Award winners at Alnwick Gardens

Awards celebrate the best of the county's green volunteers

The Duchess of Northumberland helped celebrate the very best in community and voluntary environmental work across the county at this year’s LOVE Northumberland awards ceremony. 

Community groups, organisations, schools and individuals were honoured  awards across seven categories in what is now the event’s 14th year. 

From residents combining jogging and litter picking (known as plogging), to schools transforming the way pupils think about greener travel – award winners spanned the length and breadth of the county. 

Representatives of all shortlisted entries attended the event at The Alnwick Garden, which was hosted by BBC Radio Newcastle presenter Anna Foster. 

Paul Jones, Director of Transport and Environment at Northumberland County Council, said: “The efforts of volunteers, local community groups and individuals to improve their local environment is invaluable in our county and it’s been great to celebrate them through these awards. 

"All the entries should be very proud of their work - they are fantastic examples of communities working together across our beautiful county – protecting, nurturing and improving our environment.” 

This year’s winners were: 

Schools Go Smarter Sustainable Travel Award . Allendale Primary School.  

Allendale Primary’s active and sustainable travel project started in 2021 when they needed to look at ways to reduce car travel and parking congestion around the school.  The pupils have taken ownership of the project and are enthusiastically involved in its delivery. The children have very creative ideas and often it is the children who will educate their parents.  

Some of the activities they take part in are,  

  • WOW- Walk once a Week  

  • Scooter training and Learn to Ride   

  • Bikeability   

  • Walk to School Week and Walk to School Month  

  • The Big Walk and Wheel    

They were recently placed 8th nationally in The Big Walk and Wheel and ranked 1st in the North of England with the school achieving over 1000 active school journeys. This was only achievable with the support of parents and families, some parents cycled with their children, even children who normally receive school transport and some parents left their cars at home and walked to school with their child.  

These events help to maintain the momentum throughout the year, but they also run school initiatives such as,  

  • Bling Your Wheels  

  • Active breaktimes  

  • Whole school and class walks   

  • Bike bus from the village  

And our most recent ‘Book Fairy’ initiative where the Allendale Book Fairy hid books on the routes to school for children to find.  

The children love these events, and they are encouraged to make suggestions about how active journeys can be promoted and find novel ways to encourage families to do so. 

Through all this work the school has been successful in increasing the number of active journeys to school and raising the profile of sustainable travel and sustaining it. They have increased the children's physical activity levels and made the environment around school cleaner and safer. They were also shortlisted in this year’s Modeshift National Sustainable School of the Year Awards and travelled to London to take part and represent Northumberland and the North East Region.   


Their aim is to have only children from out of catchment area using a car for a school journey and even then, encouraging them to park in the main village square and walk to school from there.  


Best Children’s Project. Stannington First School (Grow Together).  

Stannington First School pupils are passionate about the wonderful county they live in and in school they learn how to take care of the environment.  They wanted to find out what more they could do so pupils carried out an audit of the school site to plan a project which increases biodiversity providing homes for a wider range of insects and other wildlife, and helps the school become more sustainable and having their own garden providing produce to support health and wellbeing. 

The audit took place across the whole school, and involved taking part in the Big Butterfly Count, the School’s Birdwatch as well as identifying plants, insects and other animals living on their site.  They researched different ways to encourage more birds and insects to live on their site and they discovered that they could make a difference and become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint.  The result was their “Growing Together” project which launched in September 2022.  // 

The project has made a HUGE impact on the school grounds.  They have left large sections of the site to grow wild and using different mixes of wildflower seeds each class was allocated a section to develop a wildflower meadow.  They experimented to see which flowers were most successful and provided shelter for bees, butterflies and insects.   

The seed packs were provided by HRH King Charles following his coronation.  The results have been a far greater range of flowers in the school grounds which in turn has encouraged butterflies, bees and other insects.  They even found tiny intricate dormouse nests tucked away in the long grass! 

