Image demonstrating Duchess presents winners of 10th annual awards

Duchess presents winners of 10th annual 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 (on 5th September).

Twenty-four groups, organisations, schools and individuals were honoured with winner, runner-up or highly commended awards across seven categories in what has been the 10th year for the awards.

Representatives of all shortlisted entries were invited to attend the event at The Alnwick Garden, which was hosted by BBC Radio Newcastle presenter Anna Foster.
Best new project went to the Friends of Eastwoods Park, Prudhoe, for their Miners Lamp Community Cafe and Hub.

There were joint winners of the best urban project category of the residents of Mains Place in Morpeth for their community gardening, and the Friends of Ridley Park in Blyth for the Ridley Park Enhancement Project.

Winners of the best coast or countryside project were the Kielder Water Vole Partnership for their project Restoring Ratty - reintroducing and establishing a population of water voles back to Kielder.

The best young people's project category was won by Hillcrest Special School in Cramlington for its Bungalow Garden Project and the best children's project by Warkworth Primary School for their Eco Club.

Awards for individuals whose efforts or commitment help to enrich the environment of Northumberland were presented to five winners this year:  
  • Outstanding young person - six year old Rayer Waddell from Bedlington; 
  • Outstanding wildlife advocate - John Anderson from Blyth Wildlife Rescue;
  • Outstanding community, environmental and sustainable transport champion - Maria Holdsworth from Cramlington; and 
  • Highly commended for community action - Tom Grimwood from Kielder and Edward Milligan from Gunnerton. 
Stannington First School won the Schools GoSmarter Sustainable Travel Award which is for schools which go the extra mile to promote sustainable transport for the journey to school.

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 Ian Hutchinson, 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 this year has been builders' merchants and equipment suppliers Jewson.  Vincent Thurlby, from the company said: “Jewson is delighted to be involved with the 2019 LOVE Northumberland Awards and to celebrate the County’s fantastic community and voluntary environmental work. 

“The awards recognise the true heroes of the county, and provide a great opportunity to showcase all that has been achieved in the last year, in helping keep our communities environmentally friendly. 

“We would like to congratulate each and every finalist for what they have achieved in their work and projects.”

Other sponsors and supporters of the awards this year have included local company Origin Designed who produced wooden heart plaques for all of the winners, runners up and highly commended entries as well as unique table numbers for the event.

Helping Hands Environmental provided a ‘Handicart’ - a portable cart for transporting litter picking equipment - which was awarded to the Tweedmouth pickers, who were runners-up in the best urban project.

Each winning entry in the awards 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 small cash prize and a trophy.

To find out more about LOVE Northumberland go to 

The results and a description of each winner here:

Schools Go Smarter 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: Stannington First School

The winner  of this years Schools Sustainable Travel Award is Stannington First School who have  had a huge drive this year to encourage more parents and pupils to leave the car at home when travelling to school, promoting the benefits for everyone  including improved road safety, reducing air pollution and also getting some exercise every day.

During Walk to School Week  the school decided to launch their ‘Walking Rocks’ initiative, staff members painted rocks with colourful designs and hid them around the village and pupils were encouraged to look for them on their way to school,  showing how wonderful it can be to travel on foot and the nature you will see when you are not in a car!

When a ‘Walking Rock’  is found parents and pupils  are encouraged to upload a photo to  the school’s social media account, photos are also shared in the school’s newsletter, pupils then re-hide the rocks and encourage other families to find them.   The school are busy renovating their front garden and making a dedicated display area for their Walking Rocks so that it will become a long term initiative for the school and local community. 

As well as ‘Walking Rocks’ the school also takes part in Walk on Wednesdays, Bike Week and Cycle Training amongst other initiatives. They have worked with the Local Authority to implement measures to improve road safety outside their school and  have set up park and strides from local car parks to reduce the number of vehicles at school. Because of these efforts here has been a massive decline in the amount of cars outside of school, which was highlighted by the school’s Green Team who monitored the traffic as part of their Green Flag submission this year.

Walking Rocks has highlighted the importance of sustainable travel to pupils and families and families have realised how special it can be to be part of a community and enjoy our surroundings more. 

