Popular couple say emotional goodbye to loyal customers at Hundred Acre Wood after refreshment trailer is turfed off by Forestry Commission
More than 1,000 people turned out to say an emotional goodbye to a popular couple whose refreshment truck has been controversially axed from a beauty spot in the Meon Valley. Bolly Saffova-Said and her husband Zed have become bedrocks of the community since setting up their Great Big Food Company trailer at Hundred Acre Wood, West Walk, at the Forest of Bere in Wickham seven years ago. Bolly and Zed
On Sunday, April 24, friends and customers visited them at the plot one last time having previously battled with the by the Forestry Commission to try and halt the move to boot them from the coveted land. The couple, who are renowned for their efforts in litter picking in the forest, helping find lost dogs and children and lending a friendly ear to vulnerable customers, gained emphatic support from residents after news of their pending departure went public earlier this month. SEE ALSO: Councillor apologises after printing ‘lies’ in election material about Winchester council candidate
Some 1,500 people signed both online and written petitions to stop the business being replaced by Seahorse Cafe Bar, which was selected by the Commission after the site was put up for tender following the expiration of Bolly and Zed’s long-standing lease. However, such calls were met by a ‘wall of silence’, with the Commission standing firm on its decision and batting away claims it had acted for profit. Bolly with loyal customer Hugh Bonneville
Bolly said: “The response has been overwhelming, you help people over the years and don’t think anything of it because it feels natural. I never questioned it or thought I was doing anything special because that is the way I am, and my husband is the same. So, to hear from so many people that you helped and have them remember those little things was amazing.
“There was one lady who spoke to me on Sunday and said she was going through hard times and struggling with anxiety and depression during Covid. She told me that she would come to the forest and speak with me while I was litter picking because I was always positive and smiling and it really helped her – I had no idea. I can tell you now, I haven’t cried that much before in my life.
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On Sunday some of those customers turned up with their family members and said, ‘what am I going to do now, where am I going to go for lunch?’. It’s people like that which I’ll miss. “It’s a community which we’ve created.
All those people have become good friends to me, and it feels like part of my family has been ripped away from me. Me and my husband are both foreign nationals, and this feels like moving country again and having to start from scratch.” To make matters worse, Bolly and Zed, who ran their food truck seven days a week, have said the Forestry Commission hasn’t helped them find a new site, leaving the couple in limbo.
“Putting the site up for tender so that everyone had a chance to bid was fair, but I’m not sure how much they actually took into account people’s feedback, or whether they consulted the visitors who actually come to the forest,” Bolly said. “Even when they put the site up for tender, we were told when our last day was going to be, it felt as if their minds were already made up. “We were hoping that someone from the Forestry Commission would see the petition, look into it and maybe offer us an alternative site.
We had been there seven years and loved working with them, we had such a fantastic relationship, and both love the forest. We started from scratch before, so even if it was somewhere we could have built up again. “But sadly, it has just been a silent wall from the Forestry, which is really disappointing.”
Meanwhile, defiant messages of support have continued to flood in as residents maintain their calls for the decision to be reversed. Fran Cullen, who works at a school for severe and complex learning needs, said: “Our school is reliant on the support of the community when we work off site. They have helped by keeping ice lollies frozen, giving groups sweets at Halloween, and even looking out for our lost property!
Bolly shared her birthday with the children, and they are a big part of the forest community. “It means so much to have a couple who understand the complex needs of our children and support us in our work in the forest. They also take responsibility for litter picking and site safety.
Please God let the Forestry Commission see sense. People before profit!” Another customer Jean Woodley added: “What the Commission has done is plain wrong.
The public affected should at the very least get a say!” A spokesperson for the Forestry Commission said: “We’re disappointed that Bolly and Zed were not successful in their recent application. It was a very difficult decision for us, as the calibre of other mobile cafe operators was very high indeed.
“We’ve enjoyed working with Bolly and Zed and know that many visitors to our woodland will miss seeing them regularly, serving snacks and giving a friendly welcome. “Forestry England must retender its business partnerships periodically and the current agreement with the existing mobile cafe operator had expired. The new business operator was procured through a fair and open competition.
The new catering operator is due to start on April 25, called Seahorse Cafe Bar.” To sign the petition, go to: change.org/p/petition-to-hand-to-the-forestry-commission-to-keep-zed-and-bolly-at-hundred-acres Message from the editor
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