St Thomas of Canterbury Church, Camelford
“The attitude here is that the church is just a building, so get on with it.“
Described as the gateway to Camelot Country, Camelford is an attractive and ancient town, lying on the edge of Bodmin Moor, with some 2,000 inhabitants.
Camelford is not an area of deprivation in terms of multiple deprivation tables; it is not classed as a problem town, and appears to be relatively well-off.
Yet the area does have some significant underlying issues.
There is no gas locally, so heating is electricity or oil, both of which are very expensive. Solar panels are being installed, but noticeably only on privately owned properties – so there are growing issues of fuel poverty.
The average house price locally is £195k for a three-bedroomed house. There is no, or very little, public transport, and a fifth of the population do not have cars.
There is a lack of work apart from seasonal minimum wage work – accordingly, many young people are leaving the area.
St Thomas Church in the centre of Camelford is relatively modern (1938).
It is not the parish church, which is 1.5 miles from the centre and which, whilst old and beautiful, is not part of the everyday life of the town.
A new social housing estate built on the edge of the town has no facilities for children and, until the church started Tommies Toddlers, the young mothers had nowhere to go with the children when it rained.
Now Tommies Toddlers offers a place for young mothers to meet and connect socially, and also provides a basic breakfast for mothers and children to share together.
They use Facebook to keep in touch and build their community.
Whilst Jenny’s husband’s family are from the area, she initially found it difficult to make friends.
“I look forward to the weekly play group, it is good for the kids and the mums. It is really busy, 15 mums at least. The church really helps, it helps the children socialise and has helped me to make friends and settle in. The children are so confident in this space.” Jenny
Maggie also moved to the area and did not know any of her neighbours. She works as a child minder and also has two children of her own. Her husband is often away as he is a yacht skipper.
“The toddler group is great. The attitude here is that the church is just a building, so get on with it. The kids can go anywhere.
“The church is for everybody and everyone is invited in regardless. It’s friendly and you can call on people to help you out.” Maggie
“As long as I can remember the church has looked out. But we need to look much more out into the town and push where we can. Although the fact of an ageing population and a smaller congregation can’t be hidden, we have to do whatever we can.”