“ALAN Titchmarsh is in the village shop!” beamed one happy customer as she left Lurgashall Village Shop and Post Office with a few essential supplies last Friday – and she wasn’t the only one.

Mr Titchmarsh, an ambassador for the Prince’s Countryside Fund which helped save the community shop with a £20,000 grant in 2018, dropped in to film a promotional video for the Prince of Wales’ charity. He is a close friend of the prince.

And he was put to good use by the shop’s staff and volunteers, serving behind the counter and even stacking some shelves.

The TV gardener and East Hampshire resident has served as an ambassador of the Prince’s Countryside Fund for more than a decade, and said Lurgashall’s little shop is “living proof” of the prince’s mission to back causes that “make a difference in rural communities”.

“The fund’s grant enabled the shop to be fitted out and to employ an assistant, both in the post office and in the store,” he said.

“So it really did make a difference, and I hope it shows people, for as little as £3 a month, what their donation can do for a community. We all are careful about our donations and want to see they’re being used properly. And here is living proof that they are.”

Despite losing many of its volunteers to shielding, Lurgashall Village Shop remained open throughout the toils of 2020 and, as Mr Titchmarsh added, village shops have shown they are “not just about selling produce” over the past year.

“It’s about public service,” he said. “It’s about keeping communities together, and particularly rural communities, keeping them alive. It’s been very difficult during lockdown but these shops are a lifeline, particularly for the more isolated communities.

“This has been a salvation for so many people.”