Wheels for meals in Northumberland
Northumberland’s Allen Valley is one of the most beautiful places in England – a rugged corner of the northern Pennines that once bustled with lead miners but is now largely empty save for a number of isolated villages, farms, and hamlets.
In the summer, it’s a popular destination for hikers and cyclists – but when the winter snows come, the roads are not for the faint-hearted.
That can pose a problem for the people – a number of whom are elderly, and some of whom have special needs – who enjoy the monthly community meal hosted by folk from Catton Chapel, part of the Allen Valley Methodist Church.
‘It’s a really popular event,’ said former minister Alex Dunstan, who made the winning application on behalf of the church. ‘More than thirty people can attend, they often book well in advance, and all the food is hand-prepared and served by church members.
‘It’s a very remote, rural area, and that brings with it deprivation and isolation that you don’t get in towns and cities. Often people live in areas with poor mobile signal, and no broadband – and even the landline telephones can fail in bad weather. So getting folk together from different places down the Valley in this way is very important.
‘But the Allen Valley is prone to heavy snowfall in the winter months – villages can be cut-off and snowed-in. Because the main road through the valley is a bus route it does get cleared, but obviously people can still find it daunting to drive up and down hills in the ice and slush that’s left behind. In those conditions, even journey of just seven or eight miles down to the chapel building can feel impossible.’
Recognising the huge benefits to mental health, well-being, and physical and spiritual nourishment, the church tries to supply transport to and from the Community Lunch, but the £1,500 award money will mean that regular transport can be provided and will allow the church to look to bring diners in from very rural locations.
‘Thank you to Methodist Insurance, I am so delighted that we won,’ said Alex. ‘This means that folk will be able to look forward to a time of food and fellowship once a month with no worries about how to get there.
‘It is a real boost for many people, and is a big part of the church’s mission to serve the community in this beautiful rural valley.’