AMBLESIDE NEWS – 30 November 2020


Over 5000 volunteer hours were carried out by a team of over 100 volunteers at Ambleside Parish Centre in the first four months of the pandemic, between March and July, to meet the needs of the elderly, housebound and most vulnerable during the pandemic.

The Centre’s recent annual report reflected that before Covid, the Centre’s range of new and routine activities had expanded in 2019 with regular well-attended sessions for all ages involving indoor sports, art, choral singing, exercise classes, Yoga and Pilates, plus weekly Foodbank and Fareshare lunches. There was also a social and cultural club for those new to the UK, two thriving youth clubs and weekly Evergreens for older people. Special events included the 2-week Lake District Summer Music (LDSM) festival, Ambleside & District Art Society’s annual exhibition, concerts, birthday parties, anniversaries, weddings and memorial gatherings, craft fairs and business meetings.
Youth leaders held 35 sessions offering numerous indoor and outdoor activities including sports coaching across two age groups, with football, dodgeball, hockey, golf and rounders.

Activities at the All Together Now club for European nationals and migrant workers included dragon boating and cultural cooking, and IT support for those applying for EU citizenship.

A Games for Men group met regularly for pool, dominoes and table tennis and a rota of volunteer cooks prepared free 3-course Fareshare hot lunches weekly from food donations of ‘best by’ ingredients donated by Apple Pie, Granny Smith, Spar, Tesco and the Co-Op. Nearly 800 lunches were served in the 5 months before Covid, with £1846 in donations and £463 gift aid, which funded a new range cooker and two extractor hoods for the kitchen, and other new equipment gifted by LDSM. A Bereavement group also met monthly (now weekly in lockdown) offering an informal drop-in for those learning to live with loss, and a Home Visiting Team befriended people living alone. A counselling service is also run at the Centre by Cedar Counselling’s six counsellors, which helped 26 new clients with 441 hours of counselling and continues online and by phone during the pandemic.

The Centre’s weekly Foodbank increased its users and created a new purpose-built shelved area for food and donated sundries, so that users can choose what they need. Ravi and staff at Thomas Bell Pharmacy also supported the Centre with donations of personal healthcare, household cleaning and hygiene items.

The Centre also established a new grant towards the cost of travel to medical appointments, with funding help from Ambleside Rotary clubs, Cumbria CC, Lakes Parish Council, the Lions, district councillors’ budgets and various trusts.

However, since routine activities stopped in March 2020, the Centre’s Facebook pages became a forum for Covid information, with a weekly lockdown list of local services to assist self-isolators and those shielding. The Centre itself became the hub for the co-ordination of volunteers, food donations, books and jigsaw puzzle swaps, children’s ‘at home’ online arts and craft activities, Zoom exercise classes, Easter egg activities, plus shopping and prescription deliveries, dog walking, gardening, welfare phone calls, meal delivery drivers, foyer greeters, admin assistance, food servers, food bank volunteers, assistance with benefit claims, access to free wifi, counselling, and general support.
The Centre also linked up with Windermere School which prepared hot 2-course lunches in their kitchens on 3 days a week and which were delivered by Centre volunteers to those shielding, self-isolating, housebound, vulnerable or on low or no income. A total of 2,368 meals were delivered between April-end of June with generous local funding plus a grant from the Prince’s Countryside Fund. Hot lunch deliveries are continuing through winter, email

The AGM thanked Centre Manager Caroline Gunning who has left to be General Manager for Cumbria Deaf Association and welcomed Sophie Bryde as the new Centre Manager. The Centre’s Trustees also thanked John Biggs for his Chairmanship for the past nine years and welcomed Rob Ashworth as new Chairman.
As Ambleside faces a winter of Covid restrictions, the Parish Centre continues as the hub for assistance and volunteering, delivering hot lunches three days a week and running a Foodshare table, Ambleside Foodbank and more besides, led by its new manager Sophie Bryde. Born and brought up in Windermere, Sophie told Ambleside Rotary Club by Zoom how her family had run a bakery in Windermere, and also spoke about her job for the past 5 years with the National Trust in Grasmere, involved with product management, local properties and many other responsibilities.

The Parish Centre is closed to all bookings until March at the earliest, but although this feels like a strange time, Sophie said it offered a great opportunity to stand back and reflect on the services the Centre provides for its existing users as well as engaging with people who have never used it before. Funding sources also had to be identified and finance secured, although there were still adequate funds to feed 30 people with 2-course lunches on 3 days a week up till March, with a break over the Christmas period. Lunches are prepared in partnership with Windermere School, and cost £4 per person (for those able to pay), bookings are still available. The Centre will continue its hot lunches and Foodshare table on three mornings a week, Tuesday-Thursday until December 18, and resume after the holiday period. The Foodbank is also opening on Wednesdays December 23 and 30. Anyone wishing to become a volunteer or join the lunch scheme should phone 015394 34172 or email Centre supporters can become a Friend of the Parish Centre by giving £15 annually to help fund its work. Rotarians praised Sophie’s tangible and clearly defined breakdown of the Centre’s goals and ambitions and offered its support.

This year’s annual Ambleside Rotary ‘Quizkids’ contest, when Ambleside, Grasmere, Langdale and Hawkshead schools compete against each other for cash prizes to donate to their chosen charities was unable to take place, so instead Rotarians gave each school £250 to spend at Christmas. Grasmere School has chosen a visit by a storyteller, Hawkshead have an outdoor Christmas workshop planned, Langdale children will have a woodland magic experience and Ambleside invited each class to choose something special for their school.

Ambleside’s Christmas lights are almost all up now and giving the town a festive feel, thanks to the hard work of the Christmas Lights Committee. Only Church Street’s illumination are still left to complete once roadworks have finished.

Kelsick Educational Foundation
Individual grants of £65,314 were approved for young people under 25 living in the Lakes Parish Council area by Kelsick Educational Foundation recently. Despite Covid-19, grant applications have been considered and approved quarterly throughout the year. Support for youth activities included tuition in riding, swimming, climbing, skiing and sailing, dance and performing arts, instrumental music lessons and singing. Subsistence support for university was given to students studying medicine, earth and environmental sciences, physics and maths, criminology, marine biology, psychology, biomedical sciences, design and computer science among other subjects. Kelsick also supported young people with special needs as well as backing excellence in others. Annual grants totalling £148,465 based on pupil numbers will also made to support all three local primary schools next academic year, with £60,275 for Ambleside; £50,150 for Grasmere and £38,450 for Langdale school. Total grants 2019-2020 were £285,645 which was an increase of more than £30,000 over the previous year’s grants of £255,928.

Ambleside Rainbows thanked all those who nominated them as people’s favoured group for a Co-op Community Funding scheme. This resulted in a donation of £1450.82 from the fund, which will be used to subsidise sleepovers, trips out and extra activities that the girls might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience. A new Co-Op funding scheme began in October and members can now nominate one of three new causes, one of which is Ambleside Friends of Guiding who will use any money received for maintenance and repainting the meeting hut for the girls.

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