Co-op closes.

Mrs Craig, 53, of Lea Side, said: "It was terrible news when we were told the Co-op was closing, as it's the only facility we have in the village.

"I was determined we wouldn't lose it and the shed is the only place in the village I could find to move the post office to. At the moment, it's got my freezer and tumble dryer in as there isn't enough room in my kitchen.

"It certainly will be a unique location for a post office, but needs must. Villagers just have to make sure they use it."

Penrith Co-operative Society had planned to close the Co-op, which has been a feature of the village for more than 100 years, last October. But after protests from villagers, it agreed to a six-month reprieve on condition business picked up.

Penrith Co-operative Society chief executive John Tompkins said: "The shop was losing on average pounds 20,000 a year and we told villagers that it had to a break even or the store would close.

"We checked the accounts for January and, whilst it is sad and disappointing, the store was still not viable."

He said people who were unable to make the five-mile journey to the store at Hallbankgate would be able to use a delivery service.

Parish council chairman Stan Rowntree said: "Everyone is very upset that the store is closing, but at least we have been able to keep our post office."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 3, 2006
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