Background to UK Workshop

Aspects of Social Enterprise in a Rural Community

Bishop’s Castle Explored

Bishop’s Castle is a small town on the English – Welsh Border.

The photo below has a North West aerial view (looking across Bishop’s Castle into Wales)


Prehistoric routes (over 4000 years old and marked in red on the picture above) linking the islands to the west (now called ‘Ireland’) with the European Continent, followed the ridges, descending to the local area. A fortress (controlled by the Bishop of Hereford) and town was built in mediaeval times. Later in C16th the town was granted self-government and  had 2 parliamentary representatives (becoming a ‘Rotten Borough’) until 1832. Since those times, its significance has declined considerably.

Even the railway line, when it eventually arrived in 1865 as a branch from a failed enterprise (‘the line that went nowhere’), was something of an ‘accidental extra’


For its whole existence it had no financial viability & by being ‘in chancery’, was protected from closure until 1935.

Bishop’s Castle became an increasingly remote location.

The present population is less than 2000 & the basic economy of the area has been based on agriculture and forestry. Maintaining employment opportunities, a vibrant economy & a reasonable standard of social, educational and health services has been difficult. There has been considerable de-population, particularly of young & highly skilled people.

Tourism now is an important part of the economic mix – and there many ways in which facilities and volunteer led activities assist in creating a vibrancy attractive to visitors.


Rural Isolation

For many years the town has countered the impact of rural depopulation by a series of ‘home-grown’ efforts that have aimed to improve facilities, conserve heritage and create activities designed to encourage visitors.


In the 1980s there was a major campaign to retain community health care

The result:

 Care Home & Community Hospital



Nestled in Bishop’s Castle, a town situated in beautiful South Shropshire, Stone House offers residential accommodation for 40 older people with or without dementia. Our home is set in extensive beautiful grounds and which we hope you will enjoy either relaxing in them or undertaking some light gardening yourself.


Unusually the home is physically attached to the recently refurbished community hospital, for which we provide catering and facilities management. Stonehouse does not provide nursing care but works particularly closely with the community hospital in ensuring people can leave hospital in a timely and supported manner. Because of the closeness to the hospital and the way in which medical and paramedical services are delivered to the hospital and wider community, the home enjoys particularly strong relations with the local GPs and wider community team.

We have regular visits from the district nurses, local chiropodist, optician, physiotherapist and occupational therapist, enabling us to meet the needs of our service users.


Stone House has enjoyed and continues to enjoy strong and enduring inks with the local community and is a grateful recipient of support from the Friends of Bishops Castle community and in addition a wider network of volunteers. Being the founder of Jumpers for Africa, an initiative created by the keen knitters in and beyond the home, the home offers an interesting programme of daily activities for those who wish to take part and restful lounges for those who wish to read or chat.

Our food is freshly cooked in our own kitchen where the Catering Manager has been awarded the Platinum Healthy Eating Award.

Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital

a small 16-bed hospital in southwest Shropshire.

It has undergone a recent redevelopment and now has a new entrance area, garden room extension and exemplary palliative care suite that has received local, regional and even national recognition.

Charity haircut

Dr Adrian Penney, a doctor at the hospital, grew his hair for two years after vowing to avoid the barber until the refurbishment was complete.

Dr Adrian Penney

Dr Adrian Penney grew his hair for two years to raise money for the hospital

Dr Penney has raised around £20,000 towards the work and this week, he invited staff patients and other fundraisers to cut his locks and contribute to the fund.

He said he was glad to have short hair once again: “I never got used to it. I never had long hair not even as a student.”

Dr Penney was delighted with the new suite and the garden area that links the two rooms: “The Kings Fund gave £30,000, and there was £10,000 from the PCT.

“This was for improving the environment at the end of life, for not only patients, their relatives and families, but also for staff who are looking after them.”

Sarah Waller from the Kings Fund was closely involved with the project from the beginning: “It was clear from the application that they wanted to create a special place for relatives to be with people who are dying in the hospital.

“We know how important it is to us, particularly when we are very ill, to re-connect with nature.”

Special bench

The main feature of the outside space is a curved bench created by local craftsman Mark Arbon: “It’s a shell. It’s a spiral. It’s a very ancient shape and a very secure and holding shape.”

He said the idea was to make people feel comfortable: “It’s designed to give a peaceful area with no view of the hospital, so you can separate yourself from a traumatic time.”


The Economic


Social Impact of Rural Isolation

In the 1990s other difficulties occurred and local communities combined with government agencies to develop a variety of projects.

