The Duchess of Northumberland has helped to celebrate the very best in community and voluntary environmental work across the county at a special LOVE Northumberland awards event (on Wednesday July 4).
Twelve groups were honoured with winner or runner-up awards in six categories, with a number of highly commended entrants also in attendance at an uplifting event at The Alnwick Garden, which was supported by main sponsor the Banks Group.
Best new project went to Coppergate Allotment Association in Holywell for their work on a communal garden; best ongoing project to Friends of Ashington Community Woods and best urban project to North Hirst Tenants Group in Ashington for their project ‘Hirst Pride’.
Raising the bar for the best coast or countryside project was The Monday Club in Wark for ‘Enhancing Wark Village’, with a win in the best young people's project category for ‘Corbridge Youth Initiative Allotment’, and the best children's project category was won by Prior Wallaz 4214 Crew in Berwick for their gardening project.
The awards have been developed by Northumberland County Council through its LOVE Northumberland campaign, with the aim of promoting the work of the council and its many partner organisations and community groups and volunteers who all work towards preserving and enhancing the environment in the county.
Nominations were invited for awards from a variety of types of community group and there were also a number of groups at the Alnwick Garden event who were highly commended finalists.
The Duchess was extremely impressed by the standard of entries. She said: "The work that is being carried out by these groups is fantastic. One of the things that I believe makes Northumberland stand out is the huge number of people who are willing to give up their time on a voluntary basis to improve their local area, and these awards are marking out just some of this work.
Main sponsor of the awards was The Banks Group and communications manager Katie Perkin said at the event: “As a major local employer, we’ve maintained strong relationships with communities across Northumberland for more than three decades, and have witnessed at first hand the amazing difference that the energy, creativity and dedication of people across the county can make to the places that they live, work and learn.
“The spirit of the LOVE Northumberland Awards matches our own commitment to improving the communities in which we operate, and we’re extremely pleased to be supporting Northumberland County Council in recognising the contributions made by local people in enhancing their county’s environment in the last 12 months.”
Also sponsoring were the Co-operative Community Fund in the North East. Ross Weddle, chair of the Co-operative’s Northumberland area committee said: “As a community based retailer we are delighted to be sponsoring these awards. Supporting environmental and sustainability projects is something we feel very passionate about.”
Councillor Alan Thompson, executive member responsible for neighbourhood services at Northumberland County Council said: "I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to get involved in the LOVE Northumberland awards, and to let us know about the work that they are doing in their communities.
"I would like to thank the Duchess very much indeed for giving up her time to come along to the event, and for showing her strong support for the LOVE Northumberland campaign."
“I would also like to thank our sponsors for their support – the Banks Group and the Co-op, as well as all our LOVE Northumberland partners and everyone involved in the awards.“
Winning entries received a £250 prize and runners-up £100, with the money going towards their project or other work within the local community. Each other highly commended finalist also received a small cash prize.
To find out more about LOVE Northumberland go to www.northumberland.gov.uk/love
Following are short descriptions of the winners and runners-up in all six categories.
Best new project
Coppergate Allotment Association
Communal Garden within Coppergate Allotments Site, Holywell:
A group of 10 volunteers who have been together for 8 months ages ranging from 30 – 79.
This new committee has signed up to give their site a facelift whilst considering the well-being of the plot holders and their families, They believe the sense of being valued by a community can have a positive impact on people who feel they will never progress and gain a greater sense of community acceptance.
The project is involving people of all ages and helping to develop a sense of community within the village.
Holywell Ponds Voluntary Wardens
This group has been together for 3 years, the voluntary wardens work on a weekly basis to look after the pond and its environs. This entails tree planting, recording wildlife, maintenance of the hides and fences and general duties including litter picking and weeding.
As the wardens group has developed they are starting to take on larger projects that will enhance both wildlife and visitor enjoyment. Their next projects will involve youngsters from Holywell First School as part of their “Help Holywell” project.
Highly commended in this category was the Glendale Crossing Places Trust for Wooler Community Food Garden
Best ongoing project
Friends of Ashington Community Woods
Ashington Community Woods
This group of 40 volunteers have been together for two years and range from 16 years upwards.
Their aim is to open up the woods to encourage more people to use the amenity by improving access. They have set up squirrel feeders and bird feeders and keep the area tidy and promote environmental conservation work. They run a Forest School in the woods for children from 6 – 16 years and regularly organise and run events to maintain the funding of this project.
Friends of Gallagher Park
Enhancing the ‘Pit Heap’
This small group of people aged between 50 and 67, dedicate their time to enhance an area that was previously a pit heap. It now has football fields, cycling tracks, a BMX track, children’s playground and a baseball court - all free of charge to the public. They are now in the process of clearing branches, and cutting back foliage and saplings to make access to the tracks easier and to enhance the views.
