Image demonstrating Duchess presents LOVE Northumberland awards

Duchess presents LOVE Northumberland awards

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 ceremony (Thursday 12 July).

Twenty-two groups, organisations, schools and individuals were honoured with winner, runner-up or highly commended awards across eight categories.

Representatives of all shortlisted entries were invited to attend the event at The Alnwick Garden, which was hosted by BBC TV presenter Carol Malia.

Best new project went to Litterbugs Amble for their work on litter picking and beach cleaning; best urban project to the Friends of Ridley Park who have installed a bird viewing and feeding area; and best coast or countryside project to Beadnell in Bloom for extensive work to ensure that their village is welcoming and attractive.

The best young people's project category was won by Young and Sweet from Haltwhistle for their work in involving young people in environmental initiatives and the best children's project by Briardale Environmental Wardens, young people who carry out clean ups and campaigning in their local area.

The award for an individual whose efforts or commitment help to enrich the environment of Northumberland was presented to four winners this year:  13 year old Ben Campbell from Ponteland Academy; Ayesha Jackson, a youth worker from Haltwhistle; and Pat Parker and Clare Mason from the NCEA Josephine Butler Primary Campus in Ashington.

Corbridge Middle School was recognised for the most innovative school recycling project and Prudhoe Community High School for the best practice school recycling project - both receiving a picnic bench made by Marmax Products.  The School Sustainable Travel Award was won by Eastlea Primary School in Cramlington, who received a cash prize plus a scooter pod from Modeshift.

The annual awards were 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, community groups and volunteers who all help to preserve and enhance the environment in the county.

Councillor Jeff Watson, civic head of Northumberland County Council, welcomed everyone to the awards evening, saying:  "All of the shortlisted entries should be very proud of all of their work, and I sincerely hope that they enjoyed this event, in the inspiring setting of The Alnwick Garden.

“The LOVE Northumberland awards are all about celebrating what individuals and groups do, largely in a voluntary capacity, to keep their local areas green and clean right across Northumberland.  I have been extremely impressed by the quality and breadth of the work highlighted through the awards - and thank them all, on behalf of the residents and visitors who benefit.

“Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland has been very generous in giving up her time each year to present prizes to the winners, and we are very grateful to her for this support.”

The main sponsor of the awards again this year was The Banks Group and community relations manager, Jeannie Kielty, said:  “Our company has had a long history with these awards - having been pleased to support them since 2012.  All of the groups and individuals do an amazing job for their local communities and I have never failed to be impressed by the range and standard of new applications received each year.  

“We want to make a positive difference in the communities we operate in Northumberland, and this sponsorship is just one of the ways that we feel we can do this - recognising the contributions made by local people in enhancing the county’s environment.

Other sponsors and supporters of the awards this year have included Marmax Products who have provided recycled benches for school winners; local company Origin Designed who produced wooden heart plaques for all of the winners, runners up and highly commended entries; Jewsons for packs of litter picking equipment; Helping Hands Environmental for a Handicart; and the Go Smarter scheme/Modeshift for a scooter pod.

Each winning entry received a £250 prize, each runner-up £100 and highly commended finalists £50, with the money to go towards their project or other work within the local community.  Outstanding individuals also received a voucher and a glass trophy.

To find out more about LOVE Northumberland go to

Following are descriptions of the work of winners in all categories.  Further information about runners up and highly commended entries are available on requests.

Images of the awards event and also of each project are available from or by calling Sarah on 01670 622417 or 07968 233772.

Best School Recycling Project
Rewarding achievements in school recycling and waste minimisation

Most innovative school recycling project
Winner: Corbridge Middle School

The Corbridge Middle School recycling project has been running for 18 months and involves pupils, parents and the wider community. Since 2017 the pupils have increased their awareness of global sustainability issues. They say they are metamorphosing into Corbridge Middle Eco-School!

