Lockdown in Keyham and the Great Canine Challenge

When Helen Lounds had an accident and found herself being discharged from hospital with her leg in a cast her first concern wasn’t about herself but for her four dogs and how they were going to get their daily exercise. She need not have worried: not one but several knights in shining armour from the Keyham Neighbourhood Watch stepped forth and came to her rescue;

“When my leg was put in a cast I was absolutely petrified, I had no idea how I was going to cope and the thought of having to ask people to walk my dogs for six weeks made me feel awful but, you know, people have been amazing; I’ve had people checking on me every morning and the dogs have been walked every day. One guy, John, came around several times at six in the morning to walk them on his way home from a twelve-hour night shift: it’s just lovely that people can do that for each other.”

Helen’s story is not unique. What many people have experienced throughout the pandemic is empathy, compassion and a determination to support each other. Eighteen months ago, there was no ‘formal’ community network in Keyham and then Kevin Sproston, a Royal Navy sailor, living in the area decided something needed to be done about the anti-social behaviour in the area. When Kevin launched the Keyham Neighbourhood Watch on social media he had no idea if people were going to be interested:

“I put it on Facebook,” says Kevin, “and about five people came along to the first meeting. Now we’ve got about 12 amazing active volunteers and more than two thousand online members.”

And when lockdown came, the KNW sprang into action;

“Within three days of lockdown we had a community phone-line; leaflets going into every house and we were one of the first communities to get a food delivery project off the ground.”

Since then the KNW has packed and delivered about 200 food hampers free-of-charge to residents and donated about £2500 to the Devon & Cornwall Food Association (with thanks to the North Yard Community Trust, the Co-op and Great Western Power) to help with their costs. Volunteers have collected shopping, medicines, walked dogs and been there for those residents most-in-need including victims of domestic abuse;

“Lockdown has created a perfect situation,” says Kevin, “with a controlling partner being able to keep someone indoors. We made sure we got food parcels to some ladies who we know were left without and, since we’ve become aware of their circumstances, we’ve been able to help some of them so much more.”

For many of its residents, the existence of the Keyham Neighbourhood Watch has proved invaluable. For Helen, there is no going back;

“I think during the whole Covid thing, the community spirit in Keyham has been remarkable. I think it’s done wonders for the community, in a twisted kind of way, and I think bonds have formed and will remain.”

When projects like Keyham Neighbourhood Watch and The Hoe Neighbourhood Watch participate in the Neighbourhood Care Networks, it intensifies the scale of action; support and engagement for – and within – communities. As Kevin says, working together is better for everyone;

“I really do think that the neighbourhood care network is something that we can work with. We don’t want to lose the identity we have, and it’s really positive the things we’ve managed to do, but with greater investment and collaboration I do believe it’s limitless, the amount of good work that can be done.”

Whitleigh Big Local: 01752 875916
Nudge Community Builders (Stonehouse): 07723 494413
The Stoke Traders and Residents Association: 07380 319128
Hoe Neighbourhood Forum: 077235 77305
Keyham’s Neighbourhood Watch: 01752 563095 or 07780 711894