When Claire Hastie saw that Bellingham didn’t have a wool shop, she sought to change that. However, with no premises available she had to think outside the box. Hence The Woolly Van, which started trading in August last year.

Claire said: “It’s essentially a mobile wool shop. The nearest shop to Bellingham is a 45 minute drive away. And with no premises available in the town, my friend said why not put it in a van? And the idea was born from that.”

Though she doesn’t have permanent premises, Claire is able to trade at several locations where she has permission, including Bellingham and Otterburn Mill.

She said: “The good thing about having a store is that people know where you are all the time, whereas I have to make people aware of where I am.”

To do that, she has been working on expanding her website which she says has been a steep learning curve.

Throughout lockdowns, the Woolly Van has had a click and collect service available, but Claire is glad to be trading in person again.

She said: “There have been online sales over lockdown but it has been quiet. It’s great that I can get back out and meet people. I started trading in August last year and the locals were starting to get to know me.

“Not only that, buying wool online is not the same as in person. You need to pick it up and get a feel for it.”

With the freedom of the open road, could Claire take her Ford Transit further than Bellingham and Otterburn?

She said: “I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes with regard to other wool shops. However, there is a call for a wool shop in Hexham, which is something I may look into.”

Claire finished by saying: “I’m passionate about wool and hope to share that with as many people as possible.”

The Woolly Van can be found at Bellingham on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and Ottterburn Mill on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The service is also available by appointment throughout the week.