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:  Warkworth C of E Primary School - Warkworth Primary Eco Club

The fantastic part about Eco-Club is it’s all led by the children,  25 pupils from Year 1 all the way through to Year 5. Within a year they have already achieved the Green Flag Award as part of Eco-Schools and the Platinum Award for the Woodland Trust. What they have achieved in a year is phenomenal, their enthusiasm and dedication to care for their school, community and the world has made their teacher very proud!   Here are a few of their initiatives they have led over the last year.
  • They created a giant octopus from plastic called Octavia and paraded her through Amble to highlight the issue of reducing plastic.
  • They have set up a recycling centre for the community, collecting crisp packets, ink cartridges, unbranded uniform, batteries and plastic bags to make mats for the homeless.
  • They have banned the use of plastic bottles for milk and straws and now use a local farm supplier using glass bottles. 
  • They also have stopped the use of glowsticks and glitter from school too.
  • They have priced and sourced school uniform made of plastic bottles.
  • They’ve enabled the whole school to take part in so many projects such as: RSPB Bird Watch, The Spring Clean and Primary Stars Ocean Plastic Pollution.
  • They’ve made huge changes to the curriculum to focus on their three school rules, love yourself, love each other and love the world which have also benefited the local community.

Love yourself - They’ve looked at the impact of mental health and wellbeing and worked with the school therapy dog Coco once a week to support wellbeing of all pupils. They decided that Love yourself had to come first otherwise we couldn’t look after each other and the world. They have even taken Coco to The Grange Nursing Home with them.

Love each other - They attend The Grange Nursing home once every two weeks to support the residents and love this opportunity to spread the good work throughout the community, telling them about their projects and working together.
Love our world - The whole school has worked with local schools and taken part in community initiatives such as Hooked on the Coquet. As part of a National History incentive, they have worked with the Great North Museum to create a recipe for the future, based on reducing plastic which was put on display. 

They have also worked with Mudlarks Beach School with Shilbottle Primary which focused on waste and have attended Litterbugs community litter pick, this led them to set up a recycling centre for the whole community to access in school and everyone is encouraged to recycle with them. There is also now a crisp drop off point in Amble and pupils are looking to extend this too.

Joint Runners up:  Eastlea Primary School - Eastlea’s Recycling Superheroes and Scremerston First School - Scremerston First School gets to “The Point” about Beach Pollution

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: Cramlington Hillcrest Special School - The Bungalow Garden Project

Hillcrest School had an area of outside space that was unloved and uncared for.  Working with Kirkley Hall and the Children’s Foundation, the students have created a garden space that staff, students, parents and other professional support staff can use and enjoy.  

As the students designed this project they have invested time and hard work and created a sense of pride and ownership which can be used for future generations of Hillcrest students.  This has developed a beautiful quiet space which has helped us with our environmental issue where rubbish had been abandoned due to the unloved area. Whilst clearing the site the students found wood etc that they were able to recycle to include in the garden.
The project was much more than renovation and restoration as it helped develop collaborative working, enhanced resilience strategies and helped students identify the impact they can have on the environment and as community members.
Once completed the students organised a traditional English Garden Party to invite parents to the opening alongside the Civic Head of Northumberland and local Councillors.  This was a fantastic achievement as they demonstrated the work that had been achieved over the duration of the project but went further with the organisation of the Garden Party which included invitations, cooking etc to bring everyone together on a beautiful day in a community space.

The environmental benefits from this project has included recycling pots and tyres into unusual planters, use of timber to create seats and recycling old outdoor furniture instead of sending these to landfill.  The introduction of lots of different species of plants into the garden will promote birds and insects and the planting of vegetables for use in the school kitchen.  All materials were sourced locally including grass, soil and plants.

The project benefits the whole school along with parents, staff and support professionals.  As a special school this is an invaluable space which is calm and inviting for all that will use it.  It also has helped raise the profile of the school,  the learners that attend and the community the school serves giving the message ‘Every Child Matters at Hillcrest’

Runner up: Prudhoe High School - Prudhoe Proud Hill Project Group

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.

Joint winners:  

Mains Place Residents - Mains Place

Mains Place is a popular public footpath in Morpeth Town Centre leading to the stepping stones across the river.  However, as it is a private road,the maintenance fell to the residents. Three years ago, the communal gardens that lined the road were full of mature shrubs that were woody and past their best.  The residents took it upon themselves to work together to transform the beds into attractive herbaceous borders that are friendly to wildlife and regularly admired by passers-by. 

Digging out the existing shrubs was a monumental effort over the course of two years, a labour of love if ever there was one.  

The “wildlife” section contains wildflowers, and insect hotel and a hedgehog house which they hope will gain its first resident this winter.  There are also bird boxes installed throughout the gardens.

The gardens are tended to daily to keep the plants healthy and looking great, making it a beautiful public space for everyone to enjoy. Many compliments are received as the volunteers go about their duties - one comment received was “walking through here make me smile”.  The area is open to the public all day every day free of charge.

