‘It is nice to have a chat with people and just catch up with a nice cup of tea’

The Good Companions group that meets at Holy Rood Church Gosport Road in Stubbington is facing closure''Picture:  Malcolm Wells (160114-5476)
The Good Companions group that meets at Holy Rood Church Gosport Road in Stubbington is facing closure''Picture: Malcolm Wells (160114-5476)
Haverhill's Family Christmas Night (as pictured from last year) takes place on Friday, December 1. Picture by Andy Mayes.

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It provides people with companionship and the chance to get out of the house but falling membership could see a club close down.

The Good Companions club in Stubbington might have held its final meeting last week as dwindling numbers mean its future looks bleak.

Valerie Wadham, 85, at the Good Companions club Picture:  Malcolm Wells (160114-4870)

Valerie Wadham, 85, at the Good Companions club Picture: Malcolm Wells (160114-4870)

The fortnightly club for older people has been going for more than 20 years and is something its members look forward to.

For many, it has helped them meet new people and stopped them feeling isolated.

But that could all be gone unless it gets a boost in the number people attending.

Husband and wife Betty and Walter McGimpsey have been attending the group since last year. They enjoy going as anyone is welcome.

Walter McGimpsey with his wife Betty (160114-4869)

Walter McGimpsey with his wife Betty (160114-4869)

Betty, from Stubbington, says: ‘I’ve only been coming to the group for a little while but we love attending the meetings.

‘It’s such a good group because it’s somewhere I can come with my husband.

‘A lot of the clubs in this area are women-only and I can’t leave Walter on his own because he has dementia.

‘It would be hard for me to find other places we can go together and we would end up staying indoors all the time.’

Walter agrees. He adds: ‘My wife is always getting us to try new things and new hobbies and I enjoy coming along to Good Companions.

‘It is very good for company and meeting new people.

‘Everyone is friendly and very kind.’

For many of the members, the laid-back approach of the group is something they like.

Sylvie Beard has been going to the group for six years, since moving from Kent.

She says: ‘It would be a shame if it closes.

‘The club runs twice a month and you pay a small yearly membership fee but it isn’t much.

‘The group is good because it’s no hassle – you can just come and go.’

Sylvie also likes the range of activities at the fortnightly meetings.

She adds: ‘We often get a speaker in and do other activities such as bingo and a raffle.

‘We sometimes have someone come in and sing for us with a guitar and there are trips to garden centres and such.’

The group has been meeting on Thursday afternoons at the Holy Rood Church hall, off Gosport Road.

The sessions usually last up to two hours and member June Lang, from Stubbington, thinks it is a lovely way to spend her afternoons.

She is a regular attender but would like to see more events in the village during the day time.

She says: ‘It’s good to be able to come here as a lot of other events for older people are in the evening.

‘We need more going on during the afternoon.

‘There are things such as the tea dance but obviously it’s harder to go out late and not everyone can travel and deal with the buses.’

She adds: ‘It’s a friendly village but all we can really do during the day is wander about and have a look in the shops.

‘There are other groups in Lee-on-the-Solent but then there’s the problem of getting there and back.’

At the moment, the group has about 25 members but not everyone can make the meetings on a regular basis.

Organiser Valerie Wadham says that a combination of people getting older and ill-health has seen the group get smaller and smaller.

She enjoys the trips out that are run throughout the year.

‘I think people will miss the trips that we organise,’ she says.

‘We don’t go on many but they were always a lot of fun.

‘We would spend the day at Hill Head and I think members would miss the days out there. We always seemed to be lucky with the weather too.

‘Over the years, we have been seeing less people joining us and really, it is thanks to the people who have been coming for many years that we are still going.’

One of those regular members is Sheila Shayler from Stubbington.

The 86-year-old joined the group 10 years ago when she first moved to the area.

She says: ‘I got involved because I was new to Stubbington and wanted to meet people.

‘I first came down with a neighbour which was about 10 years ago.

‘The rest, you could say, is history.’

Sheila likes speaking to the members and seeing what people have been getting up to.

She adds: ‘It is nice to have a chat with people and just catch up with a nice cup of tea.

‘It would be a real shame if it did end.

‘There isn’t much else to do in the village.

‘It is important that people know that Good Companions is open and here for people.

‘The only other club I go to is for bereaved people so there isn’t much range.

‘It would be a pity if it closed and there was nothing to replace it.

‘But there are fewer and fewer people coming along.’

Sheila says most clubs in the area cater for younger people but it would be nice to see a wider variety for older people.

She says otherwise there isn’t much opportunity to make friends.

‘Meeting people is the thing that I get out of it most,’ she says.

‘Some people don’t have the chance to get out that much.

‘Although it is only once a fortnight, it is much nicer than having a whole month without seeing anyone.

‘Not everyone has families around so for people who live on their own and don’t have many visitors, it is nice for them to have something to do. That is the main benefit.

‘Valerie has done so much and organises so much to get interesting speakers here and different activities for us to do.’

For more information on the group or to join go along to their meetings on the second and fourth Thursday of the month.