‘The village is ideally placed to get through this’ - how one place is coping in lockdown
- Credit: Harling Parish Council
A rural Norfolk village has shown the true meaning of community spirit, as residents rally to protect their most vulnerable during the pandemic. Emily Thomson looks at life in Harling, as part of an EDP special report on life in four of our villages.
As neighbours become like family, and strangers turn into friends, residents in the village of East Harling have been going above and beyond to care for one another as the country continues to battle the coronavirus.
From dog walking and food shopping, to picking up prescriptions and friendly phone calls, nothing has been too much for the Harling parish councillors and their 80 volunteers who have selflessly offered their services.
Despite being cut off from larger towns and with limited resources in the village, town clerk Kate Filby said everyone has pulled together to make sure no one is struggling.
She said: “We arranged our first emergency meeting on March 18 as soon as we realised this was going to be serious.
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“In four days, we had over 60 volunteers, an emergency mobile phone was set up and we delivered 1000 leaflets to doors across the village. It was an amazing effort from everyone.
“We were fully operational by March 23 and we now have 80 volunteers and have taken over 120 calls for help in the last four weeks.”
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The idea for the support network was first suggested by retired GP, Dr Andrew Hayward, who worked at the East Harling Surgery for 27 years.
Dr Hayward was also a territorial army medical officer with experience in emergency planning for the NHS. He said he believes the village is “ideally placed” to get through the pandemic.
“As all of this built up, it struck me this village is ideally placed to get through this,” said Dr Hayward.
“It’s a little bit out of the way but it has all the facilitates including a village shop, chemist, butchers. fish and chips, surgery and fire station. So, it was just a matter of getting the ball rolling.
“The parish council have been extraordinarily efficient, and it came together really well. You saw people across the village stepping up to play their part.
“There is no sense of dread at all. It’s actually been more peaceful because there has been less traffic and everyone seems to be doing okay.”
The Harling parish, which includes East Harling, has a population of around 2,000 people, with a large percentage of elderly residents who have been supported by volunteers since lockdown began. Fran Doe, 80, lives on her own in the village and has had to rely heavily on the kindness of strangers to get her shopping and walk her dog Lilly.
Ms Doe said: “I moved here about two years ago now and I am still fairly new, but the people here have been absolutely fantastic.
“Someone walks my dog every morning, they do my shopping for me and I even get a phone call once week which is nice.
“I’m finding being on my own okay because I’m pretty independent, but what is getting to now is the fact I am having to ask for help. Everyone has been very kind.”
But it’s not just the elderly who have needed support. Nathan Flatman and his family have been in self-isolation since the outbreak began due to him being in the super high-risk category.
Mr Flatman has been confined to his son’s bedroom for the last 38 days, isolating even from his own family.
The 43-year-old and father-of-two has had a kidney transplant, is diabetic, and has been relying on residents to collect his “vital” medication.
Mr Flatman said: “I have been in isolation for four or five weeks. I have a kidney transplant that has been going for 14 and a half years and I am severely immune supressed.
“I have been self-isolating inside the house, from my own family, so for them to have that support to get shopping and medication is essential.
“It means my wife doesn’t have to go out and potentially bring the virus into our home.
“It has been a different volunteer each time. They have all been fantastic, friendly and cheerful when they come to the door.
“We couldn’t exist without that support and community. If I couldn’t get my medication and insulin, that would severely affect my health. I can’t thank them enough for the great community spirit.
“We are a small village with a big heart. I’m really impressed with how everyone has come together - Harling should be very proud.”
And none of this would be possible without those volunteers who have been providing an “outstanding” service during such a difficult time.
Lydia O’Gorman, 34, said it’s the “best feeling in the world” to know she is helping the most vulnerable in her community.
Ms O’Gorman said: “My first reaction was that I wanted to help anyone who needed it.
“I was overwhelmed by how many people got in touch. It made me feel proud to live in a community with people who care so much about those they live alongside.
“When I got the first call to pick up a prescription, it couldn’t have come at a better time personally as I was feeling low and helpless. The feeling of helping someone really picked me up.
“It’s the best feeling in the world knowing that I, and others in our community, are helping those who are more vulnerable and in need.”
Carolyn Harris, 41, from Gallants Lane, is another volunteer who said: “Having lived in the village for many years I’ve been very fortunate to experience the great community spirit.
“It’s at times like this we need to really pull together. So volunteering was a no-brainer as it’s important we support and protect those who are vulnerable around us.
“There is real sense of unity. More people are getting out and enjoying the surrounding area and I have been overwhelmed by how many people say hello and are smiling. Even more so than before.
“And all the efforts from the children with their window decorations and our Thursday clap for carers, it really does make East Harling a great place to live.”