Milland - where local meet Lord Grantham in far flung reaches of the district

IN the ‘far-flung reaches of Chichester District’, Milland may lie on the boundaries, but remains to be ‘one of the most active parishes around’.

A survey of the needs of the village was carried out in October 2009.

Milland rural fair C100865-9  Photo Louise Adams

Milland rural fair C100865-9 Photo Louise Adams

Issues identified included a better transport link and more affordable housing, both of which are still ongoing.

People also asked for a village shop, as the previous store had closed some 20 years before.

So Philip Watts volunteered to get on board with the project, and with the help of volunteers and a number of grants, they made it happen.

He is now chairman of Milland stores and cafe, alongside manager Claire Kellow.

A hot toddy before you go - A warm welcome from Ben Burston of The Rising Sun   ''Picture by Louise Adams C140118-4 Mid Milland

A hot toddy before you go - A warm welcome from Ben Burston of The Rising Sun ''Picture by Louise Adams C140118-4 Mid Milland

“It really has become a hub of the community – which was the original intention,” said Philip.

The shop was opened by ‘Lord Grantham’ himself, actor Hugh Bonneville, who lives in nearby Chithurst and stars as the patriarchal earl in the popular ITV drama Downton Abbey.

“The South Downs National Park was a key supporter of the project, so too was Chichester District Council (CDC).

“The idea was to provide convenience products and another place for people to socialise, apart from the pub.

“All sorts of people come here, including young people with their laptops to make use of the free WiFi – some run businesses, others are authors, and we get a lot of cyclists who are passing through the area.

“An emergency plan is also in place here in the winter – it is all about looking after the community.”

And most recently, an official opening ceremony for the café marked a major expansion of the village facility.

The café used to have around a dozen seats, but there is now room for 25, plus a further 16 or more outside on the newly-extended decking area.

Shop committee member Izzy Fraser was delighted with the shop’s progress.

“News is spreading fast about the store and we can now expand our menu and sell our own wines.” The community is now working on its neighbourhood plan.

“We need to get people to think 20 years ahead – an awful lot changes in that time,” said Philip on the need for a forward-thinking plan.

“We are in the far-flung reaches of CDC, but they often say we are one of the most active parishes around.

“We’re a long way from Chichester so we must make sure our needs are listened to.”

Another important aspect of village life is the Milland rural fair, taking place every two years and attracting between three to four thousand people from across the south east, “But it’s not just another country fair,” according to Philip.

Taking place this year on June 1, the event has a strong following and fairgoers can expect a fun-packed day out, with everything from musicians and archery to animal and dog shows.

The Rising Sun is at the heart of the community.

Owned and run by Ben Burston and Frankie Swan, they are supported by general manager Peter Alderman and his front-of-house team, assistant managers Daniel Gibb and Izzy Breen, and Richard Bridgens heading a five-man kitchen brigade.

It has an excellent reputation, really putting Milland on the map.

Ben said: “I have been running the ‘Riser’ for seven years this February.

“The pinnacle of our year is Millfest, our music and beer festival held towards the end of July every year at the pub.

“This year’s event is on July 26, starting from 4pm.

“We have an outside catering arm of the business called Sun Settings which specialises in informal garden parties, barbecues and hog roasts.

“Our food offer is quite broad in that we offer snacks, classic pub food and restaurant food but it’s all homemade, locally-sourced (where possible), fresh and seasonal.

“We are a Fullers’ lease so offer brands such as London Pride and HSB.

“These days, food is the core side of our business, but we are still a proper pub where drinkers are as welcome as diners.

“This is an important point because so many village pubs have become too ‘gastro’ and lose that community aspect. We have not and will never.”