VILLAGERS living near Abingdon have rallied to support each other during the coronavirus lockdown, with the community shop playing a vital role.

Appleton and nearby Eaton and Besselsleigh is a rural community about four miles north west of Abingdon. With about 450 houses, the current crisis has confirmed, the strong community spirit.

Within a short time Appleton Community Shop, the Parochial Church Council and members of the parish council met online to establish what needed to be done.

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They concluded that helping those in isolation was high on the list and, for every area in the parish, local co-ordinators assigned a ‘Buddy’ for each household in isolation that needed someone to help with shopping, collecting prescriptions and other matters.

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Appleton Community Shop, which has been owned by the community since 2000, made a number of decisions to reduce the coronavirus risk to the customers and shop staff, which included only two in the shop at any one time and changing the arrangements for those who collected newspapers daily to organising the newspaper boys and girls to deliver.

This also helped to cut the footfall in the shop. Credit accounts were set up immediately, so no money needed to change hands.

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The store is one of a number of community shops still operating and is backed by the Oxford Mail’s #StillopeninOxfordshire campaign.

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Chairwoman of ACS Jane Cranston said: “Our brilliant shop volunteers re-organised and covered for those in isolation and ensured we continue to be open from 7am each morning through to 6pm each weekday evening. We also had to think creatively about some of our sourcing so that we could still offer as full a range of products as possible. Our excellent local supplies of bread, fruit and veg, milk and meat continue.”

A new Facebook page was set up under Appleton Community - with adults exchanging ideas about how to keep children busy, and offering items for free and collection from outside homes, while observing social distancing.

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Long-term resident and churchwarden Roger Mitty said: “Our Rector left last year and the church family has organised online prayer meetings and pastoral support for all who need it. On Good Friday and Easter Day we put together virtual services which were viewed and much appreciated by many.”

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Ms Cranston added: “ACS decided to deliver to every isolated household an Easter egg and card with the compliments of the shop – so they were not left out of the celebrations of Easter!”

The village Book Club has set different themes so that children out walking in the community are entertained.

A Great Bear Hunt was set up where teddy bears sat in windows or were having picnics on the grass with some teddies placed in trees to make walks fun for children so they could play spot the teddies.

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Dr Mark Richards, chairman of the parish council, said: “The local area has always been quite close-knit with a commitment to community spirit, so the efforts by everyone involved in pulling things together has been very impressive.

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"The council, ACS and church leaders now meet weekly to discuss the Buddy system and to ensure we are addressing the many other issues arising – including, for example, a one-way system in Besselsleigh Wood so exercise can be taken safely.”