Community pulls together for snowbound Leuchie House

Walking through snow blizzards, tractor rescue, and 4x4 rides across the fields are just some of the ways staff have made it to work at East Lothian respite centre Leuchie House in recent days.

The incredible efforts of staff and members of the local community enabled Leuchie to continue to provide specialist care to its guests after being cut off by the heaviest snow the area has experienced in years.

Located on a rural estate, two miles above North Berwick, Leuchie House is Scotland’s only dedicated respite centre delivering short breaks to people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions. As the snow set in last Wednesday, Leuchie’s management team took the decision to start sending some staff home, particularly those with young children, leaving a core team of nine nursing and care staff.

Leuchie’s Head of Operations, Becky Everett explains: “No one could have anticipated how bad it was going to be. It is very rare in this part of East Lothian to have weather as extreme as it has been. The way staff have responded has been remarkable. Our core team stayed on site from Wednesday to Saturday, sleeping over to make sure our guests got the level of care they need.

“Then others took incredible measures to reach us, walking through horrendous conditions from North Berwick to reach Leuchie. Four of our staff made it through on Thursday, one with the help of a local farmer, which was a godsend. Due to the nature of their conditions, our guests care needs can change at any time and it is vital they have round-the-clock care and support. Our staff know that which is why they were determined to make personal sacrifices and do whatever they had to do to get here.”

By Friday, with supplies running low and staff exhausted, an appeal on a North Berwick Facebook page brought an immediate response from the community.

“The support from local people has been remarkable,” says Leuchie’s Business Development Manager, Carolyn Roulstone. “With the roads completely impassable due to 10-15 foot snow drifts and abandoned cars, we needed specialist help to get people and supplies in. Local man, Duncan Barbour, who runs a 4x4 driving company, saw our appeal and offered to do whatever he could to help us. Along with a team from Foxlake Adventures and North Berwick RNLI, they began by attempting a trial run to see if they could make it to Leuchie.  Using Google maps, they worked out a possible route over the fields, winching in a special heavy duty vehicle to cut a path through. After this successful first attempt, they set about devising a system to get staff and supplies in by 4x4, bringing much needed reinforcements to help out the core team of staff on site.”

Many other locals have provided welcome support too. On Thursday, farmer James Logan made his way over the country roads from Athelstaneford in his tractor to deliver potatoes, eggs and home-made cake. Another local farmer Tom Tait and his partner Caroline, cleared access roads and the driveway up to Leuchie House, rescued one of Leuchie’s nurses when her car got stuck in the snow, put another member of the team up overnight, and brought meat from their freezer.

Carolyn Roulstone continues: “There are so many stories of how local people have gone above and beyond. One man responded to our call for help on social media by filling a rucksack with food and walking through the heavy snow from North Berwick to drop it off. A palliative care nurse who lives locally came in with Duncan and his team for the day to help out our care team. Another local man with a 4x4 collected our cook and head nurse on Saturday to make sure they could finally get to work. And two ladies who live on the Leuchie estate gave up their time to help out in our laundry and with washing dishes.

“People always say you get the true measure of those around you in difficult times, and I can honestly say we couldn’t live in a more supportive community. The help we have had has been amazing, allowing us to ensure the care and welfare of our guests. Our guests have appreciated this enormously which has made it even more rewarding for everyone.

“Leuchie House is always a very special place to work, with very special people. It’s at times like these that you realise just how lucky you are to be part of such a great team.”