One of these was the creation of

Enterprise South West Shropshire 



enterprise-house2Welcome to Enterprise House. We are based in Bishop’s Castle but serve the wider area of South West Shropshire.   We manage the building called Enterprise House with a range of offices and workshops as well as our own facilities. Our building also houses he Local Public Library as well as the Council Registrars Office and Customer Services.

Our other projects are detailed within the website.  Check the menu to look at the IT Centre, the Village Outreach equipment hire service, our Artificial Sports Pitch and, of course our amazing SpArC Theatre.

logo-2010-250pxThe Company is run by a small highly dedicated team supported by a volunteer board of directors. The company is a Social Enterprise; all of our income is put to work providing important local services to the South West of the county.


The Company has a Board of Directors (all unpaid) who represent a wide area of interest in the South-West of the County. We are a Limited Company BUT our articles of association determine that there are no shareholders and that the profits are ploughed back into the work of the Company. In the 21st Century this pretty much defined a new business model, the Social Enterprise. ESWS has been ‘trading for social benefit’ since 1996.


In the early 1990s the SW Shropshire area suffered hugely as a result of the recession. The town’s two largest employers, FarmGas and Walters of Ludlow had departed and the area economy looked doomed. A local regeneration project was jointly proposed by South Shropshire District Council and the local Parishes. This was presented to Central Government for large scale funding under their new Rural Challenge fund. ‘A Lifeline for Bishops Castle’ was born and funded to the tune of about £6m (of match funding and capital/revenue) in order to carry out major regeneration work in the wider area from Chirbury in the North across to Llanfair Waterdine, Newcastle on Clun, Aston on Clun, Wentnor and Stiperstones.

A limited company was formed to do the work; The Bishop’s Castle & District Lifeline Co. Ltd. was born. The project ran for 3 years and achieved some major results such as 3 new village halls built, the old Farm Gas and Walters factories being refurbished as well as a great deal of training and funding for businesses. Local Communities were funded to carry out small and large projects such as wildlife ponds, willow mazes, village hall equipping and many others. A substantial piece of research was carried out into the production of fuel by local coppicing, sadly this achieved nothing more than a lengthy report.

library2015-624x468 The flagship of the project was housed in the old Walters Trouser Factory in Bishop’s Castle; now called Enterprise House, this has grown and flouished over the years having been intially regarded with a degree of suspicion (it represented a great deal of change).

The building is managed by the Company (now called Enterprise South West Shropshire) and the small but multi-talented staff manage all the work that ESWS is now engaged upon.

Meeting Room board photo

The meeting room seats up to 20 people and is available for hire as is our large training room which has 7 PCs with projection facility and internet access.

The latest additions to the Company portfolio are the SpArC Theatre (2013) & the Library (2016).

 A Culture of Enterprise

 Success breeds Success and the shared efforts and energies in seeing services retained and new initiatives developed has created a vibrancy capable of continuing the ‘enterprising process’

Bishop’s Castle Town Hall

recently restored with several added functions


The SEDETT Forum in which all partners are involved is being held in the Council Chamber of the Town Hall, as part of the Bishop’s Castle Arts Festival

PATHWAYS I.D. FORUM in the Town Hall Council Chamber
Time – 4pm
Enterprising survival techniques – Is Bishop’s Castle the ‘COTU’ (Centre Of The Universe)
for the successful social & community entrepreneur? An Open Forum discussion with local social &
economic entrepreneurs and international guests participating in a 3 day Workshop.
Please come and join the discussion
Exchange & explore innovative ideas, possibilities & action aimed to assist less affluent communities.
Admission Free

The Bishops Castle & District Community Land Trust

is developing an area for small scale industry




The above activities are almost entirely inspired and developed by volunteers.

The Heritage Centre

Bishop’s Castle Heritage Resource Centre is owned and run by the House on Crutches Museum Collection Trust, which is responsible for the displays in the House on Crutches Museum.


From December 2006, the centre, which is run by volunteers, became largely self-funding, partly through small to medium project grants, donations and charges for the use of its facilities and services.

The opening of BCHRC as a Local History Centre in 2010, as a result of a further HLF grant, marks another step towards fulfilling the original vision of helping people to learn about and enjoy the heritage of this very special area.

The House on Crutches



The House on Crutches Museum Collection Trust

The House on Crutches Museum Collection Trust (HOCMCT) was established in 1993 and subsequently became a registered charity and a Company Limited by Guarantee. It is staffed and run entirely by volunteers



A Continuing Process

In 2017 the struggles continue – focused on the withdrawal of local authority support funding for recent leisure developments.

