FAMILIES living in a small New Forest community were horrified when they suddenly lost their only shop after 250 years.

The family-run store overlooking Minstead village green closed last summer –just two weeks after the owners announced they were pulling down the shutters.

Villagers found themselves having to get into their car and drive to other parts of the Forest to buy groceries.

Now campaigners have unveiled plans to open a community shop in the local pub, the Trusty Servant, which is only a few yards from the old store.

The chairman of the steering group is Tim Nicholson, 67, who has lived in Minstead for six years.

He said: “There had been a shop in the village for 250 years so it was a bit of a shock when the store closed last July, especially as we were given only two weeks’ notice.

“Since then a small army of locals have had regular meetings to discuss the way forward in terms of opening a community shop.

“Location is a priority and the Trusty Servant has kindly offered us the use of a storeroom.

“With the help of volunteers it’s intended to renovate and convert the space into a shop selling a variety of locally-sourced produce and other items.”

Mr Nicholson said he hoped the store would open every day between 8am and 6pm.

“We know it’s not going to be straightforward but the shop will be staffed by volunteers so there won’t be any staff overheads,” he said.

“We have modest ambitions – we know we’re not going to make a fortune – but if the shop only breaks even that’ll be fine.

“Although we’re still in the early stages of the venture it’s gaining huge momentum and we aim to open in the summer.”

Campaigners are hoping the annual influx of tourists will help make the project a success.

Minstead is home to Furzey Gardens. The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, who lived at nearby Brook, is buried in the churchyard.

A quiz night will be held at the village hall on April 13 to help fund the cost of fitting out the shop.

Tickets can be ordered by emailing minsteadcommunityshop@gmail.com.