There is a growing revolution happening in Merton and it is spreading fast.

Infiltrating our pubs and spreading across to Kingston and Wandsworth, there is a flourishing army of superhumans who have made it their mission to feed the homeless, the vulnerable and now the NHS heroes who are working day and night saving the lives of our friends, family and neighbours.

During the last month, our food shopping habits have been transformed. Queuing for 20 minutes, staying two metres apart and picking up a little extra for The Dons Local Action Group food donation points positioned outside our supermarkets that have quickly become established.

Yet, if this wasn't enough, The Dons Local Action Group have spawned a new rank of foot soldiers in town who are cooking meals for the NHS workers who have been deployed to new Covid-19 wards, where there isn't access to cooked food!

Wimbledon Times:

How did such a massive new enterprise start and how have 5,000 meals been cooked and delivered in a matter of weeks? With such stories, the idea can often start with a man in a pub, but the pubs are closed. Or are they?

This new army began talking in a clubhouse tucked away at the back of Coombe Lane in Raynes Park, Wimbledon. The Old Wimbledonians clubhouse dating back to 1907 from the days Wimbledon College began to establish its cricket, rugby and football grounds alongside Donhead School which opened a few decades before in 1892. 100 plus years later, on the 28th March 2020, their chef Richard Browne was in their bar and kitchen situated in the corner of the pitch, preparing a feast for 100 guests in celebration of their last game of the season, when the government announced lockdown. Meanwhile, on the other side of Wimbledon a loyal member of the OWA; Greg Martis got chatting to his neighbour working for the NHS at St. Helier. He informed him how junior doctors were being moved to the orthopaedic ward to support the Covid-19 patients, but had no access to cooked food. Somehow the equation for supply and demand were met and the OWA have continued to cook meals for the NHS staff who really deserve it during a relentless shift.

Wimbledon Times:

However, the story unfolds when a man who used to regularly drink in a local pub, Adam Ackland, mentioned this initiative to one of Wimbledon's most notorious landlords; Mick Dore of The Alexandra in the heart of Wimbledon Town.

With our much loved pubs closed and staff all furloughed, instead of putting their feet up, Mick and his family jumped at the chance of using their vast kitchen to make meals for the Old Wimbledonians #DoingABit campaign.

“We're cooking at least 150 meals a day. Nobby, Mark, the wife Sarah, me and kids did 181 this morning!” Acknowledged Mick when prompted. “All our stuff is going to the hospital in Guildford (St George's trust) and The Nelson. We're making pasta Bolognese, veggie curries, veggie chilli, pasta salads, cottage pies, that sort of thing. Apparently it's been very gratefully received which is great!” He humbly continued “We're cooking with love to show our love for the NHS heroes, it's the least we can do.”

Wimbledon Times:

Chef Gary Lake, Landlady Nicky Green, with Aggie, Ewa, Paulina, Laura, Polina

Soon word spread as it often does in Wimbledon, to the top of the hill in The Rose and Crown where Nicky Green; Wimbledon Villages most prominent and adored landlady lives with her beautiful black Labrador Freddie. Locked in with 5 members of staff, they impressively cook 150 meals a day that go off and get shared between the neonatal unit at St George’s, Nelson Health Care and Queen Mary’s hospital.

“In the strange time when The Rose and Crown is closed, I just feel that we all should do our little bit to help!” Said Nicky. “I am no rocket scientist, but the least we can do is cook a few good quality meals a day to help the amazing NHS who are on the front line.”

Even the Old Wimbledonians RFC President David Doran modestly says “As our slogan says, we are just #DoingABit.” But it seems that one of the oldest clubs in Wimbledon and our most beloved pubs are doing an awful lot. With The Dons Local Action Group and members of The Old Wimbledonians collecting food, delivering ingredients to the pubs and then driving cooked meals to the hospital staff, there is an incredible amount of work being done in this town.

Wimbledon Times:

“The Old Wimbledonian Association came on board as we were making about 70 ready meals a week for our older members. We have now expanded and delivered about 370 meals a day to NHS night shift workers.” Mr. Doran tells me. “We get the ingredients via The Dons Local Action Group, and we supply The Alexandra and The Rose and Crown, two excellent pubs in Wimbledon and they use their kitchens. Club members Stefano and Naoka Vallebona are also doing 100 meals a week from their deli in Weir Road. Our volunteers then deliver to the wards. We include a homemade cake/cookie and piece of fresh fruit with every ready meal.” The President feels indebted to the companies who make this possible, from Mustard Foods who donate a lot of ingredients, as do CF and MC Stear based in Surbiton. Plus they have found partners in Vallebona, Save World Club, Princess of India, Morden, ZaiKa, Teddington, plus an army of bakers who all contribute. “We also feed the residents of Cairn House who are on a rehabilitation program as part of the Kaleidoscope Project” remembered David, who informed me about their personal plight with addiction and mental health.

Wimbledon Times:

It is literally astounding that born from three AFC Wimbledon fans, who began The Dons Local Action Group just over a month ago, are now collecting and delivering 1,200 food boxes a week to the most vulnerable residents. An operation of this size would take a company years to achieve. Yet, it is not the scale of this operation that says so much about our incredible borough, it is each volunteer's time and energy who will spend it fighting an invisible enemy with another invisible force of love and time well spent.

On a personal note, I was quite distressed to recently receive a letter from the hospital to tell me that treatment I received over Christmas from an underlying health condition has left me with an immunity so low, I am in an extremely vulnerable position until June. As sole carer for my children it really helped me empathise with the fear that some residents face every day with the smallest task of buying milk. With not much food left in my cupboards, no online food order available for weeks and a letter telling me to avoid any public places, I suddenly felt deeply concerned that I wasn't able to provide for my young family. After the shock subsided of not being informed sooner, I asked my food editor to research and write about the best food deliveries in Wimbledon. She introduced me to Solstice Food, a Wimbledon based company who used to supply the finest fruit and vegetables to restaurants across London. With the hospitality industry closed, they are now doing next day doorstep deliveries in our area. The following morning, it felt like Christmas. My children and I ran to the front door to find three large boxes of succulent fruit and vegetables, plus treats of crackers, cheeses, coffee and fresh lasagne sheets. It is this experience that has really made my children and I form a more grateful and appreciative relationship with food. For it is only when our basic needs are not met, do we feel vulnerable and isolated. I don't think The Dons Local Action Group are just supplying much needed food for those in our borough. They may never even see the people they are delivering food for. Yet, the parcel many are finding on their doorstep is a parcel of love, kindness and compassion to those they have never even met. Even more apparent, it is an arm around them, protecting each vulnerable resident from having to leave their front door and face the fear of a virus that has the potential to kill them. It is with this, stories need to be told and volunteers need to be championed, for it is each and every one of them who are protecting their neighbours with the much craved human touch of friendship.

Wimbledon Times:

Wishing you all food, love and sanity.


To join the Old Wimbledonians Volunteer army, email:

Or help the Old Wimbledonians raise £7,500 to provide meals for NHS Doctors and Nurses and vulnerable adults in our community. Please donate to their JustGiving Crowdfunding Page:

Since finding Solstice Food, they have offered to donate fresh fruit and vegetable boxes to the Old WImbledonians Association to help provide ingredients for this week's cooked meals.