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Ribbons and rainbows brighten their day

Elderly people living in a Norfolk housing-with-care scheme are being cheered up by colourful ribbons and paintings that have been tied to their fence.

The tenants of Redmayne View, in Sprowston – which is run by NorseCare – are unable to leave their homes during lockdown and were feeling a bit down and missing their families. Unable to receive visitors they sent a letter to their neighbours, asking if they could help cheer them up.

“We cannot open our doors to talk to you, but we have had an idea,” the letter said. “If you would like to tie a coloured ribbon, a coloured rainbow or other decoration to our railings it would help brighten our day and make us smile.”

It went on to say that they were missing their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and, in some cases, their great-great grandchildren, adding: “A million thank-yous for helping us brighten a sad and worrying situation.”

And, of course, the community rallied round, with lots of families and children leaving ribbons and rainbows and paintings on the fence.

One resident said: “It’s wonderful. People wave at me and smile, so I still feel connected to the outside world.”

Another added: “It’s lovely and colourful and I feel that people really care but I hope everyone stays safe.”

Staying connected

Pupils at Cecil Gowing Infant School are being kept up to date with what is going on at their school – even down to checking up on the tadpoles in the pond.

To enable families to stay connected, staff are offering activities to do at home as well as updates on what is going on at the Sprowston school while the children are away.

Headteacher Isabel Stubbs said: “We use a system called Tapestry, which enables teachers and parents to send comments to each other and share the home learning.  This communication has enabled a real feeling of connectivity and we hope this will help transition back to school whenever this might be. 

“We appreciate that parents’ key goal each day is to keep their families happy and calm, so we do not want families to feel pressured by the activities, but look on them as a support to introduce some sort of routine into daily lives that are so different from any we previously enjoyed.”

She said the school was still open to a small number of children whose parents were keyworkers and could not stay safely at home, adding: “we salute their bravery and commitment.”

Photos such as the ones in our gallery have also been shared so everyone can feel connected to their school. “While most of our children are at home, the flowers are blooming, the tadpoles in the pond are growing into frogs and the trees are in blossom,” said Isabel.

“We miss all our children and families and so look forward to seeing them all safe and well.”

Shantymen still in fine voice

There’s nothing the Sheringham Shantymen like more than a good old singsong together – and social distancing has not stopped them.

With many of their events cancelled over the next few months, they have “got together” online, performing a track for everyone to enjoy on YouTube.

Shantyman Dick Grieve said: “One of our guys, Jon Payne (accordion), has got all the necessary gear and suggested that we should do it. The musicians did the first bit, then we all sang to the backing track individually, and Jon pulled the whole thing together.”

The track – a jaunty song called Favela Girls – is getting lots of views on YouTube and Dick and the others thought it might be a bit of fun to cheer others up. And Jon said this could be the beginning of something bigger.

“There are lots of bands and singing groups around the country doing this at the moment, and we’re just the latest,” he said.

“I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out, and we’ll be doing more of these in the coming weeks. We’re also planning to throw this open to the whole Sheringham community in a couple of weeks’ time, inviting them to send in their recordings of them singing along with us, to create a massive ‘Sheringham Sings’ video!”

You can watch the video here –  https://youtu.be/2ZCUn2-KLBA – and keep an eye on this page for more news about how you can get involved with Sheringham Sings.

Teaming up to help those in need

Two groups in North Walsham have joined together to make sure local people are getting the support they need right now.

Although the North Walsham Community Shop is closed for the duration, and the Phoenix Group’s longer term plans are on hold, the trustees and members of both groups – both champions of the community – put their heads together and are showing just what can be achieved when people work together.

They realised that there would be delay in individuals and families receiving government support, and that the loss of school meals for children would add to the stress on family budgets, and with this in mind they created the Emergency Grant Fund.

This will be used to issue small grants to people who find themselves in need of financial support – by providing vouchers for shopping, or by providing North Walsham Good Neighbours Scheme with funds to cover supplies for those who are in isolation or have other needs.

The Community Shop kick-started the fund with £1,000 and Sainsbury’s of North Walsham donated £100 in vouchers. The Fund’s JustGiving page is being used by North Walsham people to donate and already helping ease the troubles of their worst affected neighbours.

The fund has already made grants to several local residents, with complete confidentiality at all stages.

If you know someone who is in need, or if you would like to help the North Walsham Emergency Grant Fund, then please visit www.northwalshamcommunityshop.org.uk/north-walsham-community-support-fund/ or to email phoenixgroup.northwalsham@gmail.com.

Study centre and walks are closed

A popular Broads environmental studies centre has closed its courses, car parks and gardens to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.

How Hill, at Ludham, would normally be entering its busiest time of the year – a vital time for generating income for the charity which runs the venue.

The crisis has halted all school bookings, and means the tea room – also a vital source of income for the How Hill Trust – cannot open for the busy summer season.

How Hill, a residential study centre for the Broads, has hosted school and adult residential and day courses since 1968, and has been run by a charitable trust since 1984.

But it has closed until the end of the lockdown, furloughing most staff – while others take a pay cut – to help the long-running venue, which has taught generations of children the joys of nature, survive into the future.

Director Simon Partridge said: “We do not expect any schools until the beginning of the autumn term in September.

“This is the main period of income, and our tea room is certainly not going to open until July at the earliest. Trustees have made the difficult but sensible decision to put most of the staff on compulsory leave to ensure the financial integrity of the trust, with those remaining taking a voluntary pay cut.

