“The village of Porlock always comes together when the chips are down.”

Situated in a rural area in the heart of Exmoor National Park, many miles from a mainline railway station and a good five miles from the nearest large supermarket, Porlock faces acute difficulties in the coronavirus crisis.

On top of its idyllic but relatively remote location, it is also home to one of the most eldest population in the country, with around 40 per cent of residents over retirement age.

But just as the village has shown in recent years in fighting to save the Minehead to Porlock bus or when Porlock Fire Station was at risk of being closed, it has an immensely strong community spirit.

And that has been shown once again during the coronavirus crisis, with the village quick off the mark in setting up support for its most vulnerable residents.

Debbie Stanyon, manager at Porlock Visitor Centre since January, helped put the village’s support plan into action, and already a huge amount has been done to help people.

“Before the virus took hold, we had already been discussing the possibility of introducing a Good Neighbour scheme for the village, marrying up volunteers with people who needed help, perhaps with a bit of gardening or cleaning,” Mrs Stanyon said.

“Once it became apparent that the virus was going to have a big impact on day-to-life, we decided to speed up and adapt the process.”

On Monday, March 16, the team at Porlock Visitor Centre met with representatives from Porlock Parish Council including chairman Malcolm McCoy to look at options at what could be done.

“We decided we could put together a volunteers list who could help collect essential shopping, medication, and make phone calls to those who were isolated or feeling lonely,” Mrs Stanyon explained.

By noon the next day, more than 1,000 letters and little cards with information and calling for volunteers had been printed which were hand-delivered to every home in the parish, which includes Porlock, Porlock Weir and West Porlock.

As the lockdown measures were announced by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on March 23, Porlock’s support team already had 114 volunteers who had come forward saying they would be willing to help, and a phone line was set up in the closed Visitor Centre to facilitate requests for help.

In the week following, the volunteers have also gathered the information for a letter which has gone to all the homes in the village listing all the shops who can take card payments over the phone, all those delivering essential items, all the food outlets doing takeaways and deliveries, and a list of counsellors willing to help people suffering with anxiety or stress.

“I cannot thank our volunteers enough,” Mrs Stanyon said. “There are too many to name but they have all been fantastic in contributing to the community.

“We know for many people, fears and emotions are running high, but I have been overwhelmed by the response we have had so far.

“Something about Porlock seems to bring out the best in people, the village always comes together when the chips are down.”