A BUS shelter disused for years as become a swap shop for residents in Oxfordshire.

After a fresh lick of paint, the shelter in South Leigh, near Witney, is now a hive of activity as books, puzzles and even vegetables are being traded by residents.

The operation adheres to social distancing guidelines and has got the whole village swapping items with each other.

When the country entered lockdown, Barbara Austin found her 93-year-old mother needing something to keep her occupied for the months ahead.

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Mrs Austin said: “The lockdown made getting to the library and shops impossible for my mum in Yarnton, so I went online to get her some jigsaw puzzles but that’s what everyone else was doing and everywhere was sold out.

“This gave me the idea as I thought there would be other people who needed puzzles and books, and it would be terrific to have a convenient place in the village.

“I knew about the bus shelter and thought it could be a perfect location.”

The village’s lockdown ‘Scrape and Paint’ team was already refurbishing railings and benches around South Leigh when it identified the Station Road bus shelter for its next project.

With the shelter now freshly painted, the swap shop was open for trade.

Witney Gazette:

“Emails got sent out through newsletters that the bus shelter swap shop would be up and running, and to use gloves, wipes and to maintain social distancing,” said Mrs Austin.

“It had a great response with huge numbers of books and jigsaws donated at the beginning, and then people started to donate board games and DVDs.

“Then people started leaving their home grown vegetables and plants too.

“From the start we said we don’t want it to be a dumping ground, but so far people have just been going by and taking and leaving things for each other.

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“There’s been a great response from the community with people really enjoying it and there’s hundreds of items piled up at any one time.

“I am thrilled to see that something so simple can provide such a useful service.”

Mrs Austin said the swap shop, which began in April, has fulfilled its original purpose as she was able to get hold of books and puzzles for her mother, who is still tackling one of the jigsaws.

During her 25 years as a resident in South Leigh, Mrs Austin, 60, said she could not recall the shelter ever being used.

Witney Gazette:

Looking to the future however, the former teacher said the bus shelter could be reinvented as a more formal product exchange, with other ideas such as being a gallery for drawings by children in the pipeline too.

For now, the shelter has been jokingly renamed ‘The Andrew Carnegie Memorial Library’ by fellow resident Dick Pears.

The Scottish industrialist is famed for leading the growth of the American steel industry and becoming one of the richest people in history.

He was also a philanthropist and reportedly gave away 90 per cent of his fortune to good causes.

Some of that money funded more than 2,500 libraries across the globe, of which many still exist, hence the new name for the shelter.