The annual conference and AGM of the Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Association took place on Saturday the 14th of October at the Oval Centre, Salterbeck, Workington CA14 5HA and the programme can be seen here. The event started with registration and coffee at 09.45 and finished with a complementary buffet lunch at 12.30. We were delighted that Sue Hayman, MP for Workington and Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, kindly agreed to be with us. Sue was joined by Peter McCall, Cumbria's Police and Crime Commissioner, Phil Tibble, Chair of West Cumbria Community Safety Partnership, Mark Webster, Assistant Chief Constable and Lorrainne Smyth Chief Executive of Action for Communities in Cumbria. We were also pleased that the High Sheriff of Cumbria, Alistair Wannop, was present to present the High Sheriff's award. This was given to 'Shackles Off' a project which has been running in Seascale for nearly ten years. They work tirelessly to ensure that young people have a safe place to go, providing a variety of activities in the village, including youth clubs, gym sessions and afternoon sessions for those who are not in work.
The High Sheriff of Cumbria, Alastair Wannop presents the High Sheriffs Shield to team members of 'Shackles Off' . Also in the picture from the left are Lorrainne Smyth and Peter McCall.
The 2016 Conference and AGM was held on Saturday the 19th of November and the programme for the event is here. Chaired by Joe Murray QPM, Chair of the Association, It was well attended and well received. A common theme from all the speakers was how, working in partnership with volunteer and statutory agencies, communities can become safer and more resilient. This was exemplified by Jonny Gios in describing the amazing response in Kendal to the recent floods brought about by hurricane Desmond. Both Darren Martland and Peter McCall pointed up the important role that Neighbourhood Watch volunteers play and how the Police are both supportive of the movement in Cumbria but also need their support in turn. Kate Algate described how her network supports local Associations and volunteers and pointed out that Neighbourhood Watch is by a long way the largest voluntary organisation in the country. It is her role to ensure that the importance and relevance of the movement is recognised by Government and other key opinion formers.
Joe Murray QPM
The highlight of the event however, was the presentation of the High Sheriff’s shield to Blake Robinson.
During the recent floods the 23-year-old farmer risked his own safety to reach a stranded family of six - including two young boys and a pregnant woman - at their flooded, blacked-out bungalow at Gilpin Bridge, beside the A590 near Levens.
Blake had spent much of Saturday, December 5, helping to rescue people from Sandylands, including his baby god-daughter. However he did not hesitate when the RNLI called on his help again in the early hours of Sunday morning. Blake drove his tractor and took the lifeboat crew members and their boat through surging, chest-high water to the bungalow and began extracting the family .
"There was no way they could have walked through the current," he said. "I didn't know if the tractor would get forced down with the weight of the water. I had to be aware of garden gates flying around because they were moving with the flow of the water. I had to be quite cautious. I was just glad to be getting them out."
In all, Blake made seven trips to and from the bungalow, with one of the lifeboat crews hanging half in-half out of the tractor door.
"It was dark and wet and horrible. I can imagine it was quite cold and scary for them," said Blake. "They had been in the water for a few hours and they looked like they had been to hell and back, but with such a look of relief on their faces”.
Blake Edwards with (left to right) The High Sheriff of Cumbria, Rev’d (Group Captain) Richard Lee RAF rtd, Darren Martland, Assistant Chief Constable, Cumbria Constabulary and Peter McCall, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cumbria.
Joe Murray, in his closing comments said “We have seen the incredible community spirit that was created as a direct result of the floods and devastation that came with it, however, to a certain degree, a new form of Neighbourliness has been created. I firmly believe that Cumbria Neighbourhood Watch Association can play a significant role by working in partnership with all communities to create and build resilience that will make Cumbria an even safer place to live and work”.