Denis Betts - from rugby league to running a village post office

PUBLISHED: 12:04 26 August 2020

Post, Newburgh;  Post office, store and coffee shop

Post, Newburgh; Post office, store and coffee shop

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The Wigan legend tackling a new challenge.

Gaynor and Denis BettsGaynor and Denis Betts

During his time at Wigan, Denis Betts was a part of one of the most successful Rugby League sides of all time. He represented England and Great Britain and won almost everything there was to win in a career that took him around the globe.

His life isn’t quite so high octane these days but he needs to be as nimble and fit as ever in his new role running the Newburgh village Post Office, shop and café.

‘It’s hard work,’ he said. ‘I have made about 400 home deliveries on foot around the village – I’m still doing some to people who are shielding or have health problems to make sure people have the essentials.’

When the lockdown began, the world of sport came to an abrupt halt, as did Denis’s work as a coach and mentor. But that meant he was able to concentrate more on the business he runs with his wife Gaynor.

Post, Newburgh;  Post office, store and coffee shopPost, Newburgh; Post office, store and coffee shop

‘Some horrible things have happened in recent months but community-based shops have thrived,’ Denis said. ‘We’ve been busy throughout the lockdown. We closed the cafe and focused on the shop and we changed what we stocked so we’d have the things people were needing.’

The couple opened the business at Easter 2019 after extensive refurbishing work on the building and Denis added: ‘We had been living in Cheltenham for 12 years but all our family was up here and although we had a fantastic life, you reach a stage in life when you want to be closer to the people who really matter to you.

‘Gaynor had always fancied running a little gift shop and we looked at a few but I’m really pleased we went for this one. It needed a lot of work doing because it’s a 350-year-old building, but it had lots of potential and we both really like the area. I’d never really explored West Lancashire before so it was nice to come somewhere new.

‘The building is completely different to what we were used to – we came from a modern three-storey town house to this old cottage with tiny rooms and a shop on the front. We have completely refurbished the building but because it’s a listed building, everything we did seemed to take longer than we’d expected.

‘Our intention was to try to put the Post Office back at the centre of the village – a place where people could meet and have a coffee and a chat. We held a couple of late night shopping events last year and there were people who lived near each other who saw each other for the first time in years. There’s often nowhere for people to meet in places like this – it’s one of those sad things in modern society.

‘We’ve been open about 18 months now and since then there have been two floods and a pandemic – if we can get through that, we’ll probably be able to survive anything. We’re really enjoying it, though. It’s hard work but Newburgh is a great little village with a wonderful community. We love the people and it’s a great place to live.’

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