Over the past 18 months they have joined several different campaigns and competitions to engage their students and promote a deep understanding of some environmental challenges that they may face in the future. Examples of these programmes are:

1.Water Explorers (an international programme to encourage students to take bold action to save precious water supplies): A group of 11 Year 8’s attended the Water Explorer finals in London and were announced asUK National winners in September 2017. They then competed in the International Finals in October 2017. Not only have the school reduced the number of single-use plastic bottles dramatically but the Year 5 and Year 6 pupils held a second-hand clothing Fashion Show and swap shop on the 15 th June 2018 to raise awareness of the demands on water by the fashion industry and our ‘disposable’ culture.

2.Solutions for the Planet (a KS3 competition which builds partnerships for businesses, schools and communities to develop incredible ideas that make the world better): All of our Y7 pupils developed a Big Idea to solve sustainability issues over several weeks and entered the competition. On 14 th May team Operation ReCraft were announced asNE Regional Finalists. The team went to London on 11 th July 2018 at the Houses of Parliament to present their idea for a school sculpture competition using waste materials. They ran the competition in school to demonstrate their idea was achievable.

3. Teach SDGs: They are preparing their students to become global citizens with a real understanding of the UNs sustainability goals. They use STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and maths) to develop their creative thinking; for example in computing Year 6 are creating model robots that pick up plastic from the ocean and Year 5 are working with Grow Local to increase their engagement with growing food to reduce food miles and food waste.

An example of making an impact, in July 2017 their Water Explorers placed a bin to collect all of the single use bottles used at lunchtimes in the school dining hall. At the end of 5 days they tipped all of the bottles in front of the school in assembly to demonstrate how unsustainable their use of bottles was. Although single use bottles have not been banned (yet!) almost all pupils now bring in a re-fillable water bottle every day. An estimate is they have reduced single use bottles by 80%.

The students did so well with their water-based projects they received CREST awards and attended the National Science Competition finals in Birmingham in March 2018.

The pupils now have a taste for success and a passion to drive change. They have just registered as an Eco-School and aim to get Bronze, Silver and Gold awards leading to their green flag by the end of the 2019 academic year.

Best practice school recycling project
Winner: Prudhoe Community High School

The Prudhoe Community High School recycling project is a new project involving students fro m Year 9 to Year 13.  After setting into their “new” school building, it was decided to look at how they operated and what improvements could be made and waste recycling was identified as a key project.  At the beginning of 2018 they had ten 1100 litre bins consisting of seven general waste and three dry mixed recycling but felt that recycling only 30% of their waste was not acceptable. A school eco committee was formed with student representatives from all year groups, who immediately set to work formulating their plan.

From this the following work has been completed-

The eco-committee used their growing influence to persuade the site manager to purchase recycling bins

A production line was formed to print, laminate and adhere recycling guidance posters to all new and existing recycling bins.

Every classroom and work area within the school have both a recycling and general waste bin.

Funding from Northumberland County Council has enabled them to increase recycling in school within the school grounds.  This has allowed them to reduce the number of 1100 litre general waste bins and allow them to now not only recycle 40% of our waste but also be on target to raise this to an impressive 50% by the summer break.

The eco committee also placed a sign on the coffee machine to ask people to bring their own cup.  The catering manager reported back to say that the machine now uses 20% less cups per day.

They are also working towards the Eco Schools Green Flag Award.

Staff members are using these new practices within their own homes and students are educating their parents and wider families.

Whilst still in its infancy they are currently involved with a new community project call the Proud Hill Project. The Proud Hill Project is a joint school and community project aimed at improving the wellbeing of the people of Prudhoe and the wider community through the generation of community gardens, beekeeping and tackling litter. A large emphasis of the project will be on litter and recycling.

They have made significant positive changes to their school within a very short space of time, but this is only the beginning. Their goal is to change their recycling ratio from its initial 30/70 to 70/30. They plan to be an example to other schools in the area and be in a position to visit other schools to offer advice and guidance for their own recycling initiatives.

School Sustainable Travel Award
Awarded by Go Smarter Northumberland to schools that have gone the extra mile to promote sustainable transport for the journey to school.  

Winner:  Eastlea Primary School, Cramlington

The school set up a cycling project to encourage pupils to cycle more around their local area.  Cramlington has a huge network of cycling paths which pupils often aren’t fully aware of or use regularly, their project has two main elements the Bike or Hike and the Cycle Club.

