Carol Birnie 

Carol Birnie


Every customer to walk through the door at Corfe Village Stores gets a cheery hello from Carole.  Some visitors to Corfe, she says, are a bit taken aback! For them, shopping may have ceased being a friendly experience. By the time they’re at the till, however, they’ve had a taste of what locals have grown to love. Carole and husband, Terry, have not just breathed new life into Corfe’s most enduring corner shop, they have made it a lovely place to go. It doesn’t matter who you are – an A-lister or a tired camper - Carole thinks everyone is special. She and Terry have made it their business to stock items that local people need and are happy to squeeze special requests onto their shelves. So, you can find anything from bread flour to banana blossom. Not to mention at least 350 different types of gin. 

At quieter times, you can also go in for a natter. In a way, it’s how shopping used to be: buying something is as much a social exchange as a purchase. It feels good. And, by stocking Purbeck produce, the shop supports local growers and connects people to where their food comes from. Carole hopes that buying local can be the way forward. If we can get it right in Purbeck, she says, it could be a blueprint for elsewhere.  Careful stock control means very little food gets wasted.  Some nights, she says, she cooks from whatever’s at the end of its sell-by-date. Carole has even persuaded her mum to shop more carefully and to throw away less. No-one’s too old to change their habits! Carole thinks more people are using the shop.  You don’t have to spend much, she says, but if everyone uses a small, local business once a week, it makes a huge difference. 

When Carole and Terry moved to Corfe 7 years ago, Carole decided to run ‘The Beast’ to raise money for charity, but also to get to know the countryside better. She remembers looking out from the top of a hill and thinking: ‘Wow! This is where I live!’ Now, whenever she crosses the River Frome back into Purbeck, she feels as if she’s gone through a protective magnetic field. It feels safe, and at home. 

During the pandemic lock-downs, Carole and Terry arranged hundreds of deliveries to isolated or vulnerable people in the village and beyond. A sense of community, we now know, is very precious. A thing money can’t buy. 

Interviewed by Sue Western - Sept 2021
Part of the Why we love Purbeck series, local Residents tell us what Purbeck means to them.

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