Cans of beans, cat food and more are displayed in the window of The Music Box Shop, a business that has adapted quickly in response to the pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, the family-run shop in Whitchurch Village specialises in musical instruments and fine musical boxes but when lockdown restrictions came into play, the owners set the premises up as a grocery store selling essential items for the neighbourhood.
“It meant we could stay open,” says Sue Dean, who runs the business with her husband. “Also, there is no corner shop here so during lockdown, to save people the worry of going to the supermarket, we stocked the essentials and it’s gone from there.”
The range of goods stocked in the temporary village shop has expanded in line with requests from customers and Sue also organises deliveries for those who are unable to get out to shop.
Sue says it is likely they will carry on selling groceries in some capacity even once lockdown restrictions are fully lifted, adding: “It’s been great being able to help the community and seeing new people. We’ve helped them and they’ve helped us.”
The shop on Bristol Road is a welcome beacon of light in the village, which is otherwise quiet late on Friday afternoon but for the steady stream of traffic passing through. A lone dog walker heads briskly past Whitchurch Millennium Garden on the corner, where a vast stone etched with the words Whitchurch Village is set in neat, colourful flower beds.
Earlier in the afternoon, the cluster of essential shops open in Stockwood were doing a steady trade as people popped in to get their groceries after school and work. A customer in McColl’s held the door open for a man making his way inside in a wheelchair. Around the corner, the door of Stockwood Charcoal Grill was getting a thorough clean before the evening service.
Most people weren’t hanging about in the cold November air, but a couple of friends paused for a quick chat outside the pharmacy, one filling the other in about his latest shift pattern.
On a notice board by the big volunteer-maintained planters, a sign advertises the local food club. This is a community initiative that helps reduce food waste and supports families in the Stockwood, Hengrove and Whitchurch areas through providing a range of good quality food for £3.50 per week.
Over on Hengrove Mounds Nature Reserve, the afternoon rain was failing to dampen the enthusiasm of two small children and their spaniel, who were each jumping gleefully in the numerous puddles on the flat concrete stretch. A man gave them a wide berth as he strolled past, eating chips out of a box under the cover of a big blue umbrella.
Nearby, Hengrove Playpark and Café was standing quiet, with just a couple of hardy toddlers making the most of the rain-soaked play equipment. Signs fixed to the surrounding gates and fences remind people to maintain a safe social distance and an industrial-sized hand sanitiser is positioned next to the playpark entrance.
In Hengrove Leisure Park, there were plenty of cars queuing at the drive-thru for McDonald’s and KFC, but the vast Cineworld building across the car park is dark and empty, with no films to promote for as long as lockdown lasts.
Up the hill, Hengrove Leisure Centre was similarly deserted, not even a waft of chlorine to smell through its closed doors. In contrast, the site across the road was bustling with noise as work continues on the Advanced Construction Skills Centre, due to open in September 2021 next to the South Bristol Skills Academy.
Outside the entrance to South Bristol Community Hospital, a nurse chatted cheerfully to an elderly patient in a wheelchair as she walked briskly with her across the forecourt, providing a reassuring voice in uncertain times.
All photos by Ellie Pipe