The SPARC Story

SPARC provides sporting facilities and a theatre.



SPARC is the linear successor to the first major community-driven development in Bishop’s Castle:

The building and management of a community swimming pool (by volunteers assisting a few professional staff) opened in 1974.



The energies engaged in the Swimming Pool project fed into other actions, producing in the mid 1980s, the conversion of the High School into a Community College



Leisure facilities including a theatre were built adjacent to the swimming pool which became part of SPARC



Teme SpArC Bishops Castle Facilities Include:

20m Swimming Pool
20 Station Fitness Suite with Air Conditioning 3 Badminton Court Sports Hall
2 Glass Back Squash Courts
Sauna & Sunbed
Fully Equipped Studio Theatre
Vending Area
Art Gallery
Floodlit Artificial Pitches



In March 2017 external funding for SPARC will be withdrawn.

Once again the local communities over the area, on both sides of the border, have campaigned to maintain the existing facilities. This includes considerable voluntary fund raising activities and as with many other local facilities, the establishment  of a not for profit organisation managed by volunteers.



Saving Sport, Art & Leisure in Bishops Castle


The “Don’t let the SpArc go out” campaign

is a voluntary group who are working to save SpArC.

They are working closely with Teme Leisure who manage the centre and Shropshire County Council.  Key members of the committee are: Peter Williams and Lee Hassan (Teme Leisure); Peter Phillips and Mike Ashwell (Enterprise House); Peter Davis and Nigel Hodgson (Shropshire Council); Heather Kidd and Johnny Keeley (Councillors); Alan Doust (CCBC Head).

Last but by no means least are Jean Shirley and Richard Whately who are co-ordinating the campaign group and it’s activities.


The common element in almost all these developments was a desire to conserve and improve – often driven by awareness of the isolated nature of the area & the almost regular threat of closure to existing facilities that had been created by community effort.

Bishop’s Castle:


One area of activity in which all sections of the community are involved as volunteers is in the creation and management of festivals. As with the other examples social initiative, some were created during periods of economic crisis.

Some of the festivals are essential local celebrations but others have had, from the beginning a very intentional economic purpose in encouraging tourism.

Voluntary groups have developed and have worked with a variety of local commercial interests to promote the delights of the town & the area.



“Shropshire festival hailed a major success

Bishop’s Castle Arts Festival was today hailed a resounding success, with thousands of people attending scores of exhibitions, workshops and concerts.”

“A five-day celebration of arts, crafts and music, the festival ended last night with a performance by harmony group Rapsquillion and an open mic night for young people at the Three Tuns.
Other events over the five days ranged from singing workshops and Morris Dancing sessions to storytelling, making things with scrap and other craft workshops, brewery tours and food and other talks. There were also exhibitions throughout the five days.
Two of the most popular concerts featured Benji Kirkpatrick of Bellowhead joined by local friends and a concert by his brother, John.”


This concert was sponsored Pathways ID as part of an EU funded partnership programme The venue (The Three Tuns) is that being used by the SEDETT partnerships concert
PHIL DOLEMAN at The Three Tuns Inn
Time – 7.30 for 8pm
Old-time, good-time, ragtime blues from Phil (vocals, ukulele &banjo) and Ian (acoustic guitar & harmony vocals),
featuring the songs of blues, jazz, jug band and hokum legends such as Blind Blake, Jelly Roll Morton,
The Mississippi Sheiks, Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller and more. If you think that blues is all about
misery, these two will change your mind!
Sponsored by Pathways ID & the SEDDIT project
Admission – 7.5 pounds. Tickets available from the Town Hall and the Three Tuns Inn



Bishop’s Castle Carnival


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The various voluntary and ‘not-for-profit’ groups and committees managing the festival events have made a considerable economic and social impact for residents of the town and surrounding area.

Midsummer Rejoicing

A very particular curiosity

One of the most unusual festivals occurs on the weekend nearest Midsummer Day (technically 24th June).

The local parish Church is dedicated to St John the Baptist whose feast day is on that day.

Since the mid 1970s this has been celebrated with a special series of events including the construction of a Rush Cart.



The cart is decorated & dragged round the town in procession.



and eventually into the Church.


The procession is accompanied by Morris dance teams who then perform in the Church

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Following a brief service in the Church in which the dance teams perform, the teams return, dancing, to the top the hill & the Three Tuns…. where dancing continues.

The unusual nature of this event is such that it has over the years brought large numbers of visitors to the town (there is always a special team included as guest of the local teams).

