Keeping rural communities moving

27th June 2024

Our latest story in Essex Life highlights the issue of transport in rural communities in Essex. 

Essex has a wealth of attractions and activities. But for people living in rural areas travelling around the county and beyond can be a problem.

Bus and train services can be sparse, or non-existent in some places, meaning that those without their own forms of transport are forced to rely on friends and family, or use expensive private transport services, not only for leisure, but also for healthcare, education and employment.

For anyone unable to drive due to age, disability, or other reasons, the restrictions caused by a lack of transport can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Local charities and voluntary groups in the county are tackling the issue by developing projects including ride-sharing programmes, community buses and volunteer driver networks which are helping to improve quality of life for people of all ages in rural Essex, giving them access to affordable and reliable transport.  In addition, mobile services are providing activities for children and young people, and a safe environment where they can play and meet.

These and other projects which tackling a wide range of services in rural areas are being supported by grants from our various charitable funds:

Brentwood Community Transport has a bus called Beryl, which, over the past year, has provided a total of 32,409 passenger journeys.  The bus was named in recognition of a grant of £46,000 received from the Malcolm and Beryl Crook Fund to help buy and adapt a new minibus.  The Fund was established with ECF in 2016 following Beryl’s death and honouring her wish that it be used for the benefit of patients attending the Brentwood District Community Hospital.

The transport scheme has two vehicles running a figure of eight route around Brentwood, connecting the local high street, Brentwood and Shenfield Stations and Brentwood Community Hospital, running a scheduled timetabled service.

Tina Tickner, chief executive officer of Brentwood Community Transport said: “The passengers using the service are mainly elderly and can use their valid concessionary bus passes. The feedback they give to our organisation is how the service is their lifeline, giving them access to health services and the High Street.  Most travel on a regular basis and know our drivers by name and like to share a conversation.

“The car park at the hospital is oversubscribed so the bus reduces stress and enables them to get to their appointments and allowing time for a nice cuppa at the hospital café. The service, which has been running since 2001, was set up due to no mainstream public transport going directly into the community hospital grounds.”

Wyvern Community Transport (WCT) is an established charity that plays a pivotal role in ensuring the accessibility, wellbeing and inclusivity of the residents of Castle Point and Rochford.

The latest addition to their fleet of seven wheelchair accessible vehicles was unveiled recently at the Castle Point Borough Council offices.

Marie Davies is transport manager for WCT.  She said: “We provide a door-to-door transport service, a Dial A Ride service and Canvey Shopper schemes, all of which help to reduce exclusion and alleviate loneliness and feelings of isolation.

“Our service enables people to take part in activities that they would otherwise struggle to travel to, including social groups, lunch clubs, church groups, visiting friends and family, as well as hospital and medical appointments.”.


Uttlesford Community Travel provides a door-to-door minibus service for those who are over 60, disabled or unable to access conventional transport services.

The minibuses are wheelchair accessible, enabling all members of the community to get out and about for journeys which can include trips to the shops, hairdressers, to visit friends and garden centres.  The minibuses can also be hired for group activities during the week or at weekends for outings including trips to the coast, theatre, afternoon tea, stately homes, school trips and sports meetings.

A hospital car service is also provided for those who have difficulty getting to any type of medial appointment, including hospital, clinic, dental, opticians, by matching requests for transport with our volunteer drivers.

Mick Bott, general manager for the organisation said: “The population of Uttlesford is increasing and there is a growing difficulty of residents being able to access to public transport due to cutbacks on services in rural areas. Without our transport service many people in the community would be unable to undertake everyday activities.”.

Uttlesford Buffy Bus

Buffy the double decker playbus, regularly supported with grants from ECF, brings free fun and activities for families with young children in 15 isolated urban and rural communities throughout Uttlesford.

The 30-year-old service provides weekly play and activity sessions.  Buffy Bus also provides fun days during the school holidays.  It means that families have easy access to supervised play sessions, without having to travel and it is often the only place where families can meet.

Project manager Kerry Mattholie said: “Buffy Bus has been specially converted to provide easily accessible and supervised play for under-fives. The inspired initiative for a mobile service in a widespread rural area has proved invaluable.”

Bar’n’Bus Trust (BNB), running throughout South Essex, is a long-established and respected provider of youth work that has developed and adapted services to meet the needs of young people over the years.

Chief executive Jamie Sawtell said: “At the heart, Bar’n’Bus seeks to provide youth work support to young people ‘where they are’, taking services to them in the places that are most accessible.  This means working in public spaces like parks, high streets and skateparks, as well as making use of community facilities and linking with local schools.

“We use a bespoke vehicle for our mobile outreach service, giving young people easy access to safe drop-in spaces where they need it and offering positive activities.”

BNB has been given ongoing support by ECF over the years, including grants from the High Sheriffs’ Fund. A recent grant funded a young women’s self-defence and safety programme in Basildon.

Founded in 1993, Bar’n’Bus works in partnership with local churches, councils and schools and has delivered thousands of hours of community-based youth work, having a county-wide reach if required.  The charity is motivated by the Christian principle of compassion and exists to provide for young people’s social, emotional, physical and spiritual needs regardless of their beliefs, background or status.