This is the fourth installment of Postcards From Lockdown, a Telegraph series that looks at how communities are coping during the coronavirus pandemic. The first postcard was from Eastbourne, the second was from the Lake District, and the third was from Essex.
Return tomorrow to read Joe Shute's postcard from Eyam
The Wiltshire village of Chilmark has long been regarded as a decent sort of place to sit out a national emergency. During the Cold War, the Government built a vast subterranean bunker on the outskirts of the village to house key officials in the event of nuclear attack (recently it was discovered to have been transformed into a cannabis farm).
Now a new enemy is in our midst and the mushroom cloud of Covid-19 is slowly spreading across the country, the citizens of Chilmark have swiftly moved on to a war footing, to ensure they survive lockdown without a single resident left behind.
The operation to support the village’s population of 450 or so residents has been arranged and executed with military precision – not least as several of the retirees here formerly served in Britain’s Armed Forces.
The village has been split into 18 sectors with a volunteer (and back up volunteer should they fall ill) maintaining oversight. Deliveries of food, prescriptions, the local village newspaper and treats such as homemade apple crumble are arranged for the vulnerable. Plus there is a daily email update, online church services, and a weekly quiz arranged by the chairman of the local cricket club to keep up morale.
Parish councillor and retired Army captain Morag Philpott is the woman running this extraordinarily tight ship. The 58-year-old previously served in the Royal Army Education Corps. When she received an email from Wiltshire Council last month requesting community coordinators in the area, her military training kicked in.
“When you go through the selection process in the Army one of the things you need to do is something called a command task,” she says. “Basically you look at a problem and work out how best to solve it.”
三级成人视频At first Morag, a mother-of-three who moved with her husband to Chilmark four years ago, worked from dawn until dusk poring over maps of the village and sketching out who and where the most vulnerable residents were. She has been rapidly joined in her labours by an army of volunteers who have helped put the plan into action.
Among them is Lt Col (retd) Angus Menzies, a former Army doctor who in 2010 was the senior GP at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province. Menzies, 65, and his wife Lynn (herself a retired doctor who worked with soldiers and their families in Britain) have been tasked with collecting the village prescriptions each week and delivering them to residents who are self-isolating.
Menzies modestly describes himself as nothing more than a “glorified postman” but residents say the service is a lifeline. He collects around 20 different prescriptions from the local surgery each Thursday – each wrapped up to ensure total anonymity.
Menzies admits the decades spent in the Army in various warzones have served him well on his new posting on the home front. “I suppose this type of crisis management isn’t totally new to us,” he says.
三级成人视频Walking through Chilmark on a warm spring day, it is easy to forget about the perils of coronavirus. A clear stream babbles through the village past houses built out of locally-quarried stone. Roadside verges are studded with yellow stars of celandine and daffodils. The quiet lanes are alive with birdsong.
More than 150 people have tested positive for Covid-19 across Wiltshire although none, so far, in Chilmark. All the same about 80 or so residents are self-isolating here, unable to leave their homes due to age or ill health.
Among them are Colin and Lisbeth Diaper, aged 82 and 78 respectively. The pair first bought their home at a crossroads in the centre of the village in 1974, and along with dozens of villagers have their names carved on a wooden cross that was erected to mark the Millennium.
三级成人视频Colin, who suffers from a range of underlying health issues, has not left the house since receiving a letter on March 16 which described him as ‘clinically vulnerable’ and urged him not to go out for the next 12 weeks. He also receives a reminder email each day from the NHS for good measure.
The pair receive food deliveries and prescriptions each week arranged by the volunteers, which Lisbeth admits have been a lifeline. “We couldn’t exist without them,” she says.
三级成人视频Chilmark is typical of many well-to-do villages across the country, with a sizeable elderly population and its younger residents, in normal times, commuting to jobs. It has a pub, a church and primary school but there is no village shop or cafe to speak of.
三级成人视频With everybody grounded during lockdown, the lawyers, teachers and bankers who would normally be elsewhere are suddenly volunteering their services around the village, and meeting neighbours in the process. Residents admit the lockdown has reinvigorated Chilmark.
三级成人视频Among the volunteers is 36-year-old Ed Lewis, who lives with his wife and 14-month-old son, Jasper, in the village. Both he and his wife are teachers, with Lewis working as head of geography at an independent school in Salisbury. Now rather than driving off each day they are enjoying walks in the village, having lunch as a family, and helping drop around parcels to vulnerable residents - in between a spot of remote teaching.
三级成人视频“It’s been really nice to have this quality time,” he says. “I know there’s a crisis in the world and the thought of being stuck in a tower block in London is heart-wrenching. But I have to admit that my shoulders have dropped a little bit over the past few weeks.”
Across Wiltshire and beyond, the response to coronavirus has led to a resurgent sense of community spirit, with more than 100 volunteer schemes such as that in Chilmark currently in operation in the county alone.
With supermarkets inaccessible for many, and rural deliveries tricky at the best of times, local businesses are also stepping up.
Annie Bird, 39, only opened a new cafe and bed and breakfast 10 miles or so away from Chilmark last month. But following the lockdown they have transformed Bird and Carter into a farm shop arranging deliveries through local suppliers.
三级成人视频At present, the 39-year-old says, they are operating around 70 food boxes a week – many of which are distributed by the Chilmark volunteers among local residents. When the crisis is over and lockdown lifted, she hopes residents will rediscover the joys of shopping local – breathing life back into rural England in the process.
The young generation of Chilmark residents are also learning an early lesson in caring for others. With the local primary school shut, residents have created a teddy bear trail around the village, placing cuddly toys in their windows for youngsters to spot on their daily walk.
The primary school headteacher has also encouraged his furloughed pupils to write letters to elderly residents to keep their spirits up during self-isolation.
Seven-year-old Seb Trent is among those to have written a letter, in his case to a 79-year-old neighbour, Jean, whose garden he and his brother used to play in before the lockdown commenced.
三级成人视频Sitting in his garden sporting a buzzcut recently done by his mother, he shows off his latest correspondence to Jean. It includes a line which people all over the country are suddenly discovering about their neighbours: ‘If you need us we will always be here’.