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Hurricane Takes The Wind Out Of Charity's Sails

22nd Jun 2022
Hurricane Takes The Wind Out Of Charity's Sails
A plea for help from a storm-hit charity supporting local people with learning difficulties or recovering from mental health problems, has been answered by Durham City’s Freemen.


At the end of last year the LionMouth Rural Centre, a community project based at Broadgate Farm, near Esh Winning, was hit by Storm Arwen’s 100 mile-an-hour winds which tore apart a large marquee being used as a makeshift classroom.

Project manager, Brigid Press Bartle explained: “In March 2020 Covid forced us to close our gates not only to those who seek our support but to members of the public as well.

“When our clients were allowed to return in August we made many changes to protect them from the spread of the disease. Our social distancing and cleaning routines, alongside the continuing absence of the public, allowed us to take some of our lessons outside into the open air. Our large marquee was a key part of the strategy, sheltering attendees from rain, wind and shine.”

But, when Storm Arwen arrived its trail of destruction across the region left the seven-year-old heavy duty shelter “twisted beyond repair.”

In 2016 the centre had been awarded a £7,000 donation by the freemen’s charitable trustees to help underpin a series of major developments at the ground-breaking complex. The centre sells plants, herbs and shrubs cultivated in their nursery, as well as glass-ware and pottery from their kilns and furniture from the workshops, to the general public.

The freemen’s latest gift, of an additional £250, is no less vital, covering the cost of a pop-up heavy duty replacement marquee.

Two dozen local people, aged between 14 and 64 and suffering or recovering from mild to moderate mental, social or learning difficulties, are offered day care support and training sessions available in woodwork, horticulture, art, pottery, conservation and cookery.

The centre’s support is delivered by two full-time and three part-time employees while their 16 volunteers will return after all Covid restrictions are finally lifted. The service is overseen by a board of four directors drawn from the local area.

“We serve those who have been ill, have gone through the system and do not qualify for further care and are not yet well enough to go into employment. Many suffer from high anxiety or lack of confidence. The new marquee will be a huge benefit not only to the day-care users on site but also to the general public who are buying our products and attending our team rooms again,” added Brigid.

Eric Bulmer, chairman of the freemen’s charitable trust, said: “We are pleased once again to help organisations which support some of the most vulnerable groups in our community. They have come through an extremely difficult period, thanks to the care of a wonderful group of dedicated staff and volunteers.”