Chittlehamholt, Satterleigh and Warkleigh Parish

We are now at the end of week 4 of our existence having been set up by myself and a group of other local residents at the outset of the self-isolating period.

Our Parish is very rural and we are 4 miles from the market town of South Molton. We have 160 houses that are spread out over a three small hamlets in mostly farming geography.

We have a community run village shop and a 16th Century pub but no other facilities at all. In addition we have a high percentage of residents in the over 70 age group.

Our Support Group at the outset looked at the following strategy;

  • Provide food and shopping to self-isolating residents
  • Provide support in the collection of medication from pharmacies and local health centres
  • To provide support for those living on their own with regular contact to reduce stress through isolation, fear and loneliness
  • To assist small holding owners in the collection of provisions for livestock
  • To sign post residents to information regarding Covid 19 and Government support and assistance both medically and financially.
  • To share best practice throughout the pandemic

We established a website, e mail address and dedicated phone number at the outset (at cost to a local resident) and also did a physical newsletter mail drop which we are repeating for those who have no internet/are not IT aware on a monthly basis. We also update our village blog/Facebook page regularly.

Working with our village pub, the Exeter Inn, we have established a food home delivery service and also a take way collection service 5 days a week. We have put in place a robust process to ensure no contact between the catering staff and the person for whom the meals are provided.

We have established  a Rota system for local drivers to deliver shopping and medicines from the village shop and the various local medical outlets, again with a robust system in place to ensure no cross contamination. All gloves, antiseptic wipes petrol is donated by the volunteers themselves.

Our biggest challenge is getting the village shop stocked with everyday essentials. Bread, meat etc. we have secured regular supplies from local butcher, baker, fruit and veg wholesalers in South Molton.

However, as our supply spend is small we have struggled to get other basics that are needed for our local residents who are unable to travel to the likes of Sainsbury/Asda/Tesco etc. Home delivery/Click and Connect is almost totally unavailable.

We have engaged with our local MP and the Plunkett Foundation on this issue. Selaine Saxby has raised the issue directly with the Cabinet Office. The Plunkett Foundation has raised the issue with the Department of the Environment, DEFRA, and the Federation of Wholesale Distributors as this is a problem that is effecting all small local rural shops.

The big issue is that small rural community run shops (who at this time are providing a valuable service) have a small order value. That value, even though increased by the current demand, means that most wholesalers (ie Bookers) will not enter into a business relationship with small rural community run outlets.

The smaller, local wholesalers who will have that relationship are unable to source the goods required as they themselves are marginalized by the big supermarkets and their demand.

I am not sure if we are going to be able to resolve this issue, but it is one to examine post Covid, for lessons learned and what can be done to ensure that Community Shops are recognised for their value I times of a crisis.