Café launched with the help of HS2 money opens in Steeple Claydon

Approximately 200 people attended the opening of a controversial new café, part-funded by money from HS2, in Steeple Claydon on Saturday, and the MP for Buckingham Greg Smith was there to show his support.

By Sam Dean
Monday, 9th March 2020, 4:37 pm
Updated Monday, 9th March 2020, 4:38 pm

Molly's Community Café was awarded a £75,000 grant from HS2's Community and Environment Fund, a scheme setup in an attempt to offset the disruption to towns and villages affected by the construction of the high speed rail link.

The fund was recently described by HS2 protester from Steeple Claydon, Lindsey Batham, as “HS2 buying communities.” The village has been a resistance hot spot due to the damage being done to the countryside surrounding it, and there were suggestions that a protest might be staged outside the café on Saturday, but this did not emerge.

Speaking to The Bucks Herald regarding the event on Saturday, Greg Smith MP, who spoke out against HS2 during the recent election campaign, alluded to the accusations of a conflict of loyalties: “There was a lot of support there. A lot of people came out to wish them well. I said a few words reiterating that I remain absolutely opposed to HS2 and whilst we've had the decision that phase one is to proceed any chink of light that it can still be stopped I will grab and run with but I don't think there's anything incompatible between wishing that cafe success and still remaining an opponent of HS2.”

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Molly's Community Caf opening day in Steeple Claydon

The café is on the site of the old newsagents that had been in the village since the 1970s until it was closed in 2018.

Unita Hopkins, the daughter of Molly Lewis who ran the newsagents for so many years, chose to donate the building back to the community for the creation of the cafe.

Fittingly, the café is named after Molly Lewis and it was her daughter Unita who cut the ribbon on Saturday.

Manager of the café, Jo Vipan said about the opening: “What an amazing day. I was so pleased to see so many people in the café, chatting and engaging with people they had never met before. This is exactly what we hope the café allows local people to do. We also got amazing feedback on the food and drinks, so it couldn’t have gone any better.”

Unita Hopkins cuts the ribbon at Molly's Community Caf

The café is a not for profit scheme and any surplus will be invested back into the local community.

Founder Director Paul Firth, who is also the chair of Steeple Claydon Parish Council, said: “The café, one of the biggest community initiatives in the village, will provide a welcoming environment where people can enjoy great coffee and good food.

“It will also provide help and support to a variety of people. It is a Community Interest Company, which means that any surplus money will be given to local good causes. Going forward the café will play a major role in the village through its ‘Community Partnership’ scheme.”

You can find out more about Molly's Community Café here:

MP for Buckingham Greg Smith speaks at the opening of Molly's Community Caf
Molly's Community Caf interior
A welcome message at Molly's