Sandra Kerr

Local folk legend pens sea shanty encouraging us all on our bikes

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A new campaign has been launched by Northumberland County Council encouraging residents to try leaving their vehicles behind this summer and instead give people-powered transport a go.   

Research shows that a third of all journeys made in the county are 5km or less - by swapping cars for walking and cycling can save money, improve overall health and can help the environment.   

It has enlisted the help of Warkworth resident and Bagpuss songwriter, Sandra Kerr, to help spread the message far and wide.   

The free six-week challenge is open to everyone and helps families and residents looking to fill the long summer holidays with easy, fun and accessible activities, and receive as much guidance and support as they need.   

Ms Kerr signed up to ‘The Big Northumberland Gear Change’ and was so inspired by the information and encouragement available she bought an electric bike and has spent much of the past year exploring parts of the county with her husband, David. Sandra wrote an accompanying song to help rally and unite others, which she hopes to tour round schools in the county this autumn.    

Speaking of her love of cycling, she said: “I moved to Northumberland in the 80s from London and still feel so privileged to live here. Northumberland is such a beautiful county and we want it to stay this way for generations to come.   

“My husband and I have never cycled as much and what’s more is we keep finding new treasures right on our doorstep.    

“It’s so lovely to see so many people from all walks of life on their bikes in the local area. Biking really is for everyone. I personally have an electric bike which has helped me go further than ever before and feel more confident when out and about.    

“The beauty of music is that it brings people together - you only have to look at football matches or places of worship to see and feel the joy people experience when they are singing together.     

“The sea shanty structure has been such a hit this year that I just knew the Big Northumberland Gear Change song had to be in that style and is hopefully catchy enough for everyone to get behind it and act upon it.”    

Council Leader Glen Sanderson added: “The Big Northumberland Gear Change encourages us to slow down, take stock and adopt more sustainable ways of moving around the county by walking, cycling and using public transport more often.     

“Given the current pandemic, cycling and walking are also excellent ways of getting out and about and being sociable but in a safe way.” 

A third of all trips made in the county are less than 5k which equates to a gentle cycle or walk. This simple switch will improve physical and mental health and in turn help the environment by reducing carbon emissions, helping to achieve Northumberland’s net zero target by 2030.    

 Sarah Rowell, Senior Sustainable Transport Officer at Northumberland County Council explains: “This campaign is not about running a marathon or signing up to a competitive sport (although brilliant if it leads you to that), but rather about the small changes we can all make that support our wellbeing and the environment at the same time.     

“We love Sandra’s song and once you hear it, it’s stuck in your head for days; it’s truly brilliant. Hopefully residents in Northumberland will enjoy it and make people think twice before reaching for the car keys.”  

To find our more about how you can save money, feel better, and help the environment, visit: 


AUDIO VISUAL ASSETS: Download the audio file for Sandra’s sea shanty and the campaign video here

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