“Making a difference to rural communities throughout Suffolk”

About Us

The Rural Coffee Caravan started up in 2003 to tackle rural isolation and promote community spirit.

The Project was the brainchild of the Rev Canon Sally Fogden. Sally was manning a helpline in Suffolk for the Farm Crisis Network (a national charity providing wide ranging support for the farming community in the UK) and felt very strongly that there was a need to do something to combat the stress of rural isolation.

Sally and some colleagues hit upon the idea of a mobile community cafe and information centre. So they purchased a caravan, gathered together some relevant information, made some cakes and took the caravan into rural Suffolk.

Their little enterprise was an instant hit and, encouraged by this response they applied for and received some funding and the Rural Coffee Caravan was born.

The caravan started out visiting rural communities in Mid Suffolk during the summer months. A second vehicle was eventually obtained – a campervan, which could visits village halls and coffee mornings year-round. Since then, the project has spread its wings across the whole of the county and continued to grow. There are now three campervans as well as our caravan and our services are able to reach even more rural communities across Suffolk.

The information provided by the Coffee Caravan has helped many people gain access to the benefits, services and information they need and in one exceptional case played a fundamental part in the village of Bruisyard building a village hall.

The Coffee Caravan also helps foster community spirit by bringing people together in a relaxed social atmosphere to just chat and get to know each other better.

More and more villages want the Coffee Caravan to visit and the list of agencies wanting their information taken out to rural Suffolk continues to grow.

In case you think we’re just another coffee morning, we’re not – we’re a great deal more than that. Rural communities are changing and nearly a third of England’s population now live in rural districts. The elderly, in particular, are often left isolated as children move away and the village has little left to offer them in terms of services and support. Young mums and other carers can feel cut off from their communities and in need of support.

In these difficult times, it is vitally important that people know where to access help if they need it, be it financial (e.g. benefits, help with debts), physical (e.g. mobility aids, health information) or even emotional support. The Rural Coffee Caravan is an inclusive independent charity funded by local councils, grant-making bodies and private donations. It provides support and guidance to rural communities and offers a place for people to meet and access to relevant information.

Many communities have very limited public transport, perhaps they have no pub or have lost their shop or Post Office.

This can be a real body blow to some because it doesn’t only remove the service but also (and just as importantly), it removes the chance to meet other locals, to pass the time of day and generally interact as a part of everyday life.

If there is no reason to go out to buy milk for example, or to collect a pension, then many people get out of the habit of going out at all, this in turn increases the instance of depression and loneliness. We can help by providing not only information but also a meeting place.

If we don’t have the information required, or the solution to a problem, we will try to find it and point you in the right direction.

Why the community needs us

We provide innovative solutions to the real problems of rural isolation. Loss of services in rural areas can leave residents without means of connecting with each other, this can lead to low mood and loneliness. Our core service combines a social focus with a free pop-up community cafe/information centre, offering support alongside the chance to meet and talk with fellow residents in the same situation. Our visits also connect useful agencies/ initiatives with rural communities helping to bring services out to rurally isolated residents, such as free arts workshops, fun fitness activities/equipment and winter warmth guidance, whilst supporting communities in finding ways to sustain this engagement for themselves. We also address loneliness across Suffolk via a number of offshoot initiatives we have developed.

Our impact on the community

Founded in 2003 as a voluntary organisation, with just one caravan, we have grown to meet demand. Now a registered charity with a caravan and three campervans we visit over 80 communities each year, offering friendship and support to thousands of visitors, and harnessing the enthusiastic help of 100+ wonderful volunteers. We are are a recipient of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Other initiatives developed by Rural Coffee Caravan:

MeetUpMondays™ is a network of pubs and cafes across the county hosting free weekly coffee mornings. These offer consistent, regular opportunities for folk on their own to build confidence and grow their social connections in an everyday setting without feeling labelled as lonely. Established in Suffolk, the network has now welcomed venues nationwide!

c-a-f-e (coffee and friends events) network connects Suffolk community groups and social clubs with local organisations which can offer training & funding to help strengthen their groups and develop their community spaces, making them more sustainable.

More Than A Shop acknowledges and celebrates the vital role local shops play in alleviating loneliness. We support this growing network of 50+ rural stores (which are often a lifeline for the more vulnerable and isolated) in being places of welcome and friendship for their communities.

So if you’d like to help please get in touch.

The Coffee Caravan has been visiting Redlingfield for two years now and from a population of not much more than 100 we get a turn-out of 20-plus for their visits.

I would urge any village – large or small – to consider the benefits of their visits. If they stopped, many villagers would miss the regular meetings with the exceptionally friendly and well informed staff and volunteers.

Mike Ager, Clerk - Redlingfield Parish Meeting
Dave, Roger, Harold & myself attended Shotley, Brandon & Red Lodge with our Meccano, Hornby displays last year.

We had a very enjoyable time at each visit with lots of interest on our respective displays. The organisers went out of their way to ensure our attendance went without a hitch, food & drink was well presented and all attendees where very friendly and helpful.

Hope we can help you all again sometime this year.

Ron Frith
We attended the Coffee Caravan event in Brandon last year, we were very pleased to be invited to such an informative and interesting day!

It was packed full of stands with information and help for the local community. We certainly made some new contacts. We hope to do it again later this year.

The coffee was good too !!!!

Jenny Pease, Scheme Manager, Heathcote House, Brandon
I would like to thank you for your valuable advice about the possibilities available from MSDC for various aspects of funding for our Village Hall project.

As you know our new building is now finished and will be officially opened on July 7th.

Sue, Drinkstone Village Hall
Thank you so much for your regular visits to our Village Lunch mornings in Stansfield village. Our village lunch attracts people from several of the surrounding villages, as well as residents of Stansfield.

We are most grateful for this useful resource, and its always a pleasure to have you join us, Garry.

Long may the Rural Coffee Caravan continue to enhance our life in this area of Suffolk.

Sally Carter, Organiser - Stansfield Village Lunch
Thank you for a lovely morning and the lift home. I really enjoyed meeting everyone. Please could you pass my thanks also to the gentleman who made me such a lovely cup of tea, I’m afraid I’ve forgotten his name though.

After I’ve finished this e-mail I’ll be searching Amazon for the cookbook you were telling me about.

On behalf of the Rattlesden Good Neighbours Scheme I would like to thank the Coffee Caravan and its helpers for visiting Rattlesden.

We feel that the Rural Coffee Caravan is essential as it encourages rural villages, like ours,to do the things they have always done but that somehow were forgotten. It is so good that they are reminding us what “community” is about.

We look forward to further visits.

Jennifer Moore , Secretary - Rattesden Good Neighbours Scheme
Rural Coffee Caravan has given Ashbocking residents a friendly, confidential, impartial source of information for a variety of services and organisations, as well as a good reason to meet and share ideas together, with easy activities, coffee and cake!


Anna, Ashbocking