For a small, rural village, Sleights has a surprising amount going off to help residents make the most of their community – due in part to the increasing role Revival North Yorkshire has played in the last few years.

The Community Interest Company was launched in 2015 and became involved with Sleights villagers three years ago, following an invitation by the County Council’s Stronger Communities team.

That move was to answer one of the problems facing older residents, that the sloping topography meant journeys on foot were impossible for some, putting even walks to the community centre out of bounds.

Some challenges for older residents were easy to identify, said Revival North Yorkshire’s Debbie Swales: “A lot of villagers have families who have moved away. House prices are expensive and there isn’t a lot of employment opportunities.

“There are a range of people we are supporting, generally older people, those with physical and mental health problems, mobility problems and those who do not have family locally.”

An early venture was to launch Memory Lane Lunches, in conjunction with the Salmon Leap pub, which provided good value traditional meals and volunteers to overcome the transport problem of getting residents together.

The lunches proved to be a social success and provided the confidence to expand into minibus trips out of the village for singing sessions with Musical Memories.

Good Old Days sessions were introduced at the community centre, using vintage memorabilia to spark conversation and to gently introduce technology like Alexa, first to allow those present to select music and then to illustrate how useful the service can be for safety and security issues.

However, last spring the coronavirus pandemic caused major changes, with Revival North Yorkshire adopted as one of the County Council’s Community Support Organisations, set up to ensure all residents got the help they would need to get through the crisis.

“Last March, everything had to stop overnight,” said Debbie. “We then got on with it, starting befriending calls to make sure everyone was OK. Volunteers immediately got involved. We did some shopping and helped to organise deliveries.”

As the months passed, the response became more sophisticated, with the Memory Lane Lunches morphing into Lunch on Legs, with the Salmon Leap and the village fish and chip shop cooking the meals and volunteers delivering them.

While that service was suspended in the most recent lockdown, the first fish and chip meals of a revived operation have now been delivered, providing a high point in the week for villagers who choose to order.

Revival developed a magazine, In Touch, delivered by volunteers for residents in Sleights and surrounding areas, resulting in spin-off groups, some of which are online, to chat about their topics of interest.

Technology has also helped with Zoom ‘walks’ introduced by the National Park, allowing those taking part to virtually visit different local areas, with the benefit of a guide, after volunteers from Revival have helped those struggling with technology to set up the internet links, using guidance by telephone.

“We have an amazing group of volunteers, including some who have been with us since we started three years ago,” said Debbie.

Another group that has come together is the crochet and knitting experts of A Stitch In Time, who have worked to produce bunting which was installed around the village to provide Easter decoration.

Such voluntary work is backed up by a community support worker, employed through Revival North Yorkshire, who is available to help residents deal with some of the more complex issues that can crop up, where professional expertise can help to find solutions.

Over time, it is hoped activities in the village will be able to return to the normal face-to-face sessions that had evolved, but in the meantime, everything has been done to ensure those who had come to look forward to those events have had the best possible replacements.