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BradTog Stories

Find out more about the projects that BradTog has supported. We are always keen to support anyone who would like to start a group or project within our community

           The 'Mental Health Matters' Project 


This information, support and advice project initially arose from concern following the tragic death of a local resident who ended their life at the Hele railway crossing. They were not the first. This was very sad in itself but also raised concern for the future and awareness that there were no offers of help at the Hele crossing for any needing it. There also seemed to be  considerable scope for our community to become more aware and more prepared to speak about suicidal thoughts and feelings, and also have more understanding and confidence in supporting one another and knowing where else to turn. This gave rise to the Mental Health Matters project led by members of the BradTog board, which over the 12 months of its active life it was able to:


  • Form a supportive relationship with Network Rail South West, leading to signposting at the Hele crossing advising arriving there in distress that The Samaritans were always available and willing to listen, with care and kindness, to distress and difficulty.


  • Gather an interest group of more than 65 ‘interested’ local people, including personal connections with local business’ including all four public houses, both garages and the shop. It had supportive links with Recovery Devon, the Devon Recovery Learning Community, Mole Valley Farmers and the Samaritans. During lockdown these formed an online communication network as a foundation for other activities.


  • Publication of 35 weekly ‘Mental Health Matters’ postings, between November 2020 and July 2021,  initially by email to the interest group and online links, with encouragement to share widely. These offered interesting insights and practical suggestions for self-care and in seeking help for all kinds of mental health issues


  • Hosting of two online ‘suicide awareness’ training sessions run by skilled trainers from Pete’s Dragons and The Samaritans, in collaboration with the Town Council


  • Hosting two 2 day in-person free Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course at the Cricket club, for 25 local people. Supported by both the Town Council and Network Rail South West


  • Successful application for a £750 community development grant from Recovery Devon


  • Publicity for successive national ‘Mental Health Awareness’ weeks and ‘World Mental Health’ days


  • Publicity around the health benefits of ‘walking in nature’ led to creating a project group which designed and published two volumes of ‘Bradninch Walks’ guides, 420 of which were much appreciated and distributed for free via the SPAR. This was supported financially the Mid Devon CC, and personally by Bradninch Town council and some remarkable individuals … in particular Jim and Sue.


By late 2021 with relaxing of lockdown arrangements and people venturing out and into their personal lives again it seemed appropriate to wind down the additional support offered by our local MHM group. BUT MENTAL HEALTH STILL MATTERS … and BradTog would welcome and seek to support any approaches from people wishing to develop a mental health support project or activity for the Town.

          Open Workspace 2020

The global COVID19 pandemic made rapid and long lasting changes on the location people had to work from.  In the summer of 2020 employees were furloughed, firms re-thought how to maintain trading and required employees to work from home (WFH).

BradTog recognised that WFH in unsuitable circumstances may cause stress, isolation and loneliness. WFH was impractical where there were children or high need dependants in the house. The loss of personal connections and support derived from colleagues was seen as impacting on mental health.

To counter the impact on wellbeing BradTog offered an 8 week Open Work Space, at the Kensham Club in a Covid compliant space.   Open to all as an alternative place to work, a reason to get out the house, a change of scenery, spend some time working with a coffee and company our aim being to mitigate anxiety and isolation. TESCO provided £500 of funding, which paid for the room hire.

The concept of the Open Work Space met with universal approval, everyone thought it a good idea, however this did not translated into attendance. We can only speculate why only a few people took up the offer, on reflection the whole country was still in a state of shock and staying home may have seemed the safest, if not the easiest option.

The community may not have used Open Work Space to the level hoped for but, the initiative generated a great deal of positivity and awareness BradTog’s ability to react to a challenge in an imaginative way.

         BradTog Initiative: BRADAID from April 2020

As well as Bradninch Together’s ‘acts of kindness’ which range from collecting shopping, to raising mental health awareness, in April 2020 BradTog launched the BradAid fund. Open to those living in Bradninch & Hele we offer help in response to financial difficulties. BradAid is a hardship fund. 

We decided to give non-refundable, non-judgemental, cash grants….. Something different from other sources of assistance and immensely helpful when food is short of the energy meter has run out. Cash addresses the immediate need.

BradAid gives quick access to grants of 4 x £50 over 12 months to those in need.  Funds are donated by local people and organisations. Each grant is designed to help with a crisis and in 2023 the majority of applications need food or an energy top-up.  Applications are confidential and bank details are not kept.

The fund has continued and as of August 2023 helped by:

  • Supporting 68 different households

  • Awarding over 227 grants

  • Distributing  over £11,700

What is worth noting is the pressure on household finances that was acknowledge in the pandemic years has not let up. BradAid tries to help all who apply but, single parents with preschool children are under the most strain. The fund may not be sustainable as donations are falling.  

         Storm Eunice and Emergency Plan

Storm Eunice hit Bradninch on Friday 18 February 2022. The day before a red ‘danger to life’ weather warning had been issued by the UK Met Office. Homes in Bradninch lost power from Friday mid-morning, for some the power would not be restored until Monday 21st. The weather was bitterly cold. Storm Eunice killed four people across the UK over the weekend.

On the Saturday morning in Bradninch, it was clear that vulnerable people were not able to make a hot drink, heat food, or charge phones. BradTog personnel and a Town Councillor opened the Guildhall, (which had electricity) they then sourced supplies, rallied volunteers and commenced sending hot water and food to anyone who was identified as needing support. The Guildhall became a hub for townsfolk to drop in for news updates, drinks, hot food, hot water and phone charging. The response of those who took charge that morning was organic and although unstructured and unofficial, it was the appropriate response to the emergency. The settling up of an emergency hub, making contact with households and sending hot water etc. was universally appreciated.

