APPEARANCES can be deceptive.

From the outside it looks much like other red telephone box in chocolate-box villages across the country but the one in Waterperry, near Wheatley, leads a far more exciting life.

Villagers bought the box from BT for £1 to stop it being taken away when its payphone was removed.

Since then it has hosted poetry readings and vegetable markets.

Currently there is a Christmas theme, with a decorated tree inside and a carol service planned for Tuesday.

BT praised villagers for the most innovative use of an old phonebox in the South East of England and gave them £1,000.

Former parish councillor, Tricia Hallam, who launched the project, said: “We decided to adopt it, because the village’s main road doesn’t have a name, so it would always be used as a landmark for giving directions.

“It has been great fun thinking up new uses for the kiosk and it has really brought the village together.”

Kit Arnold, 71, lives next to the phonebox and turned it into a poetry corner earlier this year. A topical poem from those posted up is featured above.

He said: “People wrote poems or stuck their favourite poems up inside. We even had pen and paper, so people could write when they were inside.”

Pat Havers helped set up a fruit and vegetable market, held on Sundays in the autumn.

Mrs Havers said: “We started by having a swap outside the phonebox, where people could trade items from their garden.

“Then, about 10 people got involved, so we started selling the produce for charity. In the end we raised £240 for Maggie’s (Cancer Centre) Oxford, which is fantastic.”

Shelagh Woodrow has lived opposite the phonebox for 20 years. She said: “It was always a centre of the community but now more so, because we don’t have a village hall, so we use the phonebox instead.

“We’ve already got our thinking caps on about what we’ll use it for next.”

Parish council chairman Michael Kemp said: “We’re extremely pleased to have won the award and it just shows the strength of the community spirit in the village.”

The national winner was Great Shelford, in Cambridgeshire, where the phone box features a mannequin dressed as a regularly changing character suggested by pupils at the village school.

BT’s Mark Johnson said: “We were impressed by the Waterperry initiative and the way it has brought the community together.”

Eleven parish councils in south Oxfordshire stepped in to adopt phoneboxes after BT decided they were under-used and took out their payphones.