The children were set a challenge to raise money by biking or hiking to Blyth Beach, the community police got involved and helped with the safety aspects of the day and the Northumberland Veterans Cycle club cycled with the pupils.  All the pupils experienced a huge sense of achievement and enjoyed the challenge with the money raised paying for a school visit to the BBC studios.

The school followed Bike or Hike up by setting up their own Cycle Club, they had help from Cycle Experience, who lent them bikes and other equipment.  The improvement in the pupils skills and confidence was amazing and the children were able to experience what was on their doorstep.

The benefit of involving other organisations has been immense, pupils often associate the police with negative issues so it was a positive experience for them to spend time with the police officers and also the veterans cycle club.

During the year the school also took part in Walk to School Week, Road Safety activities, Bikeability and Balance Bike sessions  which have all contributed to the school achieving a bronze award in the National Modeshift STARS accreditation scheme.

Hopefully the children now realise that the cycle paths in Cramlington are a fantastic, unique asset and they will continue to use them in the future to explore their local area and beyond.

Best children’s project
Open to entrants where the majority of participants are aged 11 years and under.  This includes schools and out of school children’s groups such as scouts, brownies, cubs, rainbows, boy’s brigades etc.

Winner:  Briardale Environmental Wardens

On Isabella pit meadows they spent two months cleaning up litter, cutting back bushes from the path allowing easy access, thinned out trees and lifted the tree canopy,  working alongside NC staff and the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

Litterpicking is a key role in their community work, as well as the meadows, they have cleared Blyth Beach, the war memorial in Cowpen, the play area on Briardale Road and the small wooded areas.  They have also planted wildflower seeds and bulbs and made bird feeder tables and boxes.

On Blyth Riverside along with NCC staff and Sustrans they completed a massive clean-up after a group of travellers had left the area in a bad state.  They then cut back bushes which made it possible for cyclists to be better seen, this work received a lot of praise and some of them gained their John Muir Explorers awards from this experience.

They intend to encourage more children to take part and to campaign against fly-tipping highlighting areas where this is happening.

They are also running a John Muir Award Group encouraging the young people to learn about their own natural environment and how to look after wild open spaces no matter how small.  This group are also assisting the community centre to look after an allotment, growing a variety of vegetables that they can harvest and be encouraged to cook. In the winter they run a kids kitchen where the group go blackberry picking and use the fruit from the community to make jams, pick nettles for soup and teas and look at healthy eating.  This is a very popular activity. This Autumn they intend to prep, cook and serve a buffet to celebrate young people gaining their John Muir awards.

Runner up:  Josephine Butler Primary Campus - Northumberland Church of England Academy, Ashington - Josephine Butler Primary Young Leaders

Highly commended:  St. Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided Primary School, Blyth for St Wilfrid’s Forest School Warriors

Best Young People’s project
Open to entries where the majority of the participants are aged 12 to 25, including schools, colleges, youth groups and other organisations.

Winner: Young and Sweet - Haltwhistle

This group has been together for 6 years and over time it became apparent the building they were in was not sufficient and they needed more space, after a 2 year process they eventually moved into their new building in November 2017 which sits on an acre of land.  This has allowed them to offer more specific sessions such as girls groups and gardening clubs. They have worked hard to improve the outside of the building and brought it back to life after being empty for 5 years after receiving money from the ASDA foundation. They now have 110 young people, with the same number of boys as girls accessing the project.

Much progress has been made in their quest to develop the land for use by the local wildlife and to encourage young people to spend their time outdoors.

The garden was so overgrown that the paths and patio could not be seen, they cleared the area and cut down enormous amounts of bramble and strimmed the grass as a starting point.  They moved 7 tonnes of gravel [a lot of gravel for young people to move!] to enhance the grounds. They have made bug hotels and installed bird feeders.

They have a definite sense of pride in the work they have completed and that their hard work is recognised by their local community and by the charities Trustees.  This gives them a sense of belonging and contributes to their positive emotional and mental health.

Allowing young people to have a safe environment where they can learn new skills, develop and grow is the heart of this project.

