BEING one of the most rural areas in the UK creates its own problems during the coronavirus crisis.

But West Somerset’s village communities are finding ways to support each other to make it through these tough times.
Remote households in the wilds of Exmoor are getting vital food supplies delivered to their door during the coronavirus emergency thanks to some innovative teamwork.

The Moorland Federation of Schools is working with Exmoor National Park Authority to help those families who live miles from any supermarket – with teachers joining forces with park rangers to make it happen.

Staff from the federation’s schools – Exford, Cutcombe, Dunster, St Dubricius and Timberscombe are making up and delivering food boxes to families containing essentials such as soup, bread, potatoes, beans, pasta, cheese, milk, eggs and tinned food, and thanks to the rangers they’re getting the deliveries to the most remote households.

The pilot food box scheme, aimed at helping school children eligible for free school meals, is set to be rolled out across Somerset soon.

Somerset County Council will be offering a food box scheme to its schools as an alternative to the e-voucher because for some families getting to shops is not easy especially in rural areas.

Dunster School headteacher Naomi Philp said it was a “privilege” to help, adding: “Schools are the heart of communities, we have to do all we can, we have to be innovative, creative and determined to find solutions.  
“When you see how pleased people are to receive something, or you make the provision hours fit for an NHS worker, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Meanwhile Naomi’s colleague, headteacher Chris Blazey from St Dubricious school, drove 140 miles to collect food from a food charity to be distributed across West Somerset.

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SUPPORT: Dunster headteacher Naomi Philp

The youth club Minehead Eye, has been repurposed as a sorting station and local charities including HomeStart, and Citizens Advice working with the food bank and Village Agents are ensuring the food reaches those that need it most.

Over in Bicknoller, parish councillor Kevin Ogilvie-White explained how being tasked with helping update the village’s resilience plan just as the virus was taking hold in Europe allowed the village to be prepared.

Although around 70 per cent of Bicknoller’s residents are over the age of 70, villagers have been volunteering to get food and medicines and keep the village shop running, as well as delivering information leaflets.

“We also set up a Bicknoller Post Facebook group to help people communicate which has already got 116 members - quite a lot when you consider the size of the village!”

The phone number for the Bicknoller and West Quantoxhead Community Support Group is 01984 573121.