Their ultimate aim is to build changing and washing facilities and to continue to create public awareness of the project.
Best urban project:
North Hirst Tenants & Residents Group
These are a large group of volunteers ranging from 18-86 years involving young, old and disabled people and they work on a day to day basis in cleaning up their local environment. They strive to help everyone in their neighbourhood whether they are owners or tenants. They repair gates/fences, paint, remove graffiti and organise clean ups in collaboration with Northumberland County Council.
They hope to open a “Drop “in” centre this year to offer extended services to the area and have raised money for a Community Engagement Programme.
Friends of Choppington Community Woods
Choppington Community Woods
This group have been together for 8 years, the number of volunteers can be up to 20 at a time ranging from 14 – 80 years of age.
The project aims to encourage the use of the local nature reserve by as wide a range of groups in the Community by making access as easy as possible. They have created new footpaths, permissive bridle paths, placed seats and picnic benches, planted wildflowers, cleared little and repaired footpaths.
They have produced an educational leaflet which has been sent to all local schools and school visits are a regular occurrence to the woods.
Highly commended in this category was the Buffalo Community Centre for its Buffalo Junior Wardens.
Best coast or countryside project:
The Monday Club
Enhancing Wark Village
These are a group of retired men from the village of Wark who meet every Sunday night to discuss which project they will carry out on Monday morning. Their initial aim was to tidy up Wark Bridge to improve the impression on visitors, but since then they have cleared weeds from the roadside, removed trees, repaired a footbridge, strimmed paths and cut back overhanging branches. They have erected benches and garden seats and undertaken the planting of over 10,000 bulbs. And in the heavy snows of 2010 they cleared paths to help the villagers get out and about in their village.
The Remembering Flodden Project
Improving and Promoting Flodden Battlefield
This group of volunteers have worked together since 2003 to promote the site of the Battle of Flodden as a heritage and tourist attraction. A new Battlefield Trail has been constructed across the ground were the Battle was fought interpretation boards have been designed and placed at strategic points and descriptive and explanatory leaflets are available, free of charge.
The group give talks to local groups and even further afield such as northern France! and offer conducted walks.
Thanks to the efforts of this group the numbers of visitors to this site have risen considerably, next year is the 500th anniversary of Flodden and they hope numbers will soar even more.
Highly commended in this category were Friends of Little Shore at Amble, Lowick in Bloom, Friends of Wooler Common and Hexham Ramblers Path Workers.
Best young people’s project
Corbridge Youth Initiative
Corbridge Youth Initiative Allotment
This group of 15 volunteers are aged 11 – 18 and have been together 3 years.
The CYI works closely with Northumberland Youth Service and the Tynedale Youth Forum to develop activities and opportunities for young people in the local area.
The project has been developed to encourage young people to get involved in the creation of their own allotment to promote healthy eating, outdoor activity and education.
A vegetable plot, fruit orchard, greenhouse and lawned “chill out” area has been developed and a shed has been erected which will be used as an educational base.
Special Needs – John Muir Award
Chirdon Head – Kielder
10 young people aged between 18 – 25 with a range of disabilities, undertaking their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, kick started a long term project at Chirdon head in Kielder. Working with the Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Defence they have learned the art of stone walling, cleared overgrown walkways through forests and built and erected bird boxes and an observation hide.
The group worked well together supporting each other to overcome many fears, barriers and challenges on their way. They took pride in all their tasks showing enthusiasm and consideration of the environment.
In taking part in this project they all achieved their John Muir Discovery award and have an opportunity to progress on to the Explorer Award and to educate other young people.
Best children’s project
Prior Wallaz 4214 Crew
This group was set up by Prior Park Residents Association. The group consists of 30 volunteers aged 4 – 14 years and the children wanted to make their own choices on what happens in their community so they decided to give it a clean and some colour.
They spend two days of their free time each month cleaning, weeding, cutting grass, taking care of elderly, disabled and people with ill-health’s gardens
They are the only children’s residents group in Berwick and encourage more children to join them to make their estate one they take great pride in.
Thropton Village First School
Thropton Village Allotment Project
The school children, parents and staff have designed an allotment area which is being used by the local community to create a beautiful environment whereby people can plant and potter and take in the views. They have a polytunnel and a shed with outdoor seating, raised beds, an orchard area, wildflower meadow and a shelter so no matter what the weather the area can still be visited.
They are about to install a beehive and have placed bee and butterfly friendly plants.
There are also 3 areas which are given free to local people in return for help with watering and tending of plants.
The allotment has brought together members of the community who would not normally have had the chance to interact.