Executive Director meets rural community projects in East Anglia

August 21, 2023

Last week, our Executive Director, Keith Halstead made trips to Norfolk and Suffolk to meet with some of the projects there that we have recently funded through our grants programme.

Keith’s first stop was to Wingfield Barns CIC in Suffolk, where he met Anna Fielding O-Farrell who gave him a tour of the barns, the main focus of which is a historic 16th century timber-framed barn, which is used mainly for theatre and arts events. They also intend to turn one of the adjacent buildings into a community shop over the next couple of months, which will be mostly run by volunteers alongside Anna. To further develop their project, they are considering a bartering scheme for fruit and veg – given there is always a member of staff at the centre, they can open regularly and have a good group of volunteers which can be further expanded to help with the shop.

Keith then met Jane Bishop and Steven Hart from the North Norfolk Community Transport Scheme in North Walsham. This project reaches a population of 15,000 people in real need for their services, particularly with trips to hospital (the equivalent journey in a taxi costs £200) and they have a significant focus on community needs. They put a strong emphasis on befriending and spending time with those who are on their own in the community they serve – they give birthday cards to their members and steer additional financial support in a quiet way to those in need.  Following the pandemic, they’re seeing an increase in restricted mobility which necessitates larger vehicles to carry kit, such as more wheelchairs and walking frames, and the scheme currently runs with 9 vehicles, one of which is electric.   

The last stop took him to Hour Community in Framlingham, Suffolk, where he met Nick Corke and Stuart Stanford. Hour Community is based in the centre of Framlingham in the Library and runs a community transport scheme with three vehicles, a Mens Shed and a Ladies Shed, and works closely with a local day care centre.  They also have a furniture upcycling project, linked to the Men’s Shed (the leader of which is called the Men’s Shed Head!). 

Nick is a great visionary on community cohesion; he sees that local action by voluntary and community groups is the only way to address need which they identify. He is currently working with developers to establish a new community hub as part of a wider development and built 12 new Almshouses.  

The RCF funding pays the salary of someone who was a volunteer who they have now appointed to run all their transport activities. 

Keith Halstead, Executive Director of The Royal Countryside Fund said of his trips: “It was great to visit three rural projects in Norfolk and Suffolk last week which have all received recent grants from the RCF to enable them to respond to the immediate needs of their community.   

A short distance from the coast at North Norfolk Community Transport in North Walsham we are contributing towards the cost of a new accessible vehicle to replace older transport.  In deepest Suffolk we are funding the set up of a new community shop at Wingfield Barns – an arts and events venue – which is also seeking to develop a bartering scheme for produce sold.  While under the shadow of the castle at Framlingham we are funding a transport coordinator for Hour Community as they continue to develop a holistic approach to helping all who live there.   

My thanks to Anna, Jane and Nick respectively for hosting my visits and I wish each project every success in serving their community, and send my good wishes to all volunteers and staff involved.” 

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