Volunteers are rewarded for their environmental work

The winners in the Outstanding Individual Awards category included Morpeth resident Lindsay Thompson. Picture by Andrew Bryson.
The winners in the Outstanding Individual Awards category included Morpeth resident Lindsay Thompson. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

The Duchess of Northumberland helped to celebrate the very best in community and voluntary environmental work across the county at a special ceremony last week.

Nineteen groups, organisations, schools and individuals were honoured with winner, