Branscombe’s spirit of community: From dog tails to coronavirus, a village takes challenges head on

  Posted: 18.03.20 at 10:37 by Joseph Bulmer

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Britain is in a state of crisis unprecedented in peacetime. Across the country the impact of the coronavirus clampdown is having a tumultuous effect, changing almost everything about the way people carry on with their daily lives.

At times the worst of human nature has come to the fore, with selfish shopping grabbing the headlines as some individuals put self before community.

But gradually, in keeping with the British tradition of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ we are seeing the rebirth of community spirit at its best. Of people putting others first and working within their community.

Nowhere is this exemplified better than in Branscombe, the picturesque village just outside Sidmouth.

As most Sidmouth residents will know, Branscombe covers 3,440 acres nestling on narrow roads down steep-sided valleys running down to a beautiful coastline.

With no mobile signal and limited public transport, in many ways it is the epitome of isolation.

Local resident and pillar of the community, Ross Willmington.

A tiny village with a population of around 500, many of its residents are retired. More than half the population is over 50, though it does play host to a small village school with nearly 30 pupils.

But above all else, it has a sense of community and residents that care for each other. You can see and feel that if you walk between the closely gathered clusters of picturesque houses, where residents still say hello and talk to each other.

Or in the two friendly village pubs – real hubs of community spirit where residents talk about the topics of the day. The cosy fireside throwback to days gone by has been lost to many parts of Britain but it endures in this quiet, contented village.

But with coronavirus,the modern world has seeped into every corner of the country. Even Branscombe!

And its arrival has been met head on by the community. Local resident Ross Willmington, a warden at the local St Winifred’s church and a pillar of the community, was among those to step out and face the challenge.

View of Branscombe away from the sea towards the main road.

Normally his community work includes running the local village show, organising such events as the dog with the waggiest tail or looks most like its owner! Today there are more serious issues on his agenda.

He says: "It's at times like these where the church has to step up and take a lead in looking after our elderly and vulnerable parishioners where able.

"As the churchwarden I felt it was my duty, particularly as we have a new vicar looking after six parishes."

So Ross put out a call among the community for help. And it rallied with a huge response.

Putting the organisational skills so effective in running a great village show to good use, Ross has divided up the village, identified the people who need help, matched them with volunteers and set up a rota for visits and provision of supplies.

The Branscombe Harvest Fair attracts over a thousand visitors. Let’s hope September’s event goes ahead.

Branscombe is ready, able and willing to meet the challenges ahead.

No doubt Branscombe is not alone. But it is a shining example of what Britain does best.

With people like Ross and the community volunteers ready to do their bit, there seems little doubt that we will come through this crisis.

Not unscathed, that's for sure, but nevertheless probably all the better for having rekindled the nature of who and what we really are.

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