Runner up: 8th Blyth Sea Scouts - Funding Successes of 8th Blyth Sea Scouts

Best Urban Project

This award is open to entries where the project or activities benefits a more urban area, where a lot of people live.

Winner:  Friends of Ridley Park - Bird Viewing Screen and Feeding Area

Ridley Park is a much-loved green space within an area of urban deprivation, in which many of the densely packed terraced houses adjacent to the park, lack gardens and other green space.  

Whilst the park has many mature trees, cultivated and wild flowers, play areas and a popular water feature, park users had very little opportunity to see and appreciate the many birds which either resides in, nested or passed through the park.

A member of the Friends of Ridley Park proposed installing a bird screen and feeding area and upon acceptance of a planning proposal to NCC the screen was designed and a quotation obtained from Blyth Star Enterprises, a local mental health charity to construct and erect the screen, allowing their clients to demonstrate their skills and showcase them to the local community.

There followed a six-month long fund-raising campaign and in appalling weather conditions last December/January the screen was assembled with viewing openings at different  heights including ones suitable for small children and wheelchair users. Noticeboards were also erected and a metal disabled ramp with handrails was also extended along the length of the decking.  It has given a focus to a previously under-used and under-appreciated area of the park.

The viewing screen provides a safe haven for a wide range of birds and enables the public to safely, see, enjoy and identify the birds in the park.  During the recent “Beast from the East” up to 70 birds could be seen feeding including Scandinavian migrants such as redwings and fieldfares.

The screen has a great potential for environmental education and now it has been completed the group would be pleased to work with local schools to draw and build upon this educational potential.

Runner up:  GMDT Environment - Morpeth Litter Blitz

Highly commended:   Ponteland Community Partnership - Old Railway Line

Best Coast or Countryside Project
Open to entries where the project or activities take place in more sparsely populated or rural areas of Northumberland.

Winner:  Beadnell in Bloom

Beadnell in Bloom was started in 2016 as a result of an overwhelming number of positive comments from residents on how welcoming and attractive the village looked with new village planters.  

A team of 20 volunteers meet all year round but a core team of 3 people meet once a month and have working week parties 3-4 times a year but also do ad hoc gardening whenever needed.  The age range of the volunteers is from school age to people of a certain age!! They work closely with NCC who have gone out of their way to help with clearing weeds, tidying path edges and cutting and strimming grass.

These are just a few of the other things they have done:

Created a wildlife and wildflower corridor along The Lonnen, this is a public footpath which was overgrown and unloved.  They have introduced all sorts of different bird and bat boxes, bird feeders, a hedgehog house, a bug hotel, a small scale stumpery, cut back overhanging branches from trees, removed overgrown shrubs and replaced turf and bulbs and planted insect-friendly plants.

Hand-built a bench from wood and a rudder donated by local residents.

Engaged with a local Primary School in Seahouses with a butterfly colouring-in competition for Years 1 and 2.  All entries were displayed on top of the bug hotel, the headmistress of the school was so impressed with the feedback from the staff and children she wants to add it to her Curriculum next year!

Created a Cut and Come Again herb garden which is planted in a donated old coble named Beadnell Lass and is placed at the entrance to the village.  The coble is in a bed decorated to reflect the local coastal area with grasses, sea thrift and stones.

Created beds around benches with sustainable planting such as lavender and hebes topped up in the summer with bedding plants grown from seed by volunteers.

Installed fishbox-style planters designed and built by volunteers strategically placed around the village, reflect the Village’s history.

They’ve even trained dogs to litterpick!!

Runner up:  Friends of Holywell Dene - Improving and safeguarding public access to Holywell Dene

Highly commended: St. Oswald’s Way Steering Group - St, Oswald’s Way Volunteer Rangers AND Newbiggin Maritime Centre - Plastic Free Coastline

Best New Project

This category is open to activities and projects that have started within 12 months prior to the launch of the annual call for LOVE Northumberland award nominations.

Winner:  Litterbugs, Amble

This is a group of local adults and children who love litter picking and beach cleaning and who are passionate about protecting our wildlife and planet.  They meet every month.