The Rejoicing was originally aimed at being a local social and cultural event celebrating Midsummer but it has been one that over the years has made its own contribution to the economy of, at least, the shops, pubs and guest houses .

 At times Bishop’s Castle, despite the real & continuing social and economic difficulties (e.g. 40 kms & maybe from 2017, 60 kms, to the nearest emergency health facilities) has rejoiced in its rural isolation – and used this as a very effective marketing strategy.




Bishop’s Castle’s arts festival with music, literature and art at venues throughout the town. Workshops, talks and exhibitions. (01588) 630200

 MOJO FESTIVAL 1st May Bank Holiday, April 30 – May 1
At the Crown & Anchor Vaults, Bishop’s Castle. A Blues & Rock music festival Thursday & Friday evenings, Sat & Sun from 2.00p.m. to close.. Local ales, traditional ciders and food on sale all weekend at the pub and within our covered yard.
Mandy 07971 213728 or Wayne 07747 877011

 GREEN MAN DAY, CLUN 1st May Bank Holiday, April 30 & May 1
The Green Man and Frosty the Snow Queen battle over the coming of spring to Clun. With market stalls and entertainment in the Square and on the Castle Grounds.

All the fun of the fair as the travelling funfair comes to town.

BISHOP’S CASTLE ROUND & ABOUT WALKS, Ramble, Scramble or Amble May 6
Ramble – 22.5 miles This beautiful walk rambles over the rolling Shropshire hills from and back to Bishops Castle, via Offa’s Dyke, the Shropshire Way, the Walcot Estate and Bury Ditches, with a welcome hot vegetarian lunch provided at Clun.
Scramble – 13 miles This hill walk leaves Bishops Castle, to climb up to Offa’s Dyke from Mainstone, then enjoying views along the Cefns before dropping down past its castle to Clun, for lunch and transport back to Bishops Castle.
Amble – 9.5 miles Transport is provided to Clun for lunch, before an undulating stroll to Bury Ditches, then through the normally private Walcot Estate, and Oakley Mynd, to Bishops Castle.
The Route The route crosses quite remote countryside, some of which is not normally open to the public. It is, however, particularly safe in that it provides clear signage, written instructions and helpful marshals.

Our 18th annual Walking Festival will be held over five days in May, when the countryside is at its best. Our guided walks are led by experienced local volunteers and offer a great choice of walk length and terrain. A walker’s paradise, local footpaths lead over open hilltops, through winding valleys, tiny hamlets, country lanes and sometimes the remains of ancient hill forts. The views are pretty impressive too! Our walks are informal and friendly, often ending in a café or pub. We have five evening events planned.

16 or 26 miles starting from St. Georges School, Clun with 4,300 ft. of ascent. Entry £22 includes certificate, badge and gourmet refreshments. No dogs and no entries on the day
(01588) 640898

ARBOR DAY AT ASTON-ON-CLUN – Late May Bank Holiday Sunday, May 28 1.00 p.m. – 5.00 p.m. The last Tree Dressing ceremony in this country. Parade from the village hall. to the famous black poplar tree for Morris dancing & singing. Stalls, refreshments and fun on the green.  Sandra Spence  01588 660657 or Ruth Brassington 01588 660473 

WALCOT HALL OPEN DAY Late May Bank Holiday, May 28&29
Walcot Hall, Lydbury North. The gardens and arboretum of this former home of Clive of India are open for charity under the National Garden Scheme from 1.30p.m. to 5.30 p.m. both days.(01588) 680570

Showcasing the best art from the Shropshire Hills, open studios, joint shows and an art trail.
07736 381287

The annual opera performed by Opera a la Carte returns to the Ballroom for the 14th year running with a captivating performance of Rigoletto.
(01588) 680570

Many gardens, usually about 20, in the village and surrounding area open to the public.
Heather Morris (01588) 640217

A flower festival in the Church on Saturday   All groups in the town will be asked to take part and make an arrangement with theme of Midsummer Rejoicing. There will also be tombola and a raffle. There will be a Rush Cart parade with Morris Teams on the Sunday morning followed by a service with dancing at St. John’s Parish Church and then Morris dancing outside the Church and later in the Three Tuns Yard.
(01588) 630324

On your bike to help Arts Alive on the road
Chose from one of three routes (28, 45 and 68 miles) to suit your cycling ambition. Friendly atmosphere, handmade participant medals and great homemade cakes at feed stops in village halls en-route. Do yourself a favour and support the arts! entries via British Cycling website.