In the aftermath, the questions of who are the town’s leaders and what resources were available in an emergency where asked … no clear answers came. No one made reference to the Town Council’s Emergency Plan and the Town Trust objected to the Guildhall being used. Clearly a review was needed.

Sue Eakers, a BradTog, Director offered to attend training, apply for funding, coordinate community consultation and oversee the rewriting of a resilience strategy on behalf of Bradninch Town Council. It is the Town Council who has a legal duty to prepare for emergencies.  Devon Communities Resilience Forum provided expertise and funding. Cllr Jim Porteous provided maps and graphics and was the main driver within the Town Council,

The Bradninch & Hele Emergency Plan will be published in 2023 and pulls together the physical and human resources held by the Town Council, the Town Trust and Bradninch Together. The plan formally defines who is responsible in an emergency, what they might do, with whom and where to locate.

         Bradninch Talks 20-21 


Bradninch Talks arose out of a desire for a newcomer to Bradninch, Kate Beith, to talk to a number of people in the Town and share the recordings in the community.  A series of brief video clips of Bradninch townspeople in conversation talking about aspects of  their life took place. At the end of each clip with the interviewee's chosen piece of music was played. The goals of the project were to: 

  1. create a  resource for anyone in the community to access;

  2.  hi light the breadth of the Bradninch community;

  3. develop an archive of Bradninch voices to ad to existing recordings;

  4. enable connections within the community.

A series of brief 5 to 6 minute video clips were made with a common format of a natural dialogue with key prompt questions/comments  asked by the interviewer to encourage the Bradninch Talks guests to share aspects of their lives. The key questions were around their role in the Bradninch community and a discussion about the effects of lockdown  as these were recorded during the covid pandemic. ​

The aims of the project were to create a resource for the community on Vimo linked from the website and Facebook page

To create an archive by capturing the voices in the Town at different stages and from different perspectives

To create informal links with people in the community

A series of brief video clips of Bradninch townspeople in conversation talking about aspects of  their life.

Each interviewee will then pick a name out of a “hat’ of the next person to be chosen. These names will be initially recommended by the Steering Group and Coordinators with a reason for why they have been chosen. This may enable the interviewer to say i.e. “The next person we are going to talk to is 99 year old Brian Brown who has mowed our bowls club lawn every week since he was 16!”.

Sarah and Rosie carried out the interviews which can be seen on the Bradninch Talks page. Anthony and Sofie as BradTog Directors, supported the project. The project has six interviews to date and can be continued at any time. Kate has since become a Director of BradTog.

       The Bradninch Town Community Fair

In September 2021 a group of local townsfolk got together to organise a low key event for the Town post covid.  Sophie West sowed the seed for a much needed community gathering post                   Covid. The idea was to create an inclusive  community event by the community for the community so that groups and individuals taking part could make a small profit for their organisations. The Bradninch Community Fair was born! 2023 sees the 3rd Fair with contributions by local businesses, musicians, organisations, performers and creative makers. Folks are invited to take their own picnics or take advantage of  all the food and beverage offerings are from local companies and organisations

         The popular Bradninch Bolt, led by Molly Southwood is in its third year and is an open entry family run              around Bradninch, finishing on the Cricket field where the main part of the fair is held.

The produce show and scarecrow competition            (with sustainable scarecrows displayed around the Town) are in their second year and already drawing interest. It is hoped that the Fair will continue to evolve as new people become involved. 

BradTog supports the marketing and financial administration of the fair.




The Bradninch Warm Welcome initiative, aka the Winter Project, ran from 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023, with funding from Devon County Council’s ‘Growing Communities Fund’. The Town Council submitted the bid on behalf of many groups in town: the bid was devised by BradTog and the Council working together. The Project provided warm and secure spaces for residents to enjoy a range of activities and, most importantly, to meet and engage with others. The activities were advertised through a new marketing strategy, reaching people through posters, local magazines and social media. In March, for example, the new What’s On calendar listed 47 separate events, across 19 different groups.


A number of events were designed to build self-reliance and community resilience. Examples included the Wednesday Warm Welcome sessions at St Disen’s Church Hall, where each week up to fifty residents met to talk and eat, with volunteers providing free coffee and refreshments. The value of being able to share stories and experiences, and to build mutually supportive relationships, was reflected in the fact that the sessions continued to run into the summer.


Sustainable Bradninch ran a series of monthly meetings, funded by the Winter Project, which helped build both community resilience and responded to the climate emergency. In February, for example, the topic was about planning the future for themselves and the community. Visiting speakers explained methods of household insulation and easy reductions in energy costs.


One important strand of the What’s On strategy was pointing people towards events and sessions where food and drink was available, often at no cost because of Project funding. These included the Wednesday Warm Welcome and the Newspaper & Coffee Lounge (both no cost), the Community Cafe at the Baptist Church and Saturday Coffee Mornings at the Guildhall. Since Christmas, refreshments were also available at no charge at the Bumps, Babies and Beyond weekly meetings for parents and pre-school children: the numbers attending doubled.


In a typical week up to 100 people attended activities directly funded by the Winter Project, with an age range from babies to the elderly. Another 200 residents or more attended events signposted by the Project. In addition, there were monthly meetings funded by the Project, including the Family Film Shows: together these attracted on average another 75+ people. Well over 100 residents attended other monthly and one-off events advertised by the Project. Thus, the monthly attendance at events promoted, and often funded, by the Winter Project, was in the region of 1,400. Given the wide range of activities and locations, it would seem that at least 500 individuals attended at least one of the activities each month, if not each week. The numbers rose as the Project developed and became more widely known.


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