The pupils made bird houses and considered the most suitable locations for them, they made fat balls and pine cone feeders and even decorated an outside Christmas tree with fat balls and strings of berries and this spring have enjoyed watching starlings and Blue Tits raise their young. 

Their allotment garden used companion planting to assist pollination and pest control and growing their own food has allowed the school to educate the pupils about buying locally grown produce and reducing food miles. 

The school allotment area has seen pupils and their families work together to repair some old raised beds and together with a team from the Alnwick Garden’s Roots and Shoots programme they have raised awareness about healthy eating and how to grow your own produce, even fertilising their own beds with compost made from discarded banana peels.  July to September 2023 saw a bumper harvest of vegetables and salad crops all used as healthy snacks in class and the school kitchen.  In fact, there was so much they created a “help yourself” basket at the local church for the Stannington residents! 

This project has demonstrated incredible enterprise and innovation and has been shaped by the pupils and their ideas, who were in awe watching food grow from seed to plate! 

Their plans for the future include extending into the wider community to raise environmental awareness and promote healthy lifestyles. 


Best Young People’s Project. Corbridge Middle School (Go Green Gorillas).  

A team of Year 8 students from Corbridge Middle School called the 'Go Green Gorillas' are doing all they can to encourage other schools to start gardening and promote biodiversity.  

The team of children aged 12 and 13 won the Young Green Briton Challenge in June 2023 with their enthusiasm and ideas to get more children outside growing their own food. They produced hundreds of wildflower seed packs and created bespoke grow-your-own-meal sets which led to their win. 

The Go Green Gorillas have now raised over £1,700 from prize winnings and they have used these funds to reach more schools and to promote the National Education Nature Park, a programme that is being led by the Natural History Museum and the RHS.   // 

The Go Green Gorillas have already assisted 16 schools in the northeast that were not eligible for central government funding but could still do with materials to improve nature and set them on a journey to grow their own food. In March, just in time for the spring growing season, they sent out kits worth ~£100 each to 16 schools in the Tyne Valley. The kits included a book on how to re-wild school grounds, seed packets to grow-your-own meadow and grow-your-own salad, instructions and a voucher for compost and pots.   // 

The Go Green Gorillas have a passion for being changemakers who want to make the world a better place. As they move up to the High School in September the team aims to continue to raise funds for their social and environmental work. 

If all schools successfully plant and nurture the seeds provided, a million or more flowers might bloom over Northumberland that would not have existed otherwise. Isn’t that a beautiful thought!   

Not only will our precious pollinators benefit but through school gardening the children develop a wide range of skills that are not really embedded in the curriculum, from teamwork, safety using tools, creative thinking and problem solving – but most of all the Go Green Gorillas are hoping other pupils will also have fun outside in nature!      

The Young Green Briton Challenge has allowed the Go Green Gorillas to begin to understand that, although they face serious environmental issues on our rapidly changing planet, by thinking creatively, working as a team and taking action they can not only become changemakers but also have fun in the process.  

The Go Green Gorillas plan to work with the school Eco Committee to identify the best project to use their prize money on.  This may be to reach out to more schools, or to enhance the biodiversity in their own grounds or they might use the money for some clothes storage for their new uniform recycling initiative. 


Best Urban Project. Friends of Eastwood Park (Miners Lamp Community Café and Hub).  

The Miners Lamp Community Cafe & Hub is situated in Eastwoods Park, Prudhoe. Friends of Eastwoods Park are continually looking at ways that the Miners Lamp can support and enhance the lives of our community. The heritage and history of the area is a key aspect of their work.  

Eastwoods Park was created as a miner’s welfare park by the mining community of West Wylam. Their ethos at the Miners Lamp has always been about the community helping each other and enhancing the lives of the people in the community.  