Friends of Ridley Park - Ridley Park Enhancement Project

FORP has a membership of 25 people of whom approximately 12 have played a supporting role and 6 have played a leading role in one or more of the enhancement projects. In total several hundred hours of volunteer time have been expended in bringing all eight projects to fruition during the last year.

During 2018-9 they completed four large and four smaller projects designed to improve the park for the benefit of all. 

These projects comprised: 
  • A water fountain and bottle filling station, endorsed by local dentists to improve dental health and reduce the single use of plastic water bottles.
  • A Tree Trail, including an information panel featuring 12 of the park’s trees, using images captured by a FORP member over a two-year period. 
  • A replacement bust of the park’s founder, Matthew White, Viscount Ridley by local sculptor, Ted Taylor, unveiled by the present Lord Ridley in June 2019. 
  • The purchase and installation of a full-size basket ball unit utilising a previously underused area. 
  • Decorative exterior panels affixed to the Friend’s Pavilion, created by Headway Arts Centre, as a summer holiday project by local schoolchildren. 
  • Adoption and planting of flower beds and tubs by local autistic children.
  • Creation of a large poppy screen to mark the 100th anniversary of WW1 which was displayed at the Remembrance Day Service in the park, following which the Friends of Blyth Battery mounted an exhibition in the Friends Pavilion. 
  • Refurbishment of park mascots ‘Bill & Ben’ by two FORP members, used to promote the park and county at local events, including ‘Blyth Carnival’ and ‘Northumberland Day’. 
In developing the tree trail, they have showcased the improved biodiversity offered in the park through a choice of 12 ‘exotic’ trees including a Maidenhair Tree and a Cedar of Lebanon. The replacement bust enables the park to continue its heritage links with the Ridley family whose forebears were responsible for the creation of the park over 100 years ago.

Each of the enhancement projects is accessible to all members of the public 24/7, both young and old, able and disabled, free of charge. They hope that the water fountain will play an increasingly important part in helping to improve children’s dental health by providing an alternative to sugary drinks and by reducing the single use of plastic bottles.

Runner up:  Tweedmouth Pickers - Community Litter Picks

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:  Kielder Water Vole Partnership - Restoring Ratty

This group of volunteers have been together for 6 years and the project has been running for 3 years. The team are from a range of backgrounds and ages and come from across the whole of Northumberland.  It has allowed people living in urban areas the chance to get out into some of the most remote areas of Northumberland and offer project activities for free or at a low cost with the chance to see water voles in open access areas.
Between 2016 and 2021, the restoring Ratty Project is reintroducing and establishing a population of water voles back to Kielder. To achieve this, water voles are being collected from donor sites in the North Pennines, Yorkshire and Trossachs where suitable water vole populations currently exist. Through captive breeding, numbers will increase to ensure sufficient voles are available for reintroduction.
The project is at the forefront of water vole reintroduction showing that conservation in Northumberland is highly respected.  It will reintroduce an iconic British species, thought to be the UK’s fastest declining mammal, to Kielder Water and Forest Park. Habitat loss, inappropriate wetland management and, principally, the introduction of the North American mink have all contributed to huge and continued water vole population losses since the 1960’s. Populations fell by over 90% in the 1990’s alone. The species has disappeared from 94% of sites where it was once prevalent. Kielder once had a thriving population and local residents can remember seeing water voles in the past.  By 2021 they will have reintroduced 1700 water voles back into Kielder to create a sustainable population which can then expand throughout the wider landscape.

The project has engaged with both locals and tourists, adding to the tourist offer in Kielder and they have run “Ratty Rambles” looking for signs of water voles, had a “Ratty Roadshow” at the County, Bellingham and Falstone shows. 

Their schools programme is expanding in the next two years to invite schools to attend a fully funded day of water vole activities. They have welcomed a student placement for 9 months and worked with aMasters Student from Newcastle University to study water voles for their thesis.
The project has appeared on both Look North and Countryfile diaries and has appeared regularly in local newspapers as well as a national paper. They are about to begin filming for a Channel 5 series showing off the wildlife in Kielder and are also hosting the next UK Water Vole Steering Group.

They have been awarded the prestigious CIEEM Best Practice for Large Scale Nature Conservation Award. 

