Ripon Vision Support Group has been providing friendship and advice for more than 40 years to people who are living with sight loss.

The group aims to offer both practical and emotional support to enable people to live independently and stay connected with their community.

Weekly meetings are held at Allhallowgate Methodist Church and offer a diverse programme of talks, activities and entertainment.

A monthly drop-in session also provides advice, information and a display of daily living equipment, while home visits and telephone befriending can be arranged.

Ripon is a satellite group of Vision Support Harrogate District, an independent charity that also covers Harrogate, Pateley Bridge, Knaresborough and outlying villages.

The organisation has regular contact with over 300 visually impaired people across these areas, is a point of contact for 400 more and makes around 1,000 outreach visits each year.

John Mellor, who has been leading the Ripon group since 2016, said:

“For somebody who is experiencing sight loss, particularly if it is recent, they can feel very much on their own.

“So it can be incredibly valuable and comforting to access the support and information we offer, and also to be with people who understand what they are going through.”

May Livingston and daughter Marion at Ripon Vision Support Group.

Recent meetings of the group have featured demonstrations of flower arranging and Buddhist singing bowls, musical interludes and quizzes, and talks about meteorology and African adventures.

Members have also heard from the Dean of Ripon, The Very Rev John Dobson, and the Mayor of Ripon, Coun Eamon Parkin, who has chosen the group as his charity for the year.

John said:

“We have a great programme planned for the next few months, including a lunch at the Claro Lounge in June.

“Anyone who would like to join us will be made most welcome, as will their carers or relatives.

“We would also be pleased to hear from volunteers, particularly anyone willing to take on an administrative role.”

Vision Support Harrogate District was founded in 1921 to help soldiers who had lost their sight during the First World War, and was known until 2016 as the Harrogate and District Society for the Blind.

The Ripon group was set up in 1979 as a weekly social club and has been running ever since.

The charity helps people across the district to maintain their independence, access support, develop new skills, and take part in a range of social and wellbeing activities.

It works with people who have recently been diagnosed with an eye condition, are registered as sight impaired, or need help for someone they know who is experiencing sight loss.

Director Tanya Stimpson said:

“John has given so much of his time to our Ripon Vision Support Group members.

“We are very lucky to have him and our other dedicated volunteers and trustees.

“They help us provide not only vital practical support but also the everyday, life-fulfilling activities that keep our members independent and connected with their friends and communities.”

Ripon Vision Support Group meets every Tuesday from 10am to noon at Allhallowgate Methodist Church. Sessions cost £2, with a taxi service available for an additional £2.

To join the group, volunteer or make a donation, please call 01423 565 915 or email enquiries@vshd.org.uk.

Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.