Teams of 2 with tandems swim cycle and run starting from The Community College and SpArC grounds Bishop’s Castle.

One of the oldest and possibly the best traditional town carnival with a parade of steam engines, vintage cars and floats around the town followed by fun, games and music on Bishops Castles playing fields.
Amanda Houghton

BISHOP’S CASTLE REAL ALE TRAIL Friday & Saturday July 7 & 8
Based in and around the town’s six historic pubs and two real ale breweries. A huge variety of Beers and ciders from Shropshire and the surrounding borders are represented as well as a great selection from the rest of the UK. Live music across the town on both the Friday and Saturday.
Mandy 07971 213728 or Wayne 07747 877011

A group of about 10 gardens in Clun open under the National Garden Scheme (Yellow Book) for the first time.
Heather Morris 01588) 640217

At Walcot Hall, Lydbury North lakes from 12.00 noon to 5.00 p.m.
Take part in the various stone related events or just watch the fun. Bring a picnic.
Heather Ashton

THE GUMBO FESTIVAL – July 20 to 23
A weekend of top international blues & roots bands. At The Crown & Anchor Vaults.
Mandy 07971 213728 or Wayne 07747 877011

One day music event organised by local ‘About Music Project’ AMP committee. Continuous music from 12.00 noon to 10pm, featuring a varied selection of local and guest bands.  This is a relaxed family event so bring a chair and enjoy the music.  Featuring bar, food and children’s activity. (01588) 630092 or (01588) 638664

 CLUN CARNIVAL July 29 – August 6
Several events, starting with an Art & Craft Exhibition in the Hightown Community Room on July 29 (closes August 6). On Show Day, August 5, a procession including marchers, carnival floats and historic vehicles starts a tour the town at 1.00 p.m. followed by Crowning of the Carnival Queen in The Square. From 2 pm there will be a large horticultural and homecraft show on the Castle Meadow, together with a tea tent, bar, stalls and entertainments including a bouncy castle and other attractions free to children.
(01588) 640629 

Rock festival in the hills! Weekend tickets available. Camping from 7 – 13 August included in ticket price.
Contact Phil Harding (01588) 650459

A 24 mile walk with 4,000ft. of ascent through stunning landscape to the north of the town with a 11 & 13 mile options on parts of the route.  The walk starts and finished at the Town Hall and is fund raiser for the hall.
Contact Jane Carroll (01588) 638467

PURSLOW SHOW Bank Holiday Monday, August 28
A small country show at Purslow Farm just past the Hundred House Inn at Purslow in the Clun Valley with something for everyone from 1.30 p.m. to 5.30p.m., dog show, beer tent and entertainment.
Anne Sutton (01588) 660141

Organised by Bishop’s Castle Heritage Resource Centre m& Town Hall Trust.  Visit our 18th century Council Chamber at Bishop’s Castle Town Hall where you can join the onlookers at a true-life courtroom drama – or play the parts yourselves! Between 10.00 and 4.00. For further details email

The show is held on the Millennium Green and in community centre in the village from 12.30pm -5.00 p.m. and includes Garden and Produce Show, Dog Show , children’s games, live music, bar and hot food, cream teas, local produce & cake stall etc

 MICHAELMAS FAIR September 23   12 noon -till Late
Bishops Castles Streets will be buzzing with entertainment including  Live music, Dance, Street Entertainment, Steam and Vehicle processions, Stalls, , Evening lantern procession followed by the Samba Band and Fire Show! Plus much more…. There’s nothing like it!

Bishop’s Castle History Day September 30 10.00 am – 4.00 pm The Friends of Shropshire Archives and BC & Area Heritage Forum are holding a history day to include short talks in the morning and optional afternoon tours in the Town, including the Town Hall.
Patricia Theobald & Evelyn Bowles

CLUN VALLEY BEER FESTIVAL Friday & Saturday October 6 & 7
All the pubs along the beautiful Clun valley join in this event. Transport is provided between pubs.

12 mile sponsored walk around the local footpaths in aid of Bishop’s Castle Bowling Club.
Tony Graham 

Music, late night shopping and parades along with Santa’s Grotto.
info on Facebook 01588 638141

From 2.00 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.
In conjunction with the Christmas Light Festival the church opens its doors to crafts from the area. (01588) 638269

 CLUN CHRISTMAS LIGHTS December 3 From 7.00 p.m. to 8.00 p.m.

For general contact details pick up a “What to Do and Where to Eat” booklet from the Bishop’s Castle Town Hall Visitor Information Office

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