Cream tea treat for Torbay communities that pulled together

Good Neighbours from Higher Furzeham in Brixham: (back row) John and Helen Barrett, Pauline Smith, H

Good Neighbours from Higher Furzeham in Brixham: (back row) John and Helen Barrett, Pauline Smith, Heather and Richard Montgomery, Neil Forbes (Co-op area manager) and Mike Ellis (Co-op member Pioneer co-ordinator), Cheryl and Andrew Hale, (front row) Lily-Rae, Harmony-Paige, Wade and Emily Asher and Becky Chellingworth and dogs Harvey and Rosie - Credit: Archant

Across Torbay, hundreds of people stepped up to help each other during the coronavirus crisis.

Dozens of streets formed their own groups – more than 50 with the help of the Torbay Community Coronavirus Helpline who registered the schemes and offered advice on how to stay in touch safely.

Others simply pushed notes through each other's doors, formed telephone trees, WhatsApp groups and began shopping, gardening, walking dogs and collecting prescriptions for each other.

Last weekend just a few of them were rewarded for their efforts and good neighbourliness with cream teas to share, all provided by their local Co-op, after a competition run by Ageing Well community builders from the Torbay Community Development Trust.

Fourteen projects from across the Bay were picked from the entries and each enjoyed a cream tea: Langridge Road Paignton, Higher Polsham Road Preston, Foxhole Road Paignton, Cecelia Road Preston, Ebenezer Road Paignton, Lichfield Avenue Hele/Barton.

Babbacombe Road Babbacombe, Locarno Avenue Preston, Mimosa Way Roselands, Lymington Road Torquay, Middle Lincombe Road Wellswood, Bingfield Close Wellswood, Higher Furzeham Road Brixham and Fletcher Close Shiphay.

Lockdown meant that Sylvia Myer's weekly keep fit classes in both Shiphay and Kingkerswell had to be cancelled but when you have been doing it for 59 years, you find a way.

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The 88-year-old recruited her neighbours instead and each Thursday evening they all came out of their houses in Fletcher Close, Shiphay, for a 45-minute class – everyone – men, woman and children,

A neighbour provided the sound system and everyone assembled at the end of their pathways and driveways, for a socially distanced workout.

'It has been wonderful there is a lot of goodness around here and I hope it continues,' said Sylvia.

The coming together at the exercise classes also provided the catalyst for other street-based events included a VE Celebration at which one neighbour, Geri Samuels, a professional singer, sang tunes from the wartime era.

'It has brought people together. My neighbours are all brilliant. Fabulous. You can't fault them,' added Sylvia

Residents of Higher Polsham Road in Preston have had what can only be described as a joyous lockdown with socially distanced themed street parties, VE Day Celebrations, music quizzes and charity fundraisers.

It started slowly – initially, they just set up a WhatsApp Group to help watch out for each other. But come Easter at least one resident, Rachel Lake, singer with the band Karina and the Slaves and a cabaret singer under normal circumstances, decided to inject a bit of fun.

Taking a break from homeschooling her two children while locked down with husband Chris and mum Chrissy, she delivered fliers to all 67 houses in the road advertising what was to be first of many social shindigs.

'After a few a weeks I got a bit bored and so decided we should get a few people dancing in the street and it developed from there,' said Rachel.

Six street parties followed – and they have also held raffles to raise money for Rowcroft Hospice and are planning table top sales to raise money for Paignton Zoo.

'It is amazing, all ages coming together as one community.'

Once lockdown eases enough there are plans for coffee mornings and cocktail evenings and one big blow out when social distancing finally ends.

Meanwhile, in Brixham in Higher Furzeham, another WhatsApp group has got neighbours through the crisis and forged new friendships.

In some cases, they have yet to meet, and they are looking forward to putting names to faces when a street party planned for post locked down finally takes place.

Heather and husband, Richard Montgomery spotted the value of keeping in touch in the days before lockdown and hurriedly put fliers through doors inviting neighbours to join their WhatsApp group and 32 signed up straight up away.

Since then it has been used in a variety of ways to keep people in food and medicines, but also to share news and exchange expertise.

If you want to set up your own Good Neighbour scheme go to