Impacts of Covid19 pandemic on Harston
The Covid19 pandemic spread
The Covid19 pandemic spread to the UK in January and by March was affecting most of the country. As people were advised to avoid unnecessary contact with others life began to change in Harston and clubs and activities stopped in the village hall and school.
The school was shut on March 20th. Then on 23 March, the UK government imposed a lockdown on the whole population, banning all “non-essential” travel and contact with people outside one’s home (including family and partners), and shutting almost all businesses, venues, facilities, amenities and places of worship.
Along the A10 business premises such as The Queen’s Head, Neptune (furniture), Porsche & Aston Martin, Ducati, Hairs & Graces shut down. In contrast the local shop and post office responded magnificently to local needs and increased its food produce range and offered delivery services and encouraged social distancing and a one way movement system. Harvey’s local nursery quickly developed a website with on-line ordering and offered plant deliveries but as people were getting ready to plant out for summer they were soon overcome by demand.
Many people began working from home – most streets having a full quota of cars on their driveways.
Volunteers spring into action
Very quickly the Residents Group sprang into action and along with some Parish Council members organised the village into 9 volunteer zones with plenty of volunteers coming forward for each area. Some areas quickly printed off leaflets to post through residents doors to offer help and contact information while other areas like Zone D in addition created WhatsApp groups for volunteers and the Street of Lawrance Lea.
The Residents Group set up a ‘Help Harston’ website to keep people informed and provide info about help, as well as a Facebook page. Volunteers collected prescriptions & food shopping for shielded persons and rotas were sometimes set up to collect papers for those stuck at home.
The Harston Residents Group VE Day picnic event in the Rec was cancelled but residents were encouraged to have a tea/coffee & cakes in their front gardens to celebrate VE day and show appreciation for the NHS. Lawrance Lea’s response can be seen on 8 May VE day pics on website.
Thursday evening clapping could be heard in most streets in the village to show appreciation for NHS and other care workers. Rainbow paintings drawn by children to ‘spread hope and thanks to NHS’ can be seen displayed in school and house windows.
One house on Station Road had changing figures displayed outside to show appreciation for the work of the NHS and raise awareness. It also made the residents feel they had taken some action which they found enjoyable and could do at home.
As people made the most of being allowed out for daily exercise many more people could be seen walking out on public footpaths and around the field edges of Harston, all keeping at least 2 metre distance from each other. The recreation ground remained open but children were not allowed to use the equipment and this seemed to work well. More took to the cycle paths and roads.
Village community responses
Although the school was shut on March 20th it remained open for the children of key workers throughout the Easter holidays as well as term time – averaging about 9 pupils a day but up to 15. Staff were rotated – some at school while those at home provided home learning.
The parish church responded by providing a ‘different sort of church’. The website for the benefice expanded rapidly, adding information about on-line services, photos, poems and other sources of inspiration. Rev Susan was in regular communication and Sunday services, for people to follow in their own time, have been posted online. In addition a service of Compline (for quietness and reflection at the end of the day) has been provided live via Zoom at 8pm on Tuesdays, along with ‘Songs of Praise’ services, featuring favourite hymns, at 6pm on Thursdays. The normal ‘coffee and chat’ that follows service was well attended via Zoom where people could share thoughts and ideas and keep in contact with each other. A Harston Lockdown photo competition was organised so that anyone could send in photos of memorable moments during lockdown to be put on Facebook and later create a church calendar for sale for the church restoration appeal. Instead of the annual plant sale in one place pop-up plant stalls appeared outside some houses with donations going to charities. Harston Open-gardens was put on hold.
A temporary food bank was set up in the parish church/vicarage and in May a more permanent food hub began to be organised by a local resident asking for volunteers, the Baptist Church offering to house it. Leaflets, with the support of the Parish Council and South Cambs, were delivered by volunteers on 20th June to the whole of the village to let them know of the Saturday 27th June opening of the Foodbank at the Baptist Church in Chapel Lane, Harston. The idea behind the food hub is to waste less and share what we have fresh fruit & veg or essentials like pasta, rice, beans, bread, cereals, etc, and toiletries. The priority is to support those who are struggling at the time but everyone is welcome to come and take or donate. To not clash with food hubs in nearby areas it will be open Wed & Sat 12 to 2pm and will be manned by volunteers.
The existing Harston Warden Scheme run by a group of trustees to cover Harston and a few other villages continued to make a daily morning phone call and weekly visit to check up. However, it created a buddy system whereby volunteers, some themselves who were restricted by the virus, would ring up a person in the Warden scheme for a chat and to keep in touch. Running errands and delivering shopping was also part of the activities. The existing volunteer car scheme also continued on a limited basis, more to pick up prescriptions from the surgery.
The local surgery reduced its hours but kept open on the Easter bank holiday. The Surgery hours were changed to 9.30am – 12pm & 3 – 5pm Monday to Friday. With phone lines are open as usual from 8.30am – 1pm & 2 – 6.00pm. They were no longer doing face-to-face appointments with doctors. You could book a telephone appointment, or have a video-call consultation if you have a smart phone. If the doctor felt that they really need to see patients in the surgery they arranged the appointment. Only essential appointments were booked with their nurses such as INR blood tests, baby immunisations, essential dressings etc. Visitors had to wear face masks to visit the doctor and from third week in June all visitors to the dispensary also had to wear face masks – maybe because as lockdown eases there would be an increase in the number of contacts for most people.
Since the government issued the lock down their medication requests tripled initially so the dispensary was only open from 9.30am – 12pm & 3-5pm Monday through to Friday. This was to allow the staff in dispensary to catch up with the prescription requests by working night shifts which began at 5pm every week day. Surgery doors were shut at 5pm promptly to ensure enough time to clean the surgery between shifts.
The surgery staff left a note on their website “thank you for all our lovely messages and many sweet treats – it is truly appreciated and really does keep us going! We know that this is a difficult time for all of us but especially our most vulnerable. This can be a time for great anxiety and loneliness for many and so we ask all of our patients to band together, to help each other out and to offer kindness to one another; after all, we are all in this together.”
The parish council suspended its meetings in the pavilion but had their monthly meetings via Zoom, with residents able to follow on Zoom. Annual Audit of Accounts, and elections were postponed.