A COUPLE who helped to found the Bradford on Avon and District Link service have decided to step down after 26 years.

Rowena Quantrill, 79, and her husband Bill, 82, of Newtown, helped to start the community service after moving to Bradford on Avon.

“We had just moved to the town and thought it would be a nice way to get to know people,” said Mrs Quantrill.

“We asked to sign up as volunteers and Bill was one of the first drivers. On his first drive, he took Gladys Fry to the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

“He didn’t know the way there and she had a very vague idea of where it was so they went a very long way round.”

Over the past 26 years, Mr Quantrill reckons he has clocked up more than 50,000 miles driving clients who have contacted the Link service.

The scheme provides a ‘good neighbour’ community service for people who have no access to transport to attend local GP medical or hospital appointments or who need to visit shops.

While Bill did the driving, Rowena became a volunteer coordinator and a committee member, putting drivers in touch with the clients, and interviewing new volunteers.

Bill eventually served five years as chairman of BoA and District Link, and was its treasurer for seven years from 1995 to 2002.

He never regarded the driving as a chore, despite numerous early morning starts, and says the only time it became arduous was during icy and snowy conditions.

When they helped to found the scheme, BoA and District Link had 6-8 volunteers; it now has more than 50 but is constantly seeking more drivers and coordinators.

John Griffin, chairman of Bradford on Avon and District Link, said: "Bill and Rowena have been involved in Bradford on Avon Link from the very earliest days.

"For some years Bill was our chairman, and coordinators now themselves retired from Link were shown the ropes by Rowena.

"They were always enthusiastic about Link and helpful to fellow volunteers. It will hard to imagine Link without them."

The couple have decided to step down because the scheme has plans to introduce a new computer system.

“We were thinking of retiring anyway,” said Rowena. “We did not think it was worth trying to learn how to use a new computer system.

“I do feel quite bad about it, as we are going to leave a hole and it definitely needs filling, as they need more people.”

Community First, which runs the Wiltshire Link schemes, says they are seeking more volunteers.

Spokeswoman Ros Griffiths said: “Demand for the service is growing and the local Link team urgently needs volunteer drivers to help support the service.

“Link schemes help to keep local communities connected to vital services, by connecting volunteer drivers (using their own cars), with passengers who have limited access to transport.

“Depending on volunteer availability, this can involve taking someone to a medical appointment, taking them shopping or providing ‘good neighbour’ services like prescription collection.

“It needs more telephone coordinators who work from home with a mobile phone ,usually for a couple of days a month, and volunteer drivers who provide transport using their own car, with mileage expenses being refunded.”

For more information or to volunteer, please call 07957 367124, or 01380 722 241, or email: linkproject@communityfirst.org.uk