One of their greatest achievements to date was to bring back Prudhoe Town Show - Following Covid, Prudhoe Town Show looked like it was no more! Having been a feature in Prudhoe in one form or another since the 1880’s they felt it had to come back as its one of the largest horticultural shows in Tynedale. In September 2023 they were able to deliver a great show, with a wide range of exhibitors and exhibits as well as attract a wide range of new people, hopefully safeguarding the future of this historic horticultural show. 

Throughout the cost-of-living crisis, the group has given support to individuals and families facing fuel poverty with small grants towards their gas and electric. They have established a FREE community lunch club. This operated over the winter or 2022/23 and was re-started in winter of 2023. The lunch club is every Thursday and is an opportunity for anyone to come for a hot meal. It has been very popular and has become an opportunity for some elderly and other residents who are perhaps feeling lonely or isolated to come along and enjoy a meal with some company. 

The Miners Lamp Community Cafe and Hub is a big part of promoting the heritage of the park, and so in April 2024 they celebrated the parks 100th Birthday in style. Over a full weekend, they had a marquee with a photo display of 100 years of photos of Eastwoods Park and how the community around it has changed in the 100 years.  

Alongside this was a craft group demonstrating clippy and proggy mat making and members of the public were welcome to have a go. They were also joined by the U3A for pebble painting, children could paint a pebble and this will be laid in concrete in the park as a permanent reminder.  

Volunteers are vital to the delivery of activities and events, and as a small team they rely on volunteers from the community to help deliver big events and activities.  

The group has a number of future plans including a building refurbishment to create more useable space and they are currently crowdfunding to secure a youth worker with specialism in children and young people’s mental health to help combat this increasing crisis. 

They continue to work with NCC to make environmental changes to Eastwoods Park, most recently the establishment of wildlife ponds and wetland area, as well as the planting of 20 new fruit trees throughout the park. 

To highlight the industrial heritage of Eastwoods Park and the community, they are also working on the creation of a Coal Tub Miners Memorial, dedicated to the men and boys who died working at the West Wylam Colliery.   

Their prize money will be used towards further heritage projects in Prudhoe. 



Best Coast and Countryside Project. Cramlington and District Red Squirrels (CADRS) Group (The Thin Red Line).  

As CADRS enter into the final year of their Thin Red Line Project they want to share the work the group have been undertaking to promote and protect the native red squirrel in southeast Northumberland and beyond in the last 12 months.  

The group has grown to over 50 volunteers, who cover over 24 square miles. Their volunteers have dedicated endless hours to red squirrel conservation work, community engagement, environmental maintenance work, which is being recognised locally and on a national level.  

Since the last awards in 2023 they have had 18 community engagements in which they have carried out the below tasks: 

● Planting over 1000 trees within East Cramlington Nature Reserve 

● Hosted the Cumbrian Red Movie at the Phoenix Theatre, Blyth 

● Conservation Day at Manor Walks, Cramlington 

● RSNE Spring Survey 

● Community engagement display at Blyth ASDA, Isabella Family Fun Day 

● Nature Trail Easter Egg Hunt at East Cramlington Nature Reserve 

● 12 Activity days at East Cramlington Nature Reserve, carrying out general environmental tasks 

As part of these engagement events the group feel they are showing that volunteer groups don't have to be designated to a particular site or location and by assisting each other, greater progress can be made. The red squirrel conservation project is now assisted by The Friends of Holywell Dene, Friends of Valley Park, Isabella Volunteer Group and the Friends of Crofton Field, and they all utilise their volunteer resources and specific knowledge of their areas to show that partnership working for the love of Northumberland has a huge impact.  

The project’s conservation work will ensure that the native red squirrel is around for future generations to enjoy. This will benefit anyone who has a rear garden, access to public parks and the countryside, allowing the potential for all to observe this beautiful wild creature, whilst enhancing our local nature reserves and open spaces and ultimately enhancing Northumberland’s biodiversity. 

Without this group’s involvement it is certain that our native red squirrel would soon become endangered or even extinct from the area. 