“It also means our public car park and gardens are closed, so we would urge everyone to heed government advice and stay at home and to explore and enjoy the nature on their doorsteps this Easter. But rest assured when the ‘all clear’ is sounded we will welcome schools and the public back with open arms. In the meantime we are seeking support from local and national government to help us through this unprecedented event.”

Any schools concerned about scheduled visits should contact the director by email at simon@howhilltrust.org.uk. Visit the How Hill Trust website, www.howhilltrust.org.uk, and monitor its Facebook page for updates and events information as they happen.

Pupils are unable to take part in courses at How Hill until the autumn. These youngsters were out on the water before the pandemic. Photos: How Hill Trust.

Hospital opens second emergency department

A second Emergency Department has opened at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in response to the covid-19 pandemic.

As a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the Arthur South Day Procedure Unit has been turned into an extra ED to treat patients with confirmed or suspected covid-19.

This has resulted in some changes to the out-patients side of the hospital with the rerouting of buses and access to public vehicles will be restricted to allow emergency ambulances to park outside and to bring patients through the DPU entrance.

The existing Emergency Department area will be for non-covid-19 related illnesses and injuries and patients will be directed to the appropriate area for their condition at the DPU entrance.

The hospital is being split into yellow zoned areas for patients with positive and suspected covis-19 symptoms and green zoned areas are parts of the hospital are treating patients without the virus.

Chris Cobb, NNUH chief operating officer, said: “As we move towards the peak of this outbreak, we have created yellow and green zoned Emergency Departments to establish clear and separate areas of the hospital for patients who potentially need hospital admission for coronavirus symptoms. Thanks to the hard work of the ED and surgical division teams this expansion of our emergency care capacity will be in place prior to the peak of the infection.”

Further changes to the hospital site have begun with the start of work on a 10-bed isolation unit. It is anticipated that the new construction will open to its first patients this summer, which will be located where the Level 1 East Atrium drop-off area is.

Therefore, the drop-off area outside of the East Atrium, Level 1 (Car Park L) will be permanently closed to all vehicular access, although a pedestrian entrance will be maintained.

Praise for our special constables

Norfolk’s special constables have been praised for the work they have been doing recently, giving more than 1000 hours of their time over the past week to provide vital support to communities.

A total of 65 special constables contributed 134 shifts and 1005 hours of deployment between Sunday, March 29, and Sunday, April 5, as part of Norfolk police’s effort to protect communities and manage the demands of covid-19. Additional specials also volunteered their time carrying out essential roles from police stations across Norfolk, including supporting vulnerable people.

Over the past week, they have been working alongside their regular police colleagues responding to ongoing incidents, as well as engaging, explaining, encouraging and, if necessary, enforcing the government’s measures restricting people’s movements.

Special Chief Officer Darren Taylor said: “Our officers are well trained, developed and supported as an integral element of the Norfolk police family. They are unpaid volunteers who are passionate about serving their communities, and I’ve been humbled by their response to the current situation. I’d like to extend my personal gratitude to each and every one of my team who has stepped forward to support and protect the NHS and save lives.

“Volunteering in any capacity requires a balance of family and work life, and none more so than now. Many of our special constables are in fulltime employment and like many other people are affected by furlough or reduced hours. It’s testament to their commitment that they are using this additional time for the benefit of others.

“I am also extremely grateful to a number of local employers who have allowed our officers flexibility, and in some cases paid leave, to enable them to provide a frontline role in policing. It will take a combined effort of all of us across the community, helping neighbours, caring for the vulnerable in any capacity to allow the key workers to focus on the priorities over the coming period.”

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Julie Wvendth, who is leading Norfolk Constabulary’s response to covid-19, said: “We’re very fortunate in Norfolk that so many talented and dedicated people who, without hesitation, have put themselves forward to help and support their communities and the county.  Special constables are valued members of our constabulary and are performing a crucial role in frontline policing, protecting the most vulnerable and managing the unprecedented demands of Covid-19. I thank them and their employers for their continued commitment and support, and I’m so grateful that we can count on them in these challenging times.”

Norfolk has a team of 200 special constables working different shift patterns in a phased approach to supporting frontline policing and the constabulary’s response to covid-19. They provide a range of skills, including supporting vulnerable people, logistics and planning, as well as working as operational officers deployed around the county. Special constables have the same powers as regular police officers but serve as volunteers.

For more information on the role of special constables, visit www.norfolk.police.uk/join-us/volunteers/police-specials. You can also follow them on Twitter @CODarrenTaylor @NorfolkSpecials

Rush hour shock as bus catches fire

Fire crews were called out to Hellesdon this morning after a double-decker bus caught fire at a stop near a petrol station.

Engines from Sprowston and Earlham attended the fire at 8.15am, which was on the Sanders Coaches X44 service from Norwich to Aylsham, Cromer and Sheringham.
General manager Richard Pengelly said the driver had pulled in to the stop between The Firs Tesco and the Applegreen service station because he could smell something was wrong.

“He got out and there were no flames, but when he opened the boot it let the oxygen in and it went up,” he said. “There wasn’t any fuel involved, it was an electrical fault … the bus would have just broken down.”

Mr Pengelly said there had been three passengers on board, along with the driver but nobody was hurt although the driver “had got a bit of a shock”.

“It wasn’t as bad as it looked,” he said, adding that the bus was now back in the garage and the engineers were working to get it back on the road.

No services were cancelled as a result of the fire.