Joint runnes up:  Coast Care Volunteers - Coast Care and Sea the Change CIC - Plastic Free Berwick upon Tweed

Highly commended smaller project: Spetchells Conservation Interest Group - Spetchells Habitat Rescue

Highly commended larger project: BDMLR Northumberland Volunteers - British Divers Marine Life Rescue

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:  Friends of Eastwoods Park - Miners Lamp Community Cafe and Hub
The Community hub and cafe has brought to life a semi-derelict former bowls pavilion in Eastwoods Park, Prudhoe. 
It was a target for vandalism, anti-social behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse. Now there is in its place a community cafe, food bank and school uniform scheme, as well as a community room available for community groups and other activities.
Within Eastwoods Park they also support a wide range of sports by providing free sports equipment for people to use, and have recently worked with NCC and other groups to reinstate a golf putting green in the park. Sports equipment which they are able to offer include tennis, badminton, table tennis, basketball, and baseball all free. Their work has also improved environmental quality for park users, they are also working to improve planted areas in the park for the local community to enjoy.
The hub also displays photographs and other items promoting and displaying the industrial and mining heritage of West Wylam and the area. They also work with the charity fare share and Asda to offer donated food which would otherwise have gone to landfill for a donation. This helps those on low incomes and reduces food waste. 
Their work has also improved environmental quality for park users and the local community, they have worked with NCC to bring back a putting green to the park, as well as providing other sports equipment. 
They have worked to involve a wide range of groups in their project. The local primary school were asked to officially open their building, and since then the schools pupils have helped to look after the park through litter picking etc. 
They have also worked with other projects including Prudhoe Youth Project to engage with young people to combat issues of antisocial behaviour etc and worked closely with the Hexham Courant and Tyne Valley Express to promote their work and their park. Through their own social media work they are benefitting seeing increased numbers of people visiting the park and hub from areas outside Northumberland. 
Their future plans include working with other groups in areas such as dementia care providing activities and sports for sufferers of dementia in a safe and inclusive environment. 

Runner up: Amble Men’s Shed

Highly commended smaller project:  Heddon Branches - Victrix Tree Sculpture

Highly commended larger project - Tyne Rivers Trust - My Tyne - Adopt A Stream

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 five special individuals.

Outstanding young person- Rayer Waddell
Rayer’s mission began almost 3 years ago which also coincided with her age at the time when she began to question the habits of the human race and our lack of respect for the environment which we co-inhabit with our wild and sea life. Rayer noticed the amount of waste which was being discarded from vehicle windows within our local area and began to collect it whilst on family walks without prompt. 

Her collections increased with the widespread media coverage which was produced by Sir. David Attenborough MBE who is her hero and has received 2 letters of acknowledgement for her efforts from him. At 6 years old a child tends to choose to play with their toys however Rayer has chosen to help improve the environment by seeking to educate those around her by the sheer determination she shows to rid our community of plastic waste and prevent it from harming our wild and marine life. 

She has small feet but makes an enormous footprint with her sparkling personality.

Her parents promote her activities on twitter - 
Rayer Fay Takes the plastic away 
P.L.A.S.T.I.C. Please_Lets_All_Stick_Together_In_Crisis 

In her local community she has made signs for the streets to stop everyone from dropping their plastic everywhere.

She has also designed signs for the back of our car to get the message across to stop people throwing litter and plastic bottles out of their vehicle windows.

Other signs she has designed are at North Blyth viewing point at the wind turbines near the rocks where a lot of vehicles park to view the sea but leave all of their takeaway cartons and bottles behind from KFC, Costa Coffee, McDonalds and Greggs! 

She has personally posted hundreds of pamphlets saying that she is M.P. (Miss Particular) for her local community to clean up the plastic pollution.

Rayer regularly visits skate parks where she explains to all age groups the impact of throwing plastic bottles down. A lot of children think that if they throw their bottle down away from the sea it won’t harm any marine animals, but as Rayer explains, the bottles get flattened and get blown down drainage systems and enter our waterways or break into small fragments which are eaten by 

As part of the Great British Spring clean-up 22nd Mar to 23rd Apr - Rayer took part in the Great British clean up and was out every day as she always is. With the help of her mam and dad, she safely cleared up a length of the spine road where lots of bottles and plastic had been thrown out of vehicle windows.

Outstanding Wildlife Advocate - John Anderson

John set up Blyth Wildlife Rescue, also known as Northumbria Wildlife Rescue in 2006 and has worked tirelessly for the last 13 years to save thousands of sick and injured animals. Funding has become increasingly difficult to secure and more animals than ever continue to be handed into the charity, with July 2019 seeing over 100 sick and injured hedgehogs alone being admitted, along with similar numbers of wild birds, particularly baby birds and fledglings.
John continues to ensure the rescue, treatment, care, rehabilitation and safe release of wildlife and also deals with domestic and exotic animals when required.
BWR work with members of the public and also take referrals from vets across the North East and have built links with a number of local companies.
John has recruited a network of volunteers who help with fundraising and collection, rescue, rehabilitation and release of wild animals and birds.
There is no charge to the public for the service John and his group of volunteers
John and volunteers also update BWR Facebook page as regularly as they can in the very limited time they have left to give details of the animals and birds that they rescue and care for. By doing this, they help to engage the public,raise awareness of issues affecting wildlife such as pollution, development, injuries caused by strimmers, poisoning,netting, rubbish etc. This encourages people
to take an interest in wildlife, their environment and their own responsibilities.

