CRL - Community Rail Lancashire

Sewing Seeds To Sewing Threads

Community Rail groups right across the country have shown time and time again the advantages of the railway and the local community coming together bringing benefits to all. The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges for everyone and solutions for many.  The Rail Community nationally has stepped up to the plate and the Community Rail Partnership on the South Fylde Line, which runs from Blackpool South via St Anne’s and Kirkham to Preston is no exception.

Volunteers at St Anne’s Station, Shellene Divall and Christine Holland joined together to buy material and sew up ‘scrubs’ for use by Hospital and Care Home staff. Shared emails and posts on social media seeking donations towards the cost of the necessary material were fruitful and within a few days they were delivering sets of scrubs to Blackpool’s Victoria Hospital.

They were then joined by Ansdell & Fairhaven station adopter Karen Cornforth who began making caps for nurses moved on to wash bags and then on to sewing up sets of scrubs.

Other volunteers associated with stations along the line made donations and by then the Divall-Holland duo were sourcing ever larger quantities of material with financial and cash flow implications. Further donations and grants were sought and one of the first to respond was Community Rail Lancashire – a request for a relatively modest sum was upped and a bank transfer of £500 took place within less than 24 hours.

St Anne’s Town Council also generously responded to a similar request and £200 was secured towards the project. Individual donations either in kind or in monetary terms continue. Spare and redundant pillowcases were collected and delivered by bike from and to various locations along the South Fylde Line.

The response from local businesses has been great too.

Fancy Dress clothing company Dragon’s Den, of St Anne’s has been cutting out the material for the gowns using industrial machines, making the task much easier.

Karen commented

“Here I am making scrub bags and scrub hats, I was running short of thread so asked on a local Facebook site for some thread, the response was amazing various local people have donated thread, including Alex from Taveners in Lytham.”

Bizzie Fingers of St Anne’s has been helping with sewing supplies material and expertise too.

It’s not just the older generation who have answered the call. Shellene’s 11 year old daughter has also become involved and was offering hand sewn face masks and wrist bands for a donation, trading from their garden wall.

The social media channels along the South Fylde Line, (almost every station has a Facebook page) have worked wonders allow people to offer services and donations.  The links established through Community Rail activities, Station Adoption groups and regular communications with all has helped to energise this project.

The community have come together with the rail line as an essential connector.  A rainbow, chalked on a rather uninspiring concrete fence on one station designed to lift spirits following the death of a loved one has developed into an army of people beavering away in support of health care professionals.  A tragedy for some but at the same time bringing the best out in others.


Christine – this is how it started 3 weeks ago when I emailed family and friends:

Seeing all that’s going on makes me feel very grateful to our front-line workers. I was thinking about what I could do in a constructive way to help while clapping for them on a Thursday evening.

Shellene, my niece, was off work – she is a care giver- with shingles, due to stress. She finds working on her sewing machine a way of relaxing and would like to make scrubs for the NHS.

So here’s my idea – how about sponsoring a set?

Shellene has a set of sewing mates so I don’t think she will be overwhelmed if we all sponsor.

Oh and me what will I do? Sourcing & cutting out the material which will be at the limit of my ability.

Christine commented;

It has been a steep learning curve in cutting out the patterns – luckily Shellene, my expert, to help me get it right!

Now a wonderful man has offered to use his factory to machine cut the scrubs. So Shellene can deliver cut sets to the small army of her sewing bunnies making production so much quicker.

We have branched out from supporting Blackpool Victoria to supplying medical practices across St Anne’s and from making scrubs to scrub hats and scrub bags as well as masks.

We have raised over £2000. It costs about £10 to make a set of scrubs, now that I can negotiate prices, so we will be able to produce a lot of sets. The left-over pieces of material are used to make the hats and masks etc. Donated pillowcases have been turned into scrub bags.

On Monday Shellene and I delivered our first batch of scrubs to Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

More scrubs will follow in the coming weeks. On Friday we handed over 8 full sets of scrubs to King St Medical Centre in Blackpool.

We are currently working on 15 sets for Parcliffe Medical Centre, Durham Ave., St Anne’s. (Editor note the Medical Centre sits right alongside the rail and part of its carpark was former Platform 2 at St Anne’s station).