The Durham Parish Council spreading joy at Christmas

Written by on 27th December 2022

Esh Parish Council brought the holiday spirit to life this festive season, bearing smiles and gifts for the local community. 

Travelling around adjunct villages in a homemade Santa Sleigh, volunteers and councillors handed out chocolate selection boxes to everyone that came out to see Santa Claus.

Olwyn ‘Ollie’ Moat, Vice Chair of Esh Parish Council said: “This is only the third year we’ve done it… every year it’s gotten steadily better.

As the country has been gripped with soaring energy prices and countless setbacks in the cost of living, Ollie agreed that projects like these are immensely important.

She said: “They’re so important. Bring the spirit back.”

Image Credit: Kayleigh Fraser

“We didn’t expect any money… people want to give. It’s definitely needed. Just that little bit of lift.”

Amidst the cold and rain, volunteers stepped out to spread joy to residents and well wishers.

Chair of Esh Parish Council, Joe Thompson, believes Parish Councils should strive to create projects like this.

Image Credit: Kayleigh Fraser

Joe said: “As a Parish Council you’ve got to be seen to be doing something for the community.”

He added: “If you’re going to step up and be on a Parish Council, you’ve also got to step up and do something.”  

Whilst the sleigh handed out treats, members of the public were also able to donate money into buckets along the route.

This year, money is being donated to CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young) in memory of  Robert Daniel Smith.

Robert’s Mum was part of the volunteer group this year. Image Credit: Kayleigh Fraser

Robert passed away in April of 2014 at York St John’s University whilst writing his dissertation, after showing no signs of a heart condition.

The organisation promotes cardiac screenings for young people aged 14 to 35. 

His mother, Linda Smith, teamed up with the Parish Council to fundraise for the charity on the sleigh ride this year.

Linda said: “The Parish Council offered this time whilst going round to collect for Robert’s memorial fund.”

She added: “All the screenings I do, I do for this village, the surrounding villages, and then for anyone who’s outside of the villages, I don’t stop them from coming.”

But, the annual Santa Sleigh Ride is not the only community project in Esh Parish. 

Councillors have set up a warm hub that opens its doors three days a week for anyone in the village.

Karenza Passmore, one of 14 Parish Councillors for Esh said: “We have set up a Warm Spaces Hub 3 days a week with food, drinks and games for those that need the warmth – human and physical.”

She added: “It’s a new project for us, so it’s very early days, we’re finding our way. We’re trying to find volunteers and we’re trying to make it work for the community.”

With the cost of living crisis taking a toll on everyone, Esh is not the only parish introducing warm hubs in the North East.

Community Action Northumberland has introduced a similar project for residents coming together for warmth and social company. 

Heading into 2023, the Parish is eager to continue with their rich involvement within the community and will carry on their festive sleigh ride tradition next year.

If you’d like to volunteer for Esh Parish, click the link here.

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