Outstanding Community, Environmental and Sustainable Transport Champion - Maria Holdsworth

Maria has been nominated for her tireless work in the school which goes above and beyond her role as admin assistant and she makes a massive contribution in helping to enrich the lives of the children and families of the school.

Maria works in the office at school and although she only works for 16 hours a week within that, you would be forgiven for thinking she was full time due to the extra hours she spends voluntarily in school. She has set up and runs a Toddler group , leads a Cycle club and has worked tirelessly to establish and maintain the school wildlife garden.

Maria will be 70 next year but never stops! She is an active member of the community and is always on the go. If she is not helping voluntarily at school then she will be helping at her church where she organises social nights and fund-raisers. She is constantly looking for ways to give the school children the best possible life experiences. 

She organises Golden days, visits out of school and residential trips, and has freely given up her time to  attend these residentials, and has recently accompanied Year 6 pupils to London and York!

Maria makes an idea become a reality and her motivation and enthusiasm is endless. 

Maria started running a Toddler group at the local Salvation Army hall, once a week since her daughter was small. And 35 years later she is still running it! 
When it was suggested maybe she could start one at school, despite her other commitments, she immediately set about bringing a group of parents together to set up and run a Toddler Group at school. She has sourced all of the toys and equipment, and they now have a well-attended thriving toddler group operating weekly at school. 

This has had a huge effect on the community, giving parents and their toddlers a chance to socialise and meet. It has also given the children and parents the chance to become more familiar with the staff and the school from an early age and thus making that step into nursery far easier. The Toddler group is thriving and has just celebrated its first birthday.

In Maria’s spare(!) time, she is a member of the Cramlington Vintage motorbike Club and the Cramlington Veteran Bike Club. She has a passion for biking that has “rubbed off” on the staff and pupils of Eastlea. She has organised Key Stage 2 Bikeability courses, and Early Years and Key Stage 1 Balance Bikes within school, but not content with this, she wanted the children to then use these skills and be able to enjoy biking. With this in mind, she worked alongside another teaching assistants and office assistants to establish an after school bike club. Many of our children have not got bikes and Maria wanted to ensure that any child could take part so worked with Cycle Experience to source school bikes. Because of her efforts, we now have ten bikes, school helmets, lights and even a bike shed!

Maria passed her bike leader’s training and organised bike maintenance training for the children. She then set up a weekly after-school ride for a bike club for the children.  These rides have given the children the opportunity to use the cycle tracks around their local area. They have ranged from riding to the local parks in the area, to riding to Northumberlandia, Azure Garden centre to see the reindeer and even down for chips at Blyth Beach! Maria’s enthusiasm is never ending and as the children’s confidence has grown so have her plans. She has organised rides out to Druridge Bay and Whitley Bay for next term and she has a vision of a cycle visit to Amsterdam! 

Highly Commended for Community Action - Tom Grimwood

Tom raises money for local causes by carrying out car parking duties and arrangements for Kielder Rally Car Parking. [Betty his wife, does this too]
He helps organise and has attended all cake stall events at the Kielder Marathons held in October, raising money for the Parish council [along with Betty]!!
He was on the parish council for many years and stood as chair for some of that time.
He provides assistance for the running of the chip and pin fuel station.

He organises and oversees the firework display every year. Builds the bonfire and collects items to burn for the bonfire  event and Clears up the debris from the event and the bonfire.
Has given up a lot of his time to the campsite and Kielder Ltd requirements since it's conception in 2004 which is a community run campsite.  Tom overseas the running of the Kielder Charity and money which is distributed to good causes in Kielder Village.

For general 'assistance' Tom has been your man.  Everything he does is all on a volunteer basis, he has been a help to anyone whom needs it in Kielder Village and most importantly has the interests of people in the village at heart.

Highly Commended for Community Action - Edward Milligan

For over 40 years Edward has contributed to the local community by way of voluntary work.

He has maintained Gunnerton churchyard and and within the village itself - weeding, tidying up roads, cleaning out drains and cutting back hedges etc.

He comperes charity events, acts as Santa Claus, is a bingo caller and just “pulls events together”.  

Circumstances have meant that he has had to do less but he still delivers.

In 2015 he was awarded a “Chollerton Parish Council Hero” award for all that he does for the community.
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