Category Archives: Charities

NEW REPORT REVEALS THE STARK IMPACT OF RURAL ISOLATION IN SOMERSET

Did you know that almost 4,000 pensioners in rural villages in Somerset have no access to transport? Or that the growth in young people’s loneliness is higher than any other age group?

These were just two of the findings from Somerset Community Foundation’s recently launched Hidden Somerset: Rural Isolation research report. The new Hidden Somerset reports are designed to shine a spotlight on, and raise awareness of, some of the important issues affecting people in Somerset – as well as the great work being done by local charities and groups. Thanks to generous funding from The Fairfield Charitable Trust, the first report, focusing on Rural Isolation, was published in July 2019. Further reports, each of which will focus on a different issue, including homelessness and social mobility, are planned to follow later this year and into 2020.

The inaugural Hidden Somerset launch event was held at the Rural Enterprise Centre, on The Royal Bath and West Showground. Invited guests heard a presentation of the findings of the research from Somerset Community Foundation (SCF) Programmes Director Val Bishop, which revealed that:

  • There are a number of hidden needs in Somerset linked to rural isolation including loneliness, poor access to vital services such as GP surgeries, shops and banks, and significant barriers to opportunities for work and learning
  • Lack of access to transport was the most significant issue for all age groups – in parts of Exmoor, for example, households are an average of 40 minutes away from their nearest food store and 50 minutes away from a GP
  • Younger people in rural communities are more likely to be working multiple, seasonal jobs with lower pay which, combined with high housing costs, means home ownership is impossible for many young families and forces many to move away
  • Although there have been significant improvements in access to broadband, a lack of digital skills and access to high-speed broadband and mobile data are still significant barriers for many. Remote areas of Somerset also have few free Wifi hotspots, creating financial barriers to getting online and accessing learning and employment opportunities.

The chairman of a local rural community group responded to the survey: “Lack of transportation is my number-one problem. If I could get transport to pick up the elderly – even those who live a short distance away – I could straight away increase the number of members, especially those who are on their own. We could then also support the surrounding villages at our meetings.”

A panel at the event, made up of four charities, social enterprises and community groups, brought to life some of the more challenging aspects of rural life and the creative and entrepreneurial ways they are tackling local issues. A representative from Exmoor Young Voices – which works to highlight the needs of young people in the area – spoke of the grave difficulties for younger people who want to stay living on Exmoor in light of high housing costs, low wages, and limited employment opportunities. The group are lobbying for changes to local planning regulations to enable more young families to self-build and are looking to start a loan fund to help them buy land.

Raj Singh, Deputy Chief Executive of the Community Council of Somerset, was one of the panellists, and highlighted the vital importance of Village Agents and their innovative and flexible approach to helping individual villagers across Somerset. Raj shared a story of an elderly and isolated resident who was stuck in hospital because he needed a simple adjustment made to his home that no agency had been able to resolve. The local village agent was quickly able to purchase and install the necessary equipment and get him home at a cost of less than £10, as well as helping the resident to build new friendships which reduced isolation and improved his overall health and wellbeing.

Justin Sargent, Chief Executive at Somerset Community Foundation, said: “Isolation is one of, if not the greatest ‘hidden’ issue that communities face here in Somerset and it affects thousands of people across the county. Building stronger communities is essential if our rural areas are going to remain vibrant and inclusive places to live, and local philanthropy has to be a part of this.

“One of the most obvious and profound effects of isolation is loneliness, which can have a significant impact on both mental and physical health. But it is also an issue that local community action is very effective at addressing, preventing other more serious problems from escalating. The discussions that our Hidden Somerset report has so far inspired are helping us identify specific roles that we, and our donors, can play to make the greatest difference. Most immediately, we will increase the impact of our annual Surviving Winter campaign – where people can donate their Winter Fuel Payment to help people who are living in fuel poverty – by funding more community winter dinners around Christmas time, bringing more people together. However, I am sure there is much more we can – and will – do in the future.”