They actively encourage others to join them and have people from all walks of life that help.  Amble cadets have joined them and there is a High School student doing his Duke of Edinburgh community work with them.  

They raise awareness through their Facebook page and recently used Amble Community Beach hut during the Puffin Festival to further spread the word.  They have a monthly article in the Northumberland Gazette and have been so successful that Coast Care are publishing their articles too.

They are responsive to any litter complaints and when they are told about an area that needs clearing they will arrange it.  They were provided with equipment from NCC who recognised the importance of the work they were carrying out.

Recently following repairs to Amble Pier they helped clean thousands of pieces of plastic from Amble beach.

The beach cleans have attracted people from age 3 to 85 – 43 people turned out on one session, and 18 of those people had Sunday lunch afterwards despite not knowing each other!!

Runner up: Loving Alnwick - Making A Difference

Highly commended: St. Mary’s RC First School, Hexham - St. Mary’s Gardening Project

Outstanding Individual Awards
A category where we have invited people to nominate an individual whose efforts or commitment help to enrich the environment and the lives of residents in Northumberland.
This year we have recognised three special individuals.

Winner: Ben Campbell, Ponteland Academy
Ben is a 13 year old pupil in his final term at Ponteland Academy who throughout his four year at the school has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to, and enthusiasm for the school’s recycling project.

Ben arrived at the school (in year 5) with a strong interest in waste collection and recycling and asked to be allowed to develop recycling in his year group. By the start of Year 6 he had developed this into a daily recycling collection round encompassing every classroom, technical room and office in the school during his morning break and lunchtime.  

Ben has worked out the quickest route and his record time to empty all the room recycling bins as 12.1/2 minutes.  He has regularly advised staff as to the materials that should be recycled. Occasionally he has help from other pupils, mostly members of the school Eco team, and he has plans to educate the younger pupils to continue his work when he leaves the school this summer term.  

Throughout his four years at the Academy he has fully committed to ensuring that the school maximises its recycling effort.

Ben is an independent, sensible and mature young man who takes great pride in his environment and who has quietly, without fuss, committed many hours of his school life to a project that is both important to him and of real value to the school community.

Winner:  Ayesha Jackson, Haltwhistle

Ayesha is a youth worker in Haltwhistle running the Youth Club “Young and Sweet”.  She is passionate in her work and extremely inspiring to the children in the area. She began the Youth Club in a small building at the railway station, occupying it for about 6 years but quickly outgrew the premises.

Haltwhistle Partnership recognising the exultant work Ayesha is committing herself to applied to Northumberland County Council for use of a redundant educational building passed over to them as an asset transfer and they were successful.

Ayesha and her team have totally transformed it to its present form.  Without her passion and innovative work with the young people in the Haltwhistle area their lives may of easily gone down another avenue.  The core aims of her and her team are to make sure the children have fun, grow in confidence, make new friends, boost self-esteem and improve the communication between young people and the community.

She is really well respected by all of the youths who attend the club.

Winner:  Pat Parker & Clare Mason - NCEA Josephine Butler Primary Campus

This nomination is the first of its kind for LOVE Northumberland as we were told this nomination had to include both as they really do come as a pair!

Pat and Clare work as teaching assistants at the Josephine Butler Primary Campus in Ashington.  They have lived in the community for over 50 years and worked in the school for over 16 years and 14 years respectively.  The children are at the centre of everything that they do.

Pat’s working day is from 8am p 1pm but she stays at school (unpaid) to work with Clare to run the library, the gardening gang and the alternative curriculum for the challenging and vulnerable children, working until 5pm and beyond.

At age 75 Pat should be enjoying a life of cake, tea and family but to her the children are all part of her family.  Clare too has a busy family life and a family business but she too spends hours thinking about how to support the children.

Together with children they have created an outstanding award winning garden at the school; building greenhouses, chicken coops, rabbit pens, raised beds, planting over 250 trees, creating a wildlife garden, a community garden at Age UK and so much more.

Pat and Clare are outdoors in all weathers, even giving up time in school holidays and at weekends to make sure the animals are cared for.

Their resilience, determination and work ethic are an example to all.
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