Community flourishes in Norfolk and Suffolk border village where lockdown is ‘amazing’
PUBLISHED: 12:00 26 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:42 27 April 2020
The community spirit in one rural village on the Norfolk and Suffolk border is blooming as the coronavirus lockdown continues through spring.
Turning off the A47 between Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth, the drive along Jay Lane towards Lound is one typical of the East Anglian countryside in the summer.
Green fields and leafy hedgerows line both sides of the road before reaching Lound Plant Centre.
The family-run centre’s dedicated team have started running a free local delivery service, and have become inundated with orders as residents turn to their gardens to pass their time in lockdown.
In ordinary circumstances, owner Paul Watling would have been preparing for his first spring, having bought the centre with wife Helen in November.
He said: “This time of year is probably one of the busiest for a garden centre because it is bedding and basket season when people spend time in their gardens to make them look good.
“We closed down at first for a week to fathom out what we could do, but wanted to start this up to give our community the opportunity to keep their gardens going.
“Everyone is aware of the mental health and wellbeing benefits of gardening and for many of our customers, many of who are over 50, their garden is their sanctuary.”
Among those turning to their garden is Earth Lane resident Jennifer Ozinel.
She said: “To have a lockdown in this area is amazing. You can go for a beautiful walk and not see anyone, but it can be lonely on your own.
“It is a strange and eerie atmosphere in the village with hardly anyone about.
“It’s very difficult, but it has become a way of life and people are accepting it.
“I have felt down and have started listening to the radio to hear voices and spending time in my garden.
“It would have been awful if this had happened during bad weather.”
Lound’s handful of streets have been growing quieter for more than a year.
Where once stood residents waiting for their “lifeline” bus, upon which countless friendships were formed, now stands a defunct bus stop, silent in the deserted village.
The 108 bus, which travelled from the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, through Lound and on to Lowestoft’s town centre, was taken from roads in October last year.
Suffolk County Council pulled the service after dwindling passenger numbers along the route meant it was no longer financially viable.
Up stepped Lowestoft and Yarmouth Rugby Club, in partnership with club sponsor Waltons MOT and Service Centre, to launch a new service using the club’s minibus, but this has also had to be suspended during the pandemic, leaving residents with no public transport to nearby supermarkets.
Ms Ozinel said: “I’ve been lucky and had a lot of offers of help for my shopping, but I miss getting on the bus and doing it myself.
“We were our own little community. We’d visit each other’s houses and have our clubs, and it is hard that we can’t do that.”
Unlike many of the nearby villages and towns, Lound is not overly reliant on the tourist trade.
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It advertises itself as a place for travellers between Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth to spend spare time, rather than a destination in itself.
The village has no hotels or bed and breakfasts, and the only pub, the Village Maid, does not entertain overnight stays.
The 359 residents, more than a third of which are over 60, face a two mile trip to the Co-Op Food and petrol store off the A47 in Hopton, or a ten minute, four mile drive to the Tesco Superstore on Leisure Way in Lowestoft.
The community has united, however, with crucial support networks established immediately.
Miles Thomas, chair of Lound Parish Council, said: “When it first started we got a register straight away of the electoral roll to make sure we can cover all residents.
“We started issuing flyers and set up a committee to make sure we can monitor people and their needs around the place.
“We had an influx of about 20pc of our residents offering to help, so thankfully there’s more help available than is needed.
“It has mainly been getting people’s shopping really. People seem to be sorting themselves out with most other things.”
The weekly flyer includes key numbers for people to ring for help, from fruit and vegetable deliveries to the bakery and emergency plumbers.
Councillor Paul Ashdown, who represents the Lothingland ward on East Suffolk Council, said: “The local communities have coped remarkably well in the circumstances.
“Because of my age, I’m isolating and there hasn’t been a lot I could do in terms of getting out there, other than being on the end of a phone and confined to emails.
“They have set up their own community support groups and they are working very well.”
Staff at Lound Hall, a care home for over 65s, have also been recognised for their efforts during the pandemic.
Registered manager Andrea Deakins said: “We have been coping really well, and our staff have been doing a great job.
“We have got a lot of PPE and everything we need to care for our residents while following the guidelines.
“We had to stop visitors and that was a difficult decision but we have a good relationship with our relatives who fully support it and the residents have been understanding.
“We have been helping them to speak to their families through phone calls and Facetime.”
The praise has been echoed by Waveney MP Peter Aldous.
He said: “The community support arrangements that have been put in place around Waveney are particularly good in the rural areas, where there is quite a strong community spirit in a lot of villages.
“This is a very challenging situation and an awful lot of people are doing tremendous work for others.
“The way people have come together to help is commendable.
“I have been getting emails from people all around the constituency, mainly looking for support getting food deliveries or medication, but that hasn’t really been the case in the villages. They are proving particularly robust.
“The main concerns have been about broadband connections with more people working from home and having a greater reliance on it, and we have passed these concerns through to OpenReach who are on the case.
“Family carers have been doing great work looking after vulnerable family members, who are more at risk of Covid-19, and we need to remember the great work they are doing.”