ON the long road to Shap, you do not find many public services and not at the tiny roadside hamlet of Watchgate, Selside.
There’s no shop, no bus into Kendal and the post office shut years ago as did the local pub.
Even the BT call box has been decommissioned and has nettles growing in it.
So it was a momentous day when it was announced that Cumbria County Council was bringing the mobile library back to Watchgate after 10 years – returning every month despite the climate of cutbacks.
And it is a major victory for the doggedness of keen reader and widow Wendy Chandler, 74, who does not drive, has not got a computer, rarely bothers with TV and is virtually housebound.
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Mrs Chandler, a grandmother of seven, of Watchgate, explained: “I sat in an armchair one day with the telephone in my hand and mithered people for a day.
“I rang the county council up and said: ‘What about our services?’ There are elderly people here. There’s nothing here apart from the bin men and they’re miracle workers. Them and the postmen, God bless them.”
Her complaints found a sympathetic ear with staff at Kendal Library, who worked with council bosses to get the mobile library back to Watchgate.
As Wendy explained: “When they said it was coming back I nearly went down the line and kissed them, I couldn’t believe it.”
At 9.10am yesterday (Wednesday), residents came from their homes to watch mobile library man Sam Tarbuck, 40, pull up with an estimated 1,000 books, DVDs and audio-books on-board the bus which has over 128,000 miles on the clock.
Browsing the latest Maeve Binchy best-seller, happy resident Margaret Tallon, 63, said: “I don’t go into Kendal really so this is going to make it a lot easier and hopefully I’ll start reading a lot more.”
And relative Joyce Tallon, 58, who recently retired, added: “I’m not a reader but this will get me into reading and it’s now on my doorstep. I wanted to start now that I have the time again.”
The significance of the mobile library’s return to the isolated community ahead of winter was not lost on Mrs Chandler’s youngest son, Peter Sampson, 47, who saw his mum choose books including Pam Ayers’ memoirs and a Joanne Trollope novel.
Mobile library driver Sam Tarbuck said: “The service we provide is about more than books. Books are the main reason but even in this age of computers, there are still people out there who are more isolated, live in the middle of nowhere and don’t drive. Yet they come out, get on and are chatting away – it’s really nice.”
A beaming Mrs Chandler said: “I’m thrilled to bits, I really am. I do hope local people support it.”
A county council spokesperson said “The service was able to accommodate this because it was logistically possible to add Watchgate to the start of one of our existing mobile library routes. It’s not something we would normally be able to do because our mobile libraries operate at full capacity, but as there appears to be a demand locally for the service, we were able to fit it in on this occasion.”
The library next calls at Watchgate on Sept 10, Oct 8, Nov 5 and Dec 3 at around 9.10am.
n The library also calls at Dodding Holme, Mealbank, Calgarth Park, Ings, Bowland Bridge, Dawson’s Fold, The Row, Crosthwaite, Underbarrow, Brigsteer