Meet the Yorkshire Dales artists and crafters who have set up their own co-operative shop in the village of Askrigg

A group of independent craftspeople have set up a co-operative shop in the Dales to sell their products and showcase local creative talent.

Heather & Grouse on the Market Place in Askrigg occupies a unit owned by local charity the Askrigg Foundation which had lain empty for many years until mother and daughter-in-law duo Rita and Roxana Cloughton expressed interest in taking it on as part of a membership scheme.

They have since assembled 17 local artists to join a rota to man the shop during its opening hours in return for the chance to display and sell their products.

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As the venture is not-for-profit, the group are able to retain proceeds from all of their sales themselves, and they also plan to use some of their new space to hold workshops and classes.

Roxy Cloughton with one of her All Creatures Great and Stuffed creations outside Heather & Grouse

Retired dental nurse Rita specialises in soft furnishings while Roxana, who is married to Rita's son Richard, makes faux taxidermy with the brand name All Creatures Great and Stuffed.

Their fellow crafters include a glass artist, painters, jewellers, sculpters, potters, a ceramicist and an alpaca farmer who sells fabric made from her animals' wool.

"Around three years ago we had a pop-up in the same building, but now the Askrigg Foundation have refurbished the shop and the flats upstairs. The space hadn't been used in such a long time and it was beginning to look a bit sad, but since we decided to take it on we've refitted it and it looks great," said Roxana.

"There are some very talented people around here, and we are all so excited because we missed out on selling at craft fairs that were cancelled during the pandemic. Most of us were mainly selling online and through social media before, so it's great to have this base for our products.

Roxy, her mother-in-law Rita Cloughton and felt artist Louise Curnin are among the 17 creatives in the Heather & Grouse co-operative - all take turns manning the shop

"We all help out, everyone does a day each month working in the shop, and the customers we've had in so far have been so supportive about buying local - they like the fact that there's no middleman.

"It's surprising how many of us craftspeople there are around here! We get to keep the profits and we were also really lucky to get grants from Richmondshire Council and the Jack Brunton Trust.

"We're hoping our afternoon workshops will soon be allowed, and that we get more tourists visiting too - there's a holiday barn nearby and the guests who have stayed there since it re-opened have been great.

"We just want it to be a space that brings people together."

All products sold are made locally in Wensleydale and the artisans get to keep all profits

As Askrigg Foundation chair Elizabeth Fawcett points out, the revival of the shop means its function has actually come full circle - back in the 1970s when it was first acquired, the local vicar set up a co-operative producing soft toy Wombles to provide employment for the village.

The charity, which also distributes educational bursaries for the nearby Low Mill Outdoor Centre, struggled to fund maintenance and restoration of the Market Place property, which also includes an attached cottage that was once a restaurant, until they qualified for a Richmondshire Council grant aimed at bringing more affordable housing onto the market. Now the cottage and rooms above the shop have been converted into three rental properties for young people working locally.

"It is just so right for the village and such a great outcome. The shop had become hard to let, and the top floor was open to the rafters as it had become difficult to maintain. It was crying out for restoration but we had no spare money. Now, I think the co-operative could actually be more sustainable than a business tenant.

"The council grant gave us the impetus to save the building rather than sell it. I've known Rita since we were children and I knew she would do a beautiful job with the shop. She's very organised and they've got a great group together.

"I went there recently to buy a gift and I knew I would find something - they have something for every price point. It gives people another reason to stop in Askrigg. A building that was neglected and miserable has been preserved for the next generation."

Who's who at Heather & Grouse?

Rita Cloughton - Handmade by Rita C (soft furnishings)

Suzie Wright - pottery/sculpture

Margaret Read - stone planters

Linda Cameron - Hanalin Crafts (wool)

Gilly Knowles - stone art/ hand-sewn books

Melanie Clarkson - metalwork/ crochet

Liz Carlisle - pottery

Vanessa Andreoli- Silvernessa (silver jewellery)

Roxy Cloughton - All Creatures Great and Stuffed (faux taxidermy)

Louise Curnin - Handmade from Lottie and Lou (felt art and lamps)

Carole Rutherford - Glass Art by Carole

Carol Archer - painter

Jackie Masterman - Semerwater Alpaca Ambles (alpaca wool)

Carol Yates - wildlife pastel artist

Jennifer Baker - candles and diffusers

James Metcalfe - woodwork