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200202 | There is no place for loneliness in this vibrant Cornish village (St Agnes)



There is no place for loneliness in this vibrant Cornish village

A new initiative designed to combat mental health issues, loneliness and isolation in the village has kick-started for 2020

St Agnes village centre (Image: Geograph / Colin Park)

Half a million older people don’t see or speak to anyone for five days a week, according to Age UK.

And for almost four million of them, it’s the television – rather than friends or family – that keeps them company.

But the village of St Agnes is challenging this norm as residents and medical professionals come together to show that there is no place for loneliness in this vibrant Cornish village.

If you are not familiar with St Agnes you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that it is one of the lucky few rural areas to still have an abundance of independent shops, facilities and community spaces all within its borders.

Practically everything you could ever need - and I mean everything - is literally on your doorstep.

There is also a warmth amongst those who live there as people tell me it is the sort of place where everybody knows everyone, and everyone's business is everyone's business - but in a good way.

The residents say there is something special about St Agnes, something that sets it apart when it comes to looking out for your neighbours and for always having something to do.

And in light of a new project starting this year to combat mental health issues, loneliness and isolation in the village, I asked the people who lived there what it was really like.

George Mannell is described as "the man that every village wants and needs"

George Mannell is a man best described as a legend in St Agnes. The retired labourer has lived in St Agnes for the past 60 years and has been described as one of the unsung heroes of the small coastal community.

Last year he inspired a community Christmas Day party for anyone feeling lonely and isolated in the village, just one of his many brilliant contributions to the village.

The event saw people, including himself, give up their usual Christmas Day celebrations to comfort others at a time of great loneliness.

86-year-old George said: "I've always had a good Christmas and I would like to see other people enjoying it as well. I thought to myself 'what about those poor people who have got nowhere to go' - there's no use sitting there and feeling sorry for them - you’ve got to go and do something."

He said: "No-one should be on their own."

St Agnes Miners and Mechanics Institute. This building was erected in 1893. It originally had a large reading room, a billiard room and a committee room. Today it is used as the equivalent of a "village hall" for St Agnes. (Image: The Miners and Mechanics Institute)

Billy Roberts was born in St Agnes and has run quirky Cornwall Café for 33-years.

The 65-year-old says that often people are lonely because they don't get involved in stuff that is happening and unless people join groups they will be stuck on their own.

Speaking of St Agnes, he says that because of the size of the village and the fact that lots of people know everyone, it makes it easier to say hello to people and check up on them in the streets.

"But the bigger the town, you just can't do that. People think someone saying hello will have an ulterior motive," he said.

"Some people also are just not mixers, there's a lot of loners and I notice that when sometimes people come in here and sit in the corner and don't speak to anybody."

The Driftwood Spars pub and microbrewery in St Agnes has smashed through its charity fundraising target of £6K and raised £7K for The Sunrise Appeal

During 2020 The Driftwood Spars in St Agnes has elected to raise money for I Belong St Agnes.

Landlady Louise Tresidder said: “As an independent pub at the heart of the community, we’ve made it our mission to become a social hub – a place where you can always find a friendly welcome and something going on.

"I Belong St Agnes is all about nurturing mental and physical health through getting out and about and socializing together – something we’re totally onboard with.

The Driftwood Spars pub and microbrewery in St Agnes has smashed through its charity fundraising target of £6K and raised £7K for The Sunrise Appeal

"If you haven’t got the confidence to go out and do it quite often, you need somebody to say 'come with me' and help get them involved.

"Making that first step no matter how confident you are sometimes can be a scary notion. The trick thing is knowing that you will belong and you will be made to feel welcome.

"Even popping out for just half an hour and a bit of human contact for some solace could make all the difference to someone."

Pete Mitchell is the Cornwall councillor for St Agnes (Image: Cornwall Council)


Pete Mitchell, who is the Cornwall councillor for St Agnes, said: “A lot of people just give everything in St Agnes. They know it is use it or lose it.

