Naval cadet Ben runs vital lifeline for Dartmoor residents

Isolated and vulnerable residents on the middle of Dartmoor are being helped through the pandemic by a naval cadet and his friend.

Ben Baily provides an essential delivery service to those over 70 and people with underlying health conditions, turning up twice a week with provisions.

The 21-year-old Officer Cadet, who is studying politics and international relations at Cardiff and joined the city’s University Royal Naval Unit for a taste of life in the Senior Service, set up the lifeline with his friend Sam Fabian Miller.

Ben’s home village of Manaton (population of 344) has a large number of residents in the government’s ‘at risk’ category.

On top of that public transport links are few, the nearest supermarket is a good car ride away while home delivery slots are almost impossible to book.

So the duo – dubbed ‘Sam and Ben, the delivery men’ – pop to the shops every Tuesday and Saturday morning, sourcing as much as what they can from local independent retailers, before completing the haul at a supermarket.

As well as providing vital foodstuffs, Sam and Ben check up on their ‘customers’ and provide some very welcome human interactive (at a safe social distance).

When lockdown was initiated we knew that considering the average age in our community, a lot of people were going to struggle. We really love our community and wanted to help the people in it the best we could.

Sam Fabian Miller

“When lockdown was initiated we knew that considering the average age in our community, a lot of people were going to struggle. We really love our community and wanted to help the people in it the best we could,” Sam explained.

“By providing a friendly door-to-door service for free, people get the goods they need and have a social interaction in the day.”

Given his studies, Ben knew he wouldn’t be too much use in hospital but felt duty bound to help the community he loves somehow.

“Reaction in Manaton has been wonderful and local greengrocers, butchers and supermarket have all helped us to provide this service the best they can – knowing that we are shopping for multiple people,” he added.

“It really means the world to be able to contribute to the community which has given me so much growing up.”

He continued: “One day things will be back to normal, until then we have to do the best we can and play our part. Above all I’m incredibly thankful to key workers – it’s amazing that society is recognising the incredible work they do. They are the heroes of our time.”