The Hackleton Parish (lying just south of Northampton) has been served by our Northampton bus for many years now. Recently we were joined by a Piddington resident Alan McDonogh who wrote this wonderful piece for the Hackleton Parish Magazine which gives an insight into the importance of maintaining such a bus route for the local community.

Whilst I knew of Ability Community Transport as a social enterprise established to fill the transport void left behind when our regular bus service was withdrawn, I didn’t know a great deal more about it. To give me a better idea of what this not-for-profit scheme is all about, I hitched a ride on one of their regular shopping trips.

Chris Carter, our driver for this particular trip, collected me from Piddington in a very smart and comfortable minibus at about 9.20am and we set off for our first port of call, Horton, where we picked up Bob and Vivienne. Next it was to Hackleton to collect Maureen from outside the White Hart, Wenda from the bus shelter and Eileen from her home. With that, we were off to Northampton where Maureen was dropped off in the town centre having agreed a collection time with Chris. Our final pick up for this particular trip was in Hunsbury where Pat joined our very happy gang and we made our way to Tesco, Mereway.

After Chris very helpfully sorted shopping trolleys, our passengers disappeared into the depths of the cavernous store whilst Chris and I settled ourselves in the coffee shop. After about 30 minutes, with their shopping complete, our crew began to join us in the coffee shop. This is where the true magic of the Ability scheme comes to light. Having completed the mundane but essential chore of the weekly shop we had a really enjoyable time putting the world to rights over tea, coffee and cake. This is what the Ability shopping trip is all about.

All too soon, we needed to get back on the bus to return the happy shoppers to their homes. We collected Maureen from the town centre, dropped Pat off in Hunsbury and then made the reverse trip back to Hackleton and Horton to say farewell to Eileen, Wenda, Maureen, Vivienne and Bob. Chris then returned me to Piddington at about 12.30pm. As my wife, Kim, will confirm, I have a phobia about all things shopping related, but I can honestly say that I really enjoyed my time on this particular shopping trip.

My Verdict

I found it difficult to get my head around the fact that a service this good is free (to concessionary bus pass holders), but free it is! I was impressed – seriously impressed. The shopping trip service provided by Ability is wonderful. It’s free or if you upgrade to the enhanced Silver or Gold level service it’s ridiculously cheap. Ability’s service is so much more than its strapline “Connecting People with Places” suggests. In my opinion, it more importantly, connects people to people in a fantastically sociable way!

Please note that Ability provide a controlled, hygienic and covid-compliant environment ensuring a passenger’s health and wellbeing. At the time of my trip, covid social restrictions were at their most relaxed.

Alan McDonogh

Read the article in full by following this download link: HPC Parish Mag – Issue 29 February 2022 AbilityK[1]