Ramblers in Thurne: The little shop of wonders

Liz Duffield outside Ramblers Gallery and Giftshop, Thurne

Liz Duffield outside Ramblers Gallery and Giftshop, Thurne - Credit: submitted

Open every single day of summer, but closed all winter, the tiny shop at Thurne has been serving groceries, gifts and much more, for 40 years

A treasure trove of goodies sits inside a tiny brick bungalow, at the end of a row of houses running up the staithe of one of the most tucked-away villages in the Broads.

Tardis-like in its small exterior, it opens up to a world of goodies and groceries. Shoppers might walk away with a loaf of bread and a painting, a tin of beans and a souvenir, toothpaste and fishing supplies. And all with a side-order of a conversation, and perhaps a take-out coffee.

Ramblers Gallery and Giftshop sells pop-to-the-shop necessities for locals, picnic fare for passers-by, self-catering essentials for the many who arrive by boat, souvenirs for tourists, and it's an art gallery too.

Liz Duffield has run the shop for the past 19 years. "I was working in an office with no windows and I met the lady who had the shop at the time and she said she was interested in selling," said Liz. She spent a year helping out at the shop, as a part-time job and fell in love with the village and the shop. She went on to buy the business - and move her family to Thurne too.

Early every spring she restocks the shelves. It is then open, every day of the week, from 8.30am to 5.30pm, from Easter, right through until the end of October.

"It originally started in one room, extending into the garage of the cottage next door in 1986," said Liz.

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As the visitors flood back each spring, the villagers welcome the reopening too, with the nearest general grocery shop more than three miles away. Outside there is a table and chairs, making the shop part-café too.

"Stocking a small amount of basic groceries makes Ramblers a vital part of the community," said Liz. "The joy of having a variety of things on offer means you never know what the next visitor will purchase. It could be a beautiful oil painting, a gift for a friend back home, something to remind them of their trip to the Norfolk Broads or even a locally produced ice cream.

"I think it's wonderful that people from all over the world visit Norfolk, I get to meet them and have a chat if only for a few minutes. Some come from as far away as New Zealand and Australia and many return in the following years to purchase gifts."

This year an extra item of stock is a pottery lamp of St Benet's Abbey, celebrating its 1,000th anniversary just across the water and marshes, not far by boat but many miles away by road.

Liz has a couple of staff to help - but is at the shop herself for at least part of every day.

Late in the autumn each year, as Liz packs away the shop for five months, she looks forward to some free time and trips with her husband to visit friends and family, but also to the spring reopening. "In the winter I attend gift fairs to get ideas for stocking the shop, and enjoy some holidays myself. I often visit other gift shops; some habits are hard to break!"

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