Cumbria Crack

Stepping Up To The Plate

Ryan Blackburn preparing soups in Kysty

Ambleside Parish Centre has always been something of a focal point in the local community, but now more than ever it has become an even more important part of the fabric of village life, supporting local residents during COVID-19.

Since 23rd March and the announcement of the UK-wide lockdown almost all elements of our daily lives have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Communities up and down the UK have come together to deliver some truly remarkable things and support those who live in them, none more so than the team of 90 community volunteers and Parish Centre staff led by Caroline Gunning, who stepped up to the plate to provide much needed support to vulnerable local residents from the outset.

The Parish Centre team are providing vital support to some 7,300 residents, many of whom live in remote locations dotted across 134 km² across the communities of Ambleside, Langdale, Rydal, Loughrigg and Grasmere. The city of Liverpool is 112 km² just to give you an idea of the logistical challenges they face in providing support across the area.

It’s been a whirlwind 10 weeks; existing plans were rapidly thrown out of the window and new ones made in a hurry to meet the needs of the community and there’s no doubt for many the disruption has been and is highly unsettling, with isolation, frustration, worry and financial concerns coming to the fore.

But thankfully The Parish Centre team rapidly swung into action, by continuing to provide a food bank service on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, between 11am -1pm.

A hot food delivery service has been established for residents, with Windermere School providing nutritious hot meals Monday – Friday, alongside Ambleside’s Michelin starred chef Ryan Blackburn, who has stepped up to cover the weekends and provide residents with access to nutritious filling soups and fresh sandwiches, which are collected from his Kysty bistro by volunteers and delivered to local residents.

Members of the team are also continuing to provide vital advice and support to individuals and groups who are self-isolating, making contact with them by phone, email or by making use of visual software including FaceTime and Zoom. The community newsletter is being delivered in a variety of formats in print to ensure that everyone has access to vital community information, support, and advice.

Kids have also been given access to a range of art and craft materials, specifically to help parents who are home schooling. A range of activity packs have also been devised to keep small ones busy and encourage them to get creative.

This is all thanks to the generosity of a number of local donors and as a result of a grant from the Prince’s Countryside Fund the team are able to offer free meals for the next 12 weeks to the vulnerable in the community and for those who are experiencing reduced incomes.

Caroline Gunning Ambleside Parish Centre Manager said: ‘’The Parish Centre has ever since its establishment in 2006 been a community hub, it’s home to a huge variety of groups providing invaluable services and resources to the whole community, acting as a family drop in centre, a youth club, the local food bank hub, and a social centre where a variety of groups meet to tackle issues such as bereavement and rural isolation.

“Now more than ever it is a resource that is coming into its own providing much needed support to the residents of Ambleside and its surrounding communities. We are all faced with a massive uphill struggle and now more than ever we have to pull together, and thanks to the support of our amazing volunteers and our generous donors; including the likes of Windermere School and Ryan Blackburn we are able to step up to the plate.’’

Old Stamp House’s Michelin starred chef patron Ryan Blackburn said: ‘’It’s great to be asked to do something to help support the local community. In the normal run of things, we just don’t seem to have the time to take stock and really think about the importance of the community around us.

“At times like this you simply have to get on with things and do what’s right to support each other and help where you can. Our natural forte is being able to create food, we approached The Parish Centre to see if we could help out in some small way by using our culinary skills.

“Unsurprisingly Caroline tasked us with helping create food for the weekends so that the Parish Centre would be able to provide residents in need with a meal seven days a week. In the great scheme of things this is a relatively small thing but it’s really important to me to be able to contribute and support the communities in and around Ambleside, especially as I grew up in Langdale.’’

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