So, what has been going on with the RVA this last year? Understandably many of our committee members have been on standdown due to personal reasons over the pandemic. However Bjorn (treasurer) Sue (Membership secretary) and myself have kept a skeletal team running.
You might need to grab a cup of tea and a biccy as this will be a long one!!! I've tried to bunch it into sections so you can skip to the bits that interest you.
You'll all know that back in the first lockdown we set up the Covid-19 voluntary village response. We did this with the support and help of the Parish Council (during the pandemic I've been doing a lot of stuff with my RVA and Parish Council hats on at the same time so apologies in advance if it gets confusing!). We were the registered group for referrals from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.
We had over 90 people offering to lend their help in the village to neighbours who needed help with shopping, prescription collections or just to be able to have a chat with someone. A huge, huge thank you to everyone who volunteered, and continue to do so, you have all really made a difference to so many people. To date we have been able help around 60 people in the village. Some of these were one offs but many have been ongoing pretty much over the whole of the last year. A huge hand of gratitude and thanks to Sue who kept everyone's details up to date and put people in touch appropriately. Kent Association of Local Councils (KALC) also set up, initially weekly then more recently fortnightly, Zoom meetings for Tunbridge Wells Parish Council delegates to attend so that we could keep up to date with the help required and share ideas, lend help, and give and receive advice. I've been attending these, with our Parish Clerk Su Denne and Cllr Edwards, since they were set up. They've proved really useful and are nearly always attended by William Benson (CEO of TWBC) and members of his team, so we've been able to get the most up to date information from TWBC on the wider Covid response and resources available. It's also enabled us to quickly flag up any Covid related issues concerning the village and receive appropriate road signage and internal signage for the local shops requiring it.
Rushall Community Larder
Back in November 2020 we were approached to help set up a community larder. We soon set up a steering group of likeminded people (Ronnie, vicar of St Paul's Church; Pat Cripps, treasurer of St Pauls Church; Reverend Helen Warmington of the URC; Mary Nolze, treasurer of the URC; Su Denne, RPC Clerk; Kevin Watson, RPC Deputy Clerk; Bjorn Simpole, RVA treasurer and me (yup you've guessed it with my RVA Chair and RPC Vice Chair hat on again lol).
A community Larder is not a food bank who offer one off crisis food supplies (although we do work closely with Nourish Food Bank and as a group are now set up with them as a referral agency) the aim of a Community Larder is to provide good quality, but short-dated, food and hygiene products at an affordable price (a suggested donation of £2 to fill a bag but whatever someone can afford) that would otherwise be thrown into landfill. We are open once a week for an hour and three quarters and once it's gone it's gone. We are totally dependent on what is available on the day on a week by week basis. There are no criteria for using the larder, it is a community resource and open to anyone. I've attached our poster which has a little more information on it.
Our main suppliers of food are an award-winning charity called FareShare who are based in Ashford. They collect surplus food from supermarkets and redistribute it to not for profit groups and organisations in the County looking to combat food hardship and food waste. FareShare do charge a small amount for this which the donations from visitors cover. We also have a regular collection slot with the newly open Lidl (just in case anyone was wondering why we always seem to have fresh doughnuts in at the moment Gail's bakery on Tunbridge Wells High Street and Iceland. Our two One Stops have also been amazingly supportive and both have donations bins in store that customers can drop non perishable food and hygiene products into. Currently the One Stop next to the pharmacy are holding a raffle for Easter goodies with all proceeds being kindly donated to the Larder. Other donators include, Daily Bread, Nourish Food Bank, The Hygiene bank and local churches. We have also had a truly wonderful response from members of the public who regularly drop off items on the day before the larder opens.
Our fruit and veg and fresh meat/fish products always go very quickly (these are limited in quantity per household) so if you do find your self doing a shop and think you could add a spare bit of fruit and/or veg to donate it would be gratefully received. The number of visitors each week have pretty much stabilised, although increasing gradually week on week, and we currently have between 50-60 visitors through our doors. If you consider we ask that just one person per household attends (partly due to Covid restrictions and social distancing but also to ensure we can offer something to as many separate household as possible) that is a lot of people benefitting from the larder which is fantastic. As with all our endeavours we couldn't run them without the amazing help and support of volunteers in the village offering up their services and yet again we've had a wonderful response. Not only are volunteers on the day needed but drivers to collect items from stores. We also have a lot of people attend each week who are kindly shopping for neighbours who are unable to attend themselves and we thank them all too.
RVA Litter Pick and Social
It's been such a shame we haven't been able to run our litter picks this year due to Covid! That's 3 we've missed now! They have been so successful since we started them up around 4 years ago. As we start to ease out of lockdown we hope that we will be able to bring these back as soon as possible. As you know we always have a social event afterwards for participants in one of our local pub venues with a buffet provided. Hopefully as the vaccines roll out and if numbers keep low we'll be able to hold them again soon. That's not to say that rubbish isn't still building up!
Keep Britain Tidy are promoting their Great British Spring Clean at the moment Great British Spring Clean/Keep Britain Tidy and are encouraging people to get out and about either individually or in small socially distanced groups so do help to support this. Several people in the village are already getting involved so do support them if you can. I know a lot of you are often out and picking up litter regularly anyway! Gentle reminder to dog owners . . . please, please put your dog waste in the bin! Dog waste can be put into normal domestic waste bins these days so take it home or pop the doggy bag, well secured, in one of the village bins. Over the years we've seen so many plastic dog poo bags just left in the commons or hanging on trees!
RVA Nature Day
We do hope to put this back on once restrictions have lifted. Last year's was our first one and I was so excited about it! Still it's something else to look forward to.
Rusthall: A Picture Tells All Photographic Competition
Yet another thing we've been doing for years that has had to get heavily adapted due to the pandemic! Whilst we didn't hold our normal formal "competition" in 2020 we did invite people to enter their lockdown photos to be displayed on our website Photos 2020 over the spring and summer and we had some lovely entries. We're in lockdown 3 now so please feel free to send our website editor Nigel any photos you'd like to add to it nigel.R.email@example.com We'll make a decision a little later to see if we can run the photo competition in its normal format this year so watch this space!
Rusthall Community Larder
We are calling for volunteers to help us to run this and make it a socially distanced and safe success. If you are able to offer a few hours on a Friday between 11am and 3pm to help run the event itself or if you have a car and might be able to collect items from a local supermarket (this will be pre-arranged and just needs to be collected and delivered to St Pauls Church Centre) then please do get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or telephoning/messaging the Parish Clerk on 07805 475397
You don't have to commit to every Friday and it would be nice to have enough people so that we can share the load. This really is a very exciting opportunity to be able to help feed our community and to cut down on food waste. There are several Community Larders in the Tunbridge Wells and they are proving a huge success.
We will give clear training to everyone involved. Please do pass the news onto friends and neighbours. A community Larder is for everyone and is exactly what it says it is, a Larder for the Community to utilise.
We look forward to hearing from you and hopefully seeing you at the larder!
Alex Britcher - RVA Chair
Tel: 01892 549184
Mob: 07967 011467
The RVA is a non-political community forum & is the only body in the village that offers an informal arena in which to discuss events, issues and matters arising in the village. It is the perfect place to find out information, share ideas and get support.
We regularly have Parish and Borough Councillors attend our meetings & because we are informal we are not constrained by legal protocol. This means we are able to have open and frank discussions on what we feel is important to us as a community. We also have guest speakers and hold competitions and community minded events.
If you have any queries or suggestions, get in touch:
Alex Britcher - RVA Chair
07967 011 467