The next Hidden Somerset report will look at homelessness and will be published in November 2019. If you are interested in supporting the work of Somerset Community Foundation and would like to obtain a copy of Hidden Somerset: Rural Isolation, please call 01749 344949 or email: info@somersetcf.org.uk

You can also download a copy of Hidden Somerset: Rural Isolation by visiting: www.somersetcf.org.uk/about-us/publications

CYCLE FROM LONDON TO PARIS WITH ST MARGARET’S HOSPICE CARE

Cyclists in Somerset are being offered a chance to ride from London to Paris next summer in aid of St Margaret’s Hospice Care.

A group of fundraisers will make memories to cherish forever as they take on the 315-mile journey from capital to capital before watching the finale of the Tour de France.

Sonia Bateman, the charity’s events fundraiser, said: “As well as giving you something exciting to look forward to, signing up nice and early makes raising sponsorship and training for the ride much easier. Our overseas cycle rides are always a highly rewarding challenge and this tale of two cities promises to be the best of times for any cycling enthusiast.”

Last year, nearly 2,400 people took part in a variety of fundraising events organised by St Margaret’s Hospice Care to help the charity care for patients and families facing a life-limiting illness in Somerset.

The London to Paris cycle ride will start on Wednesday 15 July 2020. Riders will travel through the Kent countryside to Dover before crossing the Channel to Calais. Their adventure will continue through quiet country lanes and the rolling fields of Northern France, passing the war memorials and cemeteries of the Somme.

The four-day challenge will culminate with a memorable finish on the Champs-Élysées, where the next day the group will have a chance to celebrate their achievement by witnessing the climax of the Tour de France.

For more details and to book your place on the ride visit www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk/Event/london-to-paris-cycle or call Sonia on 01823 365604.

BUTTERFLY POPULATIONS BOUNCE AS LOCAL PROJECT IS CELEBRATED IN NATIONAL AWARDS

A project working across Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor has been shortlisted for a national award following exceptional work to rescue butterfly populations in the South West.

All the Moor Butterflies from Butterfly Conservation is one of six projects to be shortlisted for the prestigious 2019 Park Protector Award and the very first Year of Green Action Award for National Park projects from the Government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Jenny Plackett, South West Regional Manager at Butterfly Conservation, said: “Butterfly Conservation is absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for this Award for our work to improve the fortunes of our declining fritillary butterflies across Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor. We have been working alongside dedicated farmers and landowners to increase the quality and extent of suitable breeding habitat, and it would be wonderful if our partnership efforts were to be recognised with this Park Protector Award.”

The project fought off stiff competition to be within touching distance of the Awards, the results of which will be announced in a parliamentary reception this month. This year saw the most applicants apply in the competition’s history!

“The projects are each making an outstanding difference in some of the most famous countryside in the world; they are more vital than ever, when the natural world is under threat like never before and in the year of the National Parks’ 70th anniversary no less!”

“From introducing asylum seekers to the Yorkshire Dales to rescuing endangered butterflies, it’s testament to the power of the National Parks that they are inspiring people to make our countryside a better place for all,” said Corinne Pluchino chief executive of Campaign for National Parks.

Launching the competition, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, the Government minister for National Parks, said: “From my experience travelling the diverse and beautiful landscapes of the Parks I know that there is work to be done, whether that is work to enhance nature or introduce more people than ever to the glory of the countryside. But I also know that very challenge is being embraced by projects up and down the country.”

The six shortlisted projects are:

LOCATE – New Forest National Park

 

 

This project is mapping precious archaeological sites in the New Forest, training volunteers in the specialist skills this requires. This project has helped to map Neolithic long barrows, Iron Age hill forts and Roman pottery kiln sites!

 

People and the Dales– Yorkshire Dales National Park Enabling people from a truly diverse range of backgrounds, including asylum seekers, disabled and inner city youths, to have life changing experiences in the beautiful countryside – improving community relations and introducing thousands to the National Park.

 

SWEPT – Pembrokeshire Coast National Park This project is training citizen scientists to go out and collect vital pollution data in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. This data has led to clean-up events and has shone a light on the relationship between land and marine environments.

