The Nidderdale Voices column with Steve Willis

Steve Willis.
Steve Willis.

It is not just football and cricket that take place on Darley Playing Fields. Once more, Darley has its very own general shop and café. It is through the persistence of the villagers that all this has come about.

They identified the need and with the planning and dedication that built them Christ Church Darley Community Centre they set to work to find the person who could put their plans into practice.

The well-stocked shop at Darley, run by Steve Willis.

The well-stocked shop at Darley, run by Steve Willis.

This was Steve Willis, of Pannal Post Office and village shop.

Steve originally came from Newcastle but has spent most of his working life milking cows, first as a herdsman and then as a Tenant farmer. He discovered he liked connecting with his local consumers so when the farm was sold and his tenancy ended he took on the village shop in Pannal.

From here, he was discovered by the Darley researchers and invited to talk to them about the founding and running of a village shop. When he was given permission for a Post Office the shop became a reality.

Describe a typical day

My day begins around 4.30am, dealing with papers and supplies to various farm shops. Fruit and vegetables have to be collected as well as other produce.

The Yorkshire Produce Centre in Leeds with a 3am opening sees me picking the produce I require. I split my time between the two shops so I make sure I visit Darley daily. I find it very important to know my customers and react to their needs and wishes. A village shop should be part of the community I am lucky to have wonderful local staff at both Pannal and Darley.

What would be your perfect day out?

I have only had two of these in the last two years, so it is a good job that I have an interesting everyday life. My passion is following Newcastle United FC. On the rare occasions that I do get to go to a match it is a luxury. Otherwise I make a point of following on the radio.

What is your favourite Nidderdale business?

If you drive up toward Brimham Rocks you will find High Pasture Farm and a notice on a farm gate offering unpasteurised milk for sale. As an ex dairy farmer I think this is a fabulous venture as shop milk which is treated has nowhere near the same taste as raw milk straight from the cow.

What is your favourite part of the Dale?

I love that ride down Stumps Lane into Darley. I come down it at different times of the day and the colours and the landscape are always different.

You are high on the hill and the countryside stretches before you like a patchwork heading on to Summerbridge.

What is the biggest change you have seen in Nidderdale?

All over the Dale there are supermarket vans delivering to householders, yet small local businesses in the rural areas are the life blood of communities.

People running these work incredibly hard and given the chance could meet demands for fresh good quality, local goods.

What makes Nidderdale special and why would you recommend it?

Nidderdale welcomes visitors but it does not allow the tourist industry to take it over. It manages to keep its own identity so that village life carries on uninterrupted.

If there is one thing that you would change what would I be?

It would not be Nidderdale that I would change it would be me.

All my life I have been lucky to enjoy the work I have done and maybe that stopped me moving to retail earlier! I love what I do now and getting to know the people of Darley has been a real privilege.