Individuals of the group have been recognised and nominated specifically for their work – the chairman was shortlisted as a mammal champion, and he has recently been appointed as the UK Squirrel Accord Volunteer Representative.  One of the younger volunteers was nominated and finished runner up in a young citizen of the year award.  

They are busy creating a new project which will run from September 2024 to 2029 aiming to protect our native red squirrel for years to come and ensuring that Northumberland is on the map as one of the remaining red squirrel strongholds. 

Their prize money will help to deliver this fabulous project to completion. 


Best Community Response to Climate Change Emergency Project. The Dales School Blyth (The Learning Train).   

The Dales School works with children who have special educational needs and disabilities, with a large majority living in poverty.  The project is designed to help families and children, learn the importance of reading for enjoyment and to give children the skills to travel on a train. 

The Dales school learning train project is centred around the children and actively involves the children at every stage. The school is very proud to be based in Blyth and shows its love of Northumberland by striving to give their children and community new hopes and skills for the future.   

This fabulous project encourages children to use public transport as a greener alternative to using cars and uses train travel on school trips and also uses recycling as a way to help families in poverty.   

Travelling on the railway will open a lot of life chances to their pupils through the introduction of the Northumberland line. This opens the possibility to learn independent travel skills to travel for work and to social events, creating better mental health and opportunities in the future.  

The project uses an old class 144 Pacer train located on the school grounds. The train has been recycled for a different use instead of meeting its fate at the scrap yard. The hypothesis was to provide a novel, creative, and stimulating environment using two train carriages, to develop reading enjoyment, and to teach the children how to travel on the train.   

Children with special educational needs may struggle to use public transport as there are many practical life skills that need to be taught.  The children learn how to buy train tickets at the Dales Ticket office and to design their own train tickets using IT skills in the trains STEM carriage. The ticket office lets children role-play buying train tickets and also has secondary input of helping children use speech and language skills.  

The children use the rail safety waiting room, to read children's books about staying safe on the railway and to learn what different railway warning signs mean. They learn how to be safe on the Dales train station and look at ways they must behave when on a train and station platform. They practise boarding a train and understand the importance of never trespassing on the track.  

The train's railway crossing helps the children to role-play how to use a level crossing safely.    They learn how to read a train timetable using a real live stream timetable board, linked up to Newcastle station, and how to read a 24-hour clock and to use maths to work out how long a train will be delayed.  They are taught who the right people are on a train and station if they need assistance, they look at what uniform people are wearing and how to never approach strangers. 

The Children first practice travelling on the school train which is fully interactive and also physically shows them what it is like to travel on a train using a train simulator in the train's cab and VR technology in the STEM carriage. They learn to understand what sights and sounds they will hear on a train and learn that sometimes the train will have to stop for a signal which helps them not to panic if the train stops.    // 

The children then go for a real ride on a train to put their new skills into practice. The project is developed in partnership with Northern Rail and TransPennine Express, by giving children real-life experience on a train, to understand how to travel and helping children who struggle with sensory stimuli learn how to self-regulate when at a busy station and on a real train.  The project has been so successful that the Harrison Foundation has included it as one of their social mobility centres.  

School trips are organised with the theme of using a train instead of taking the school bus. Every child in years 4,5 and 6 will have the opportunity to travel by train and recent trips have included Morpeth, Newcastle, Cramlington, Aln Valley and an end-of-year trip to York.   

The project also looks at ways we can help people through recycling. This is done using the trains reading for enjoyment carriage and also the station house clothes bank.  

As some families were struggling with poverty, not many children were able to access or even own a book at home. The project was able to provide a book to every child in school as well as open a take-a-book-home library for all students' parents and carers as well as a book reward vending machine located on the train. A free clothes bank for the community was also set up helping to recycle clothes and toys.  

The children were featured on channel 4, George Clarks amazing spaces, looking at the transformation of the old pacer train, and have also featured on both ITV and BBC news.  Seeing themselves on TV and in newspapers has helped to raise their self-esteem.  