 

 

Skill builder – Peak District National Park Skill builder is engaging offenders on probation in conservation work across the Peak District, teaching them new skills, improving the offenders’ health and wellbeing and helping their rehabilitation. They boast that no participant has re-offended with the project.

 

Carlton Marshes – Broads National Park An ambitious restoration of 1000 acre landscape for wildlife alongside Lowestoft, one of the UK’s most socially deprived towns. Carlton Marshes is proving that people and wildlife alike can benefit from conservation and has been supported by the likes of Sir David Attenborough.

 

All the Moor Butterflies – Exmoor & Dartmoor National Parks. This project by Butterfly Conservation is rescuing butterfly populations from collapse in South-West England. Through working with farmers and other organisations the project aims to save six threatened species of butterfly and moth.

 

Stephen Ross, of the Ramblers Holiday’s Charitable Trust, which sponsor the Park Protector Award, said: “This year we’ve had an unprecedented number of high quality applicants, judging has been exceptionally tough and because of that I know what we have here are some of the very best projects run by the most passionate people. I wish there was a way to award every project. “

The winning projects will be announced at a parliamentary reception on 10 July 10. The winner of the Park Protector Award will receive a £2,000 grant towards their work, while the winner of the Year of Green Action Award will receive £1,500.

The annual Award is generously supported by Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust.

Additionally, supported by Breedon Group.

PHOTO: A marsh fritillary, one of the species at the centre of conservation efforts. Photo credit: Tom Cox

TOP YEAR FOR COMMANDO ENTRIES

Do you think you could take on the Royal Marines’ own endurance training course?

Fancy yourself as a bit of a Commando? Do you think you have what it takes?  2019 is on track to become a winning year for the two charities that run the popular yet demanding Royal Marines Commando Challenge event.

Devon Air Ambulance and RMA – The Royal Marines Charity – are welcoming record sign-ups to this year’s gruelling obstacle course, which is open to civilians to enlist on either the 5k or 10k route.

The circuit features eight notoriously challenging obstacles and presents an opportunity for the untrained to take on the elite Royal Marines’ own endurance training course.

The event takes place on the weekend of 13 and 14 October this year and will be supported by an array of attractions and activities including the much-enjoyed dog show, which was a welcome fluffy addition to the end of the gritty endurance experience last year.

Entrants will take on a tough test of endurance that’s famous for rough Woodbury moorland, dark tunnels, muddy pipes and pools, and an underwater culvert. The course includes such adrenaline-inducing obstacles as the ‘Smartie Tube and the ‘Sheep Dip’.

Last year’s event raised over £67,000 as a whole in sponsorship – a significant increase on the previous year – and involved over 1,000 fearless fundraisers whose courage, determination and cheerfulness helped them tackle the world-famous commando tests.

Those who are ready to get their hands – and everything else – dirty by taking on the famously challenging obstacle course can enlist by visiting the Commando Challenge Website www.commandochallenge.co.uk

COULD YOU LOOK AFTER A LIFE-CHANGING PUPPY FOR A YEAR?

Guest post from Guide Dogs

You may well have heard of Guide Dogs, we’re a national charity working to ensure that people with a visual impairment do not lose their independence. There are around two million people in the UK living with sight loss, and all experience a different level of vision and mobility. We offer a range of mobility services to help people keep their independence, and have an amazing number of dedicated staff, volunteers, and of course, dogs who support the Guide Dogs mission.

Guide Dogs needs volunteers who can help look after and support the training of our guide dog puppies! This is a full-time volunteering role as the puppy would live with you, and you would be providing the puppy with a vital foundation for its future role as a guide dog for someone living with sight loss. Training and ongoing support is provided by Guide Dogs and your Puppy Training Supervisor, and all food and vets bills are paid for.

