Cambridgeshire countryside group adapts to ensure work continues to help local community

A Cambridgeshire group of countryside volunteers handed a Central England Co-op community grant have revealed how they are still supporting the local community despite restrictions faced due to the Coronavirus.

Earlier this year, Yaxley Countryside Volunteers were given £2,000 to help create a community orchard filled with fruit trees.
Although the Coronavirus and subsequent lockdown have made that work difficult, the group has changed the way it operates to ensure its vital projects can continue to benefit people in the area during these uncertain times.

Chairman Reg Bingham said: “We stopped meetings and our work parties in the first place but have adapted to the circumstances because we needed to carry out essential work on the areas that we look after. In particular we have had to control weeds, mow grass, prune and water the trees that we bought with the community funds.

“As we have a lot of trees and no direct water supply we have had to cart water in wheel barrows over a distance. As the weather has been so hot and dry the trees have suffered badly and I'm sure without our watering efforts every week during the drought we would have lost some trees.

“We used the funds to buy trees and fencing for a community orchard. We are also trying to make a wildlife haven as well as a community orchard which benefits wildlife in the area as well. This involves creating a meadow between the trees in the orchard and requires specialist equipment to mow and make hay from the grass there. We are hoping to adapt a building in the vicinity to store machinery and eventually create a fruit store. 

“We are managing very well as we have very low running costs and have been helped by our parish council with the cost of insurance for our activities and provide public liability as well. We are raising funds through memberships and selling our homemade wildlife products such as bee hotels. “As we are basically a wildlife volunteer group we are mostly working outside supporting our local community as well as wildlife. This means we have been able to socially distance ourselves during work parties but have reduced the party size, nonetheless.

“We have found that we have been brought closer together during the pandemic despite the difficulties but will be glad when we can all meet up socially.”

The retailer’s Community Dividend Fund recently shared out £50,000 between 29 good causes to ensure they can continue their vital community working during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The money has been spent by charities and organisations to ensure that events, activities and support that otherwise might have been postponed or cancelled can still go ahead and provide a vital boost to the local community.

Debbie Robinson, Central England Co-op Chief Executive, said: “Now more than ever being a co-operative business that sits at the heart of our communities is so important.

“We are delighted that these great projects and good causes have been handed a grant that will allow them to continue their fantastic work in the community at this uncertain time.”

People can also keep up to date with what is happening in their local community in response to Coronavirus by visiting a dedicated online hub at



Notes to editors


Picture caption: Images of the Yaxley Countryside Volunteers at work.


About Central England Co-operative


Central England Co-operative is one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with interests in food, funeral, floral, travel and property investment.


Co-operatives have always been there for their communities; they were formed to protect them and help them flourish. 


Our 7,900 colleagues who serve Members and customers work hard to ensure that co-operative values, principles and spirit flow through everything we do to help support and improve our local communities.


Owned by hundreds of thousands of Members, we have over 430 trading outlets across 16 counties including West Midlands, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Suffolk, Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. 


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We invest a percentage of our trading profit into local communities through our Community Dividend Fund scheme, have donated over £1.3 million to our corporate charity partner Dementia UK and also operate a pioneering food redistribution partnership with FareShare Midlands so unsold food goes to those in need.


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