"What we have been proud of is we have kept our businesses. Our high street has two bakers, a butcher, a chemist, a convenience store and much more. It is more or less whatever you want.

"Whatever you want to do it is always here. We have eight book clubs, we have got a group for any sport you can mention – even a lacrosse club starting.

"I could go on forever but it is a very implicit space.

"We are very lucky to have people like George. George is the sort of guy that every village needs and wants and we are lucky to have one. He never stops and he's always on the go.

"There is give and give in St Agnes. It’s a lovely feeling to do things for people who aren’t as lucky in life as some of us are ,so we do anything we can to raise money.

"It's just a lovely experience when you go around and everywhere you go people talk to you.

"The other jewel and crown for us is the library, we fought long and hard to keep our library and we succeeded.

"It means we have been able to open it more and it is an absolute joy to go in there and see all the children in there.

"People say that children don't read anymore, but children read in St Agnes."

About 'I Belong St Agnes'

A recent 'I Belong St Agnes' meeting where residents and professionals came together to voice ideas for the movement. Amy Brooks (One Vision Community Development Worker at Carrick), Nikki Kelly (Community Naviagtor at Kernow Health CIC), George Mannell (Resident and founder of the Community Rose Garden) and Carolyn Trevithick (Volunteer Cornwall Community Maker for Carrick).

The movement, known as I 'Belong' seeks to enhance the mental and physical well-being of the St. Agnes community by increasing the capability of local people to offer immediate support to those who need it.

It works by saying that everything a community needs to combat loneliness is already available amongst its residents, it just needs to be utilised.

Community navigator, Nikki Kelly, said: "St Agnes has a unique opportunity here to do something really special.

Nikki Kelly is the community navigator for St Agnes and is able to give time and support to a large number of people living in the community

"Our next steps will be to host a wellbeing workshop with the St. Agnes Chamber of Commerce members and to launch a wellbeing Café with Driftwood Spar.

"Learning from the project this year will help develop a resource pack that can be transferred to support other communities to enable development of I Belong in other areas."

What it means to be lonely

The NHS says that older people are especially vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation – and it can have a serious effect on health.

But it says there are ways to overcome loneliness, even if you live alone and find it hard to get out.

Hundreds of thousands of elderly people are lonely and cut off from society in this country, especially those over the age of 75.

According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.

The words 'loneliness' and 'social isolation' are often used interchangeably, but loneliness is not the same as social isolation.

People can be isolated (alone) yet not feel lonely. People can feel lonely and yet be surrounded by people.

The loneliness crisis

There are 1.4m chronically lonely older people in England, and many more across the rest of the UK, making this a major issue that is now widely recognised in society today, according to Age UK.

More than half of sick and vulnerable adults in Cornwall feel they don’t spend enough time with friends, increasing their risk of loneliness and depression.

A survey from the NHS has revealed that just 44% of people supported by adult social services in the area get as much social contact as they want, with people that they like.

However, 35% of respondents said while they had “adequate” social contact with people, it was not as much as they wanted, and 15% said they had some social contact, but not enough.

They often face unique challenges that put them at risk of loneliness - from physical barriers that prevent them from socialising, to a poor level of public understanding and awareness about a condition, which can lead to stigma.

The role of adult social care is to promote independence and well-being among users, and many people do find that these services help when it comes to socialising.

Loneliness in Cornwall

(Image: Kat Smith/Pexels)

According to Age UK's risk of loneliness map, the St Agnes authority is a 'very low risk' area for loneliness.

Authorities are rated either very low risk, low risk, medium risk, high risk or very high risk.

The areas at 'very high risk' of loneliness across Cornwall are just south of St Agnes in the Mount Hawke and Blackwater area, parts of Illogan, Camborne, Hayle South, Central Penzance, Newquay, St Dennis, Roche and Looe.

You can read more about loneliness in your area here.

If you have ideas or would like to get involved with I Belong St Agnes, please contact Nikki Kelly, who is the community navigator on 07920419105 or

65 plus Risk of Loneliness within Cornwall via

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