Puppy Training Supervisor, Leah, says, “Puppy walking is a vital role in a guide dog’s development. If you have the time, enthusiasm, love of dogs and a positive outlook, this volunteer role is for you. Puppies are placed at 7 weeks old and will stay with you until approximately 12-16 months of age. In this time, you will expose the puppy to everyday life. You will receive regular visits and be encouraged to attend one of our local puppy classes. We couldn’t deliver our services without our brilliant volunteers!”

Puppy Walking Volunteer, Chris, says, “Every day is different – I could be taking the dog out on a walk, getting it used to trains, buses or the seaside! It’s great to be with a dog knowing you are giving something back… When a guide dog owner gets in touch with me to say thank you for puppy walking their life-changing dog, it really feels so rewarding and it’s lovely to get their feedback.”

To find out more about puppy walking with Guide Dogs or any other volunteering opportunities, visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/volunteer or give the volunteering office a call on 0345 143 0191.

Brook Foods Donate £1,250 to Exmoor Pony Centre

Throughout Brook Foods’ Silver Anniversary year, the company has been choosing charities to support  on a monthly basis  – donating £25 for every customer order valued at £1,000 and more. Last month saw the Williton-based company’s donations so far soar to over £5,000.

Raising £1,250 throughout April, Samia Sanders of Brook Foods was delighted to present a cheque to The Exmoor Pony Centre  – a small charity-run business, owned by the Moorland Mousie Trust, which works to both promote and protect the endangered rare breed Exmoor pony. Their main work focuses on providing a future for the excess foals that are removed from the moor each year during the annual gathering.

Presenting the cheque to Kirsty Urion from the Centre in early May, Samia had the chance to meet Almond (pictured) and Tom, who are regular visitors to local schools and care homes.  She said, “Exmoor ponies provide locals and visitors to the area with a unique sight and experience; these beautiful animals graciously welcome us onto their moorland home. We haven’t donated to an animal charity yet but felt it was important to recognise the work the Exmoor Pony Centre carries out.”

Kirsty said, “Thank you so much, this is a really unexpected and wonderful amount and will go a long way to help us here at the centre with feeds and fencing and looking after the ponies.”

MOTORCYCLISTS CHAMPION 14TH DEVON AIR AMBULANCE RIDE OUT

Keen bikers are circling Sunday 14 July in their diaries – this year’s date for the 14th Devon Air Ambulance Motorcycle Ride Out. Starting points for the popular event are once more at Trago Mills in Newton Abbot, or Evans Transport in Bideford, with the Ride Out finishing at The Den in Teignmouth.

Bikers will travel approximately 80 miles through beautiful Devon countryside and can look forward to stalls, refreshments and live music at the Teignmouth destination. Family, friends and non-bikers are welcome to join riders at The Den to enjoy an afternoon of family-friendly stands, including from Bridge Motorcycles – which is once more sponsoring the event – as well as a bouncy castle and ice-cream for little ones.

“We’re looking forward to inviting our motorcycling supporters to enjoy the stunning Devon scenery once again this year,” says Fundraising and Communications Director at Devon Air Ambulance, Caroline Creer. “We would like to thank our headline sponsor, Bridge Motorcycles, for their continued support.

“Our Ride Out is all about promoting safe riding to the growing motorcycle community. It’s not a race, but a fun ride out and a chance to enjoy the beautiful Devon countryside. We receive such amazing support from the motorcycle community.”

Pre-entry is still available via the Charity’s website at just £5 per entry, which includes a limited-edition event t-shirt. Entrants can still sign up on the day for £5, but entry won’t include a t-shirt, which will instead be available for £5 each at The Den subject to availability. Limited edition pin badges at just £1 will also be available on the day. Sign up here: bit.ly/MCRideOut2019

RNLI ILFRACOMBE RECEIVES GRANT FROM NORTH DEVON COAST AONB

Ilfracombe Lifeboat station has an area reaching from Woolacombe in the west to Foreland Point in the east with call-outs to Lundy Island where necessary. As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it attracts many visitors throughout the year.

The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service.  The station has initiated a project over the last 12 months to support the lifeboat station to purchase additional life-saving equipment.