In Summer 2024 the project is developing by adding a real railway signal from the Northumberland line, this will be used to install a cause and effect and speech and language room in the cab of the train.  The children will be able to turn on the train’s lights, change the signal, see the windscreen wipers move, operate the fan and push buzzers and buttons!  


The Outstanding Individual Award. Barry Frost (winner 1) 

Barry has been ‘plogging’ around North Northumberland for years! Plogging is litter-picking while jogging which not only keeps Barry fit and healthy, promoting a healthy lifestyle, but also allows him to see litter that is sometimes hidden from view, but endangering wildlife. 

Barry has literally collected 100s of bags of litter from roadsides and verges. He regularly contacts the Neighbourhood Services team to give the location of the refuse for collection.  

Just in the last few weeks Barry (and his wife Erica) have cleared around 3km of local road verges around Rothbury.  He explains ‘the rubbish fills a 70-litre bag roughly every 150m’.  That is quite some effort Barry!    

Barry is currently making a short video to deter people from dropping litter from cars, and to help raise awareness of the harm litter can cause.   

Barry is part of Rothbury Rubbish Friends, but he regularly goes far and above the group’s usual activity.  He is a man on a mission!  

Barry was nominated by Katie Scott, who says: “I believe the areas around North Northumberland are far more beautiful and safer for wildlife as a result of  Barry’s tireless quest to clear up litter.” 


The Outstanding Individual Award. Jill Brown (winner 2)  

This nomination is rather special as the same person has been nominated twice by two separate organisations in recognition of the work she does and the contribution she makes. 

Jill has chaired the Friends of Valley Park since it began in 2022.  The group maintains and conserves the 52-acre site of Valley Park in Cramlington.  Jill is there every Thursday morning to welcome volunteers to the site and spends large amounts of time behind the scenes organising events in the woodland, such as the festive trail at Christmas, the RSPBs Big Garden Bird Watch and the City Nature Challenge 2024.   

She ensures the bird feeders are kept full, updates the notice board with current information and is often seen picking litter around Valley Park and beyond.  Jill also gives up her time to represent the group at the Cramlington Wildspaces Hub meetings and was invited by Cramlington Town Council to give a presentation about Valley Park at the Northumbria in Bloom Spring 2024 meeting.   

She has compiled the Management Plan for Valley Park for 2024 to 2028 and completed the application process for the Friends of Valley Park to receive a Green Flag Community Award, the outcome of which will be decided by July 2024.  Jill also writes funding bids for the group and has put together all of the risk assessments, providing guidelines for volunteers and visitors. 

Recently, Jill forged links with a local Primary School to encourage young people to develop an interest in their local environment.  She visited the school to deliver an assembly about Valley Park and invited them to visit the site to plant over 200 trees she received from the Woodland Trust and 900 bluebell bulbs received from Northumberland County Council.  She also received funding to enable each class to rear native caterpillars which will be released by the children once they emerge as butterflies. 

Friends of Valley Park won the #LoveCramlington Green Champions Award in 2022 and 2023 and the LOVE Northumberland Urban Project Award last year and her friends and colleagues in the Friends of Vally Park group who have nominated Jill say they feel this would not have happened without Jill’s leadership, dedication and passion for the project. 

Jill has also received a nomination from Cramlington Town Council who told us that Jill has been instrumental in the development of the Cramlington Wildspaces Hub, she plays a crucial job in coordinating volunteers and organising community activities.  She also runs two community singing groups aimed at promoting positive mental health awareness and wellbeing, and is actively involved in Friends of Valley Park, which we have just heard about earlier! 

Jill stands out due to her exceptional dedication, passion and tireless efforts in supporting, enriching the environment and the lives of Cramlington residents through her volunteering work.  Her ability to inspire others to get involved and her unwavering commitments to many community projects showcases her exceptional leadership qualities and altruistic spirit. 

Through her work Jill has made a significant and positive impact on the community in Cramlington! 

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