LONELY residents in Pinehurst, Penhill and Gorse Hill can expect a box of Christmas cheer later this month.

Boxes filled with Christmas puddings, chocolates and other treats will be delivered to people on their own by Central Swindon North Parish Council.

The council hopes to double the number of hampers they deliver. Last year, 80 boxes were delivered. Parish clerk Andy Reeves wants to increase that to 150.

He thanked businesses like One Stop that had already offered non-perishable items like cans of soup and Christmas puddings, but appealed for more people to back the Christmas hamper campaign.

“We provide them with a free hamper of food that has been donated to us by local business and residents,” Andy said. “We go round in the van the week before Christmas and deliver it.

“It’s surprising how many people need it. On one occasion I went into a lady’s house in Penhill and she told me I was the first person to have gone into her house since 2009. Her husband had died and her son had died in the 1980s. I was in bits in the car. It was just horrific.”

In each hamper are around 10 to 15 items, including puddings, toiletries and chocolates. A particular favourite each year tends to be boxes of After Eights or Matchmakers.

“Our target is 150 hampers. We’re probably about halfway there already,” said Andy.

He praised the strong community spirit in the parish: “I’m really quite taken aback by the number of neighbours who look out for people on their own. They’ll notice when newspapers haven’t been pushed through the door.

“That sense of community in Penhill particularly is absolutely immense. I’ve worked all over the country and I’d never seen anything like it.”

Nationally, it has been estimated that one in 10 pensioners are lonely all or most of the time, putting the figure in Swindon at more than 33,000.

Last week, South Swindon MP Robert Buckland hosted a meeting for organisations working to tackle loneliness

He said: "It was really good to bring people together from different corners of the community to drill down into the causes of loneliness and work out an integrated approach we can use to tackle them.”

To donate to the Central Swindon North Parish Council Christmas hamper campaign, leave non-perishable foods and toiletries at the Pinetrees Community Centre, The Circle, Pinehurst.

For more, call the parish office on: 01793466499.