Jenny Carey-Wood, AONB Manager, says: “Despite the beauty of the seas and coast of North Devon they can be a challenging environment to explore and enjoy. The improved  capability from this valuable new equipment will help to save lives and we are delighted to support the RNLI’s work.”

Chris Wallis, RNLI Operations Manager for Ilfracombe, says: “The grant of £3,500 from the North Devon Coast AONB Sustainable Development Fund will be of huge benefit to the work of the RNLI Ilfracombe Lifeboat station to help us save lives at sea and will be used to purchase valuable life-saving equipment.”

PHOTO: Jenny Carey-Wood, Manager at the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), presented Chris Wallis from Ilfracombe RNLI with a cheque for £3,500 from their Sustainable Development Fund earlier this month. The presentation took place at the Ilfracombe Lifeboat Station and was attended by volunteer crew members.

WALK THE WEST SOMERSET COAST PATH IN MEMORY OF SOMEONE SPECIAL

St Margaret’s Hospice is offering the chance to remember a loved one while enjoying some stunning Somerset scenery.

Entries are now open for the charity’s Great Somerset Memory Walk, which will see participants covering 12.4 or 25 miles of the West Somerset Coast Path on Sunday 15 September.

The sponsored walk starts at Butlins in Minehead, with the choice of finishing in West Quantoxhead or completing the full route to Steart Marshes. Buses back to the start are included in the entry price of £15 for adults and £10 for children under 16.

Participants are encouraged to raise sponsorship to help St Margaret’s Hospice continue providing care and support to 3,800 people across Somerset each year who are facing a life-limiting illness.

Sonia Bateman, events fundraiser at the Somerset charity, said: “Many of our sponsored walkers will be celebrating the life of a loved one, as we will be offering everyone a Great Somerset Memory Walk bib to decorate with their own personal dedication message. People are equally welcome to take part if they just want to enjoy the coastal walk and do their bit to help us care for people in our community.”

Walkers will set off between 8am and 9am, and the last groups are expected to reach the finish line before 6pm.

To find out more and book your place, visit www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk and search ‘Memory Walk’.

PHOTO: West Somerset coast near Kilve

GLORIOUS SOMERSET GARDENS OPEN TO HELP ST MARGARET’S HOSPICE

More than 50 beautiful gardens across the county are opening to visitors in aid of St Margaret’s Hospice.

The charity has just launched its 2019 Glorious Somerset Gardens season, which kicks off with Little Orchard in East Huntspill on Sunday 28 April, and runs until September. Last year’s programme of garden visits raised an amazing £16,600 for the hospice.

Susan Bickle, coordinator of Glorious Somerset Gardens, said: “Here at St Margaret’s Hospice we know how important our gardens are to the health and wellbeing of our patients and their families, providing places of relaxation as well as reflection.

“For years our loyal supporters have been opening their gardens to raise funds for us. This year we have more than 50 amazing gardens to visit, including village walkabouts, a school allotment, an arboretum, a private nature reserve and many stunning gardens with beautiful views. There is something to interest everyone. Many gardens will also be offering delicious cakes, scones and teas, or added extras such as children’s trails and book sales.”

Among those supporting St Margaret’s Hospice by welcoming visitors are garden owners across Mendip and Wells, South Somerset and the Blackdown Hills, Taunton, the Quantocks and Sedgemoor, West Somerset and Exmoor, Yeovil, East Somerset and West Dorset.

Full details of locations, opening dates and admission prices can be found in the Glorious Somerset Gardens 2019 brochure, available from St Margaret’s Hospice shops, selected local garden centres and tourist information centres.

Susan added: “We are so grateful to all our garden owners and volunteers. We hope people will enjoy discovering these wonderful gardens while helping to make each day count for patients and their families facing a life-limiting illness across Somerset.”

Season tickets, priced at £25, are available for anyone who would like to explore the wide variety of participating gardens. They can be ordered from Susan Bickle on 01935 709182 or via the St Margaret’s Hospice website by searching for a season ticket.

More information can be found at www.st-margarets-hospice.org.uk/glorious-somerset-gardens.