Travelling petsitters settle in Chesterfield - and praise town's community and 'friendly group'

Meeting people is difficult when you move to a new town while lockdown and social distancing has made it tough for the elderly to keep in touch with their friends.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 9:34 am

As life takes small steps towards getting back to normal, a couple who have settled in Chesterfield are extending the hand of friendship.

John and Penny Burch have lived in countless towns around England since they retired and began looking after alpacas, ponies, chickens and dogs as pet-sitters.

Penny, 83, said: “It was a really lovely way to see the country. We would spend two weeks in a new home, a new town, and we’d get to have a little explore of areas we might not otherwise have gone to.

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John and Penny Burch have made new friends through membership of Derbyshire Peak Oddfellows friendly society.

“We got to know what we liked about different areas and what we would avoid. We began to realise that it was important for us to live in an area with a friendly community, but we also liked places that were easy to get about and were interesting to be in.”

The couple, who have five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, relocated from Worthing to Chesterfield to be near their son Philip.

As older adults moving to a new town for the last time, their social priorities included meeting people.

Penny said: "One of the first things we did when we moved was to join the Oddfellows, which I think was the best thing we could do. Everyone was very friendly - it took about five minutes to settle in. We took a taxi the first week, and by the second week we’d been offered a lift by one of the other members.

Penny and John Caunt have settled in Chesterfield after living in countless towns around England. Photo by ACJ Media/Alex Cantrill-Jones.

“I think it’s one of the few groups you join specifically to make friends, not just because you share a hobby,” she said. “ The Oddfellows is all about friendship, so there’s no worrying about the fact you won’t make friends!"

John, 88, a former aircraft engineer, said: “Moving to a new place can be daunting and you might think that people our age already have all the friends they need – but wherever we’ve been, we’ve always found that it isn’t the case.”

Meryl Caunt, branch secretary for the Derbyshire Peak Oddfellows said: “Settling into a new home or community takes time. The pandemic and social distancing restrictions have really set people back from getting to know other people, discovering their local area and feeling more settled.

“Most of our members have lived here for years and love to meet new people. So, if you’re looking to explore the area in friendly company, we’re always ready to welcome new members to our group. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived in Derbyshire for years, or have only recently moved here.

“We’ve been very busy during lockdown, looking after our members’ welfare and taking our group’ social activities online so we could stay in touch. Now we’re able to run face-to-face events again, we’re excited to welcome more people to the group.”

The next events include a social on Friday, June 25, at 7pm, a Dining In Derbyshire lunch at The Crispin Inn on Monday, June 28, at 1pm, and a talk on British Traditions on Wednesday, July 7, at 11am.

Booking is required, email: [email protected]