How coronavirus crisis has helped new Shrewsbury neighbours become best friends
As the song goes, everybody needs good neighbours, and residents on one new housing estate in Shrewsbury have found they have just that.
Sovereign Park, off Ottley Road, has been built over the last year or so, with the last home sold only recently.
As with many new developments, residents didn't really know each other - until the coronavirus pandemic prompted the launch of a Facebook page.
Now residents are getting to know each other, if only online, and making sure everyone, from the youngest to the eldest, is coping with the government lockdown.
From doing shopping for each other and putting out the bins to cooking a giant curry and giving advice over baby teething problems the residents have made friends in super quick time.
They are also starting online quizzes and even online 'pub nights', sharing photos of them having a Friday evening beer or glass of wine.
And they are already planning a big street party for when things get back to normal.
The page was the idea of resident Elaine Powney, who said: "I have lived here for almost a year but with work commitments I didn’t meet anyone apart from my immediate neighbours.
"When we started getting the coronavirus restrictions I put flyers through letter boxes asking if anyone would like to join the Facebook group I was setting up."
In just 24 hours there were about 70 members and there are now well over 100.
Elaine said she was amazed and humbled.
"Now I feel like I live in a proper community, everyone has been so kind and supportive. I live alone and would have felt very isolated without this group."
Her efforts have been praised.
Emma Downey, living on the development with husband Rich and sons Alfie and Bobby, said: "We have lived here since July, everybody has been so supportive during this time and we are so lucky to live by such amazing people. Especially Elaine, she set up the group and since doing this the community spirit has kept everyone’s hopes up ."
Alex Harrowell and partner Luke Gregory live on the development with their son Atticus.
When the lockdown saw Luke laid off from his role as head chef at a local restaurant he took home ingredients that would have gone to waste and made an enormous batch of pheasant curry to share with the neighbours.
"We'd already made a few friends before all this started but we had no idea how wonderful, friendly and generous our neighbours are until this group was made by the lovely Elaine," Alex said.
"Luke is hoping to do some more cooking for everyone soon but in the meantime it's been great to see how everyone is supporting each other at such a challenging time. As a key worker I have my own anxiety about having to go to work but this group has helped me feel calmer as I know we're not alone in this."
Sammy Hughes lives with her eleven-month-old son and said she hadn't really got to know anyone previously.
"It’s his first birthday soon and I was worrying for my mental health being left isolating with a teething baby," she said.
"But after Elaine set up this group we have really pulled together. If I need advice there has always been someone free to message. I’ve had apples, pheasant stew, teething gel and phone calls from several neighbours who I probably wouldn’t have met is it wasn’t for Elaine bringing us together."
Single parent Sarah Cartwright moved in in November and had only met her next door neighbours.
"Having this group is a lifeline to the outside world and even better they are all local so if I need help I know who/where to ask," she said.
This was echoed by Caroline Booth who moved in January with her sons, not knowing anybody.
She said: "I keep myself to myself and don't like asking for help but this group has showed me there is great community spirit and kind people out there. I'm very pleased I moved to such a nice place."
One of the older members, Margaret Russell said: " I live on my own, having moved from Scotland after losing my partner 15 months ago . I moved to be nearer my son and his wife. My house is tucked away and I have lovely neighbours on either side, but this group and the chats have been just wonderful."
Summing up the feeling on the estate was Katie Penny who lives with her partner and children Harry and Betsy.
"Before all the coronvirus we felt isolated as our house is tucked away in a quiet cul de sac but thanks to this amazing group of people we feel part of an extended family and know that we all have each other's backs."