Warm & Well visits Craven church to spread the warmth and raise awareness

Overview and Background:

By Candice Dowson, Warm & Well / Rural Action Yorkshire

Warm & Well in North Yorkshire, the charity project which is raising awareness of the impact of cold homes on our health and wellbeing, was recently out and about visiting St Oswald’s Church in Horton-in-Ribblesdale to meet the local parish.

St Oswald’s is a beautiful church in a picturesque rural location, roughly 3 miles from Settle and surrounded by rolling hills – which on this day were somewhat obscured by heavy wintry mists and rain! Nevertheless, the cold weather could not be more appropriate for discussing Warm & Well.

St Oswald’s takes its name from the fascinating 7th Century King Oswald, who ruled in the kingdom of Northumbria and was later canonised for his work in bringing Christianity to his people, including to the famous island of Lindisfarne which was later sacked during the Viking invasion. Oswald was a warrior king through and through, taking his crown from his enemies in battle, and later dying during battle with the Mercian king in 642 AD.

The church service was delivered by Reverend Stephen Dawson and covered the Holy Communion and candlemass celebrations during the period following Christmas. Andy Ryland, Rural Officer for the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, who is also working on raising awareness of Warm & Well, had the chance to preach a 10-minute sermon about the project during the Sunday service. Andy talked about the alarming statistics around fuel poverty across North Yorkshire, looking out for our elderly and our vulnerable, and the things we could do around the home to ward off the cold. He tied this to the figures of Simeon and Anna in the Bible, two older people who were still great and valuable members of their communities, something which can often be overlooked by society as a whole.

Horton is a very rural area, off the mains gas grid, with many houses without insulation and of a much older build – meaning they are more difficult and more expensive to heat generally. It is therefore important that people are aware of how the cold can impact on their health, as this could lead onto more significant health problems. However, it is also important to spread the word of Warm & Well so that people can help their neighbours, who may be living in a cold home, and feel unable or embarrassed to speak out for support.

Andy asked the congregation what can be done to prevent the spread of fuel poverty across North Yorkshire. Andy said:

“There are a number of things we can do. We can pray and ask the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and reflect upon who in our communities may be suffering in this way, and look out for signs if we visit people’s homes.

“We can also take action. This might be as simple as giving basic advice about how to keep a home warm, or referring somebody to the Warm & Well helpline for more enhanced support.”

Andy encouraged the parishioners to prayerfully consider who might be living in fuel poverty who they know, and who might need some support to keep their home and family warm this winter.

The sermon was well-received with the chance for lively discussion over coffee and cake afterwards! Some concerns were raised over generational differences – the comment was made that maybe we have all ‘gone soft.’ In past decades, people would not complain about the cold, they would put on another jumper, and they would just get on with things. Often these were the days before gas central heating and much colder winters too.

This made us think that they are made of very tough stock in Craven! But nevertheless, it is important to think about those families and individuals who really are in crisis, and cannot afford to heat their home at all – not even for a few hours a day. It’s also important to think about the wider implications of a cold home and how this is not good for our health. Damp and mould can lead to respiratory illnesses; it can also worsen asthma and a range of other health conditions. Children who are living in a cold home may see their school performance suffer, if they are too cold to do their homework when they go home, or perhaps even too cold to take a bath or shower on a morning or night time.

Cold homes also put us at an increased risk of isolation and depression. Being too cold to get up out of bed, move around the house, invite friends over or even venture outside reduces our social interactions with neighbours, cuts us off from the outside world, and can make us feel like we are trapped in our own homes – a prisoner of the cold weather. The winter months are a dark and dismal time, but they do not have to overly-cold and lonely too.

Many of us are fortunate that we do not live in fuel poverty, or find ourselves in a heat-or-eat situation. Sadly many families and people across North Yorkshire do, and it will be a wonderful thing if we can reach these people with our messages of support and warmth – and bring Warm & Well to those who really need it most.

More information about the Warm & Well in North Yorkshire project can be found online at www.ruralyorkshire.org.uk or through calling 01904 704177. Practical and financial support is available for cold homes at risk of or living in fuel poverty, as well as a range of resources and top tips around energy efficiency and staying warm and well.

Image: Left to right – Andy Ryland, Rev. Stephen Dawson, and Candice Dowson at St Oswald’s, Horton-in-Ribblesdale.