IN recent months I have spent a lot of time with local businesses, getting a full understanding of how they are coping with the impact of the pandemic. They have provided me with valuable feedback on how the range of Government economic support packages have helped them through the last nine months – and will continue to do so in the months ahead.

From hospitality, to retail, services and manufacturing, I’ve been so impressed with the way businesses have thought through how they can adapt their operations to keep serving their customers and to do so safely. Among the businesses I’ve visited is Ravensworth Nurseries, near Richmond.

I called in before the current Covid-19 restrictions were put in place and spoke to Fiona Dean and her team about their wholesale nursery and garden centre business.

The timing of the restrictions in the Spring were particularly difficult for a seasonal business like a garden centre with thousands of plants and shrubs coming into flower or maturing.

Fiona decided the best option to get Ravensworth’s plants to their customers was to set up a delivery operation covering a wide area of North Yorkshire and also offering a click and collect service – both through a new online portal. It proved a huge success with more than 3,000 deliveries made during the period when the centre was closed.

They are now gearing up for Christmas and I saw the team making some of the most beautiful wreaths – at the time of my visit for autumn but in the coming weeks for the festive season.

I was also pleased to hear that despite the challenges they have faced, this family business is pressing ahead with its plans to develop further.

A £1.1m investment will see adjacent land developed to expand the garden centre part of the business, with potential to add a café in the future.

It’s just one example of how many local businesses have responded to what 2020 has thrown at them and I have been delighted to find out how these many different types of enterprises have adapted and, where it has been possible, looked beyond the current extremely difficult circumstances.

THIS week I’d also like to draw readers’ attention to a local voluntary organisation I am very proud of. The Swaledale Mountain Rescue Team is a group of volunteers who provide a much-valued search and rescue service on a 24/7 365-days-of-the year basis in the Yorkshire Dales.

A couple of years ago I joined the team on one of its regular training exercises and was very impressed by their professionalism, their skills and knowledge, and their dedication to helping those who get into difficulty in our remote landscapes.

The team is always trying to provide a better service and have an impressive plan to purchase and equip a new incident command vehicle from which to run their operations when called out.

The specially-converted vehicle will operate alongside their 4WD ambulances, acting as the communications and support hub for teams of rescuers operating over wide geographical areas and sometimes for days at a time. It will enable the team to operate much more effectively. A really interesting video about the team, its work and the need for the new vehicle can be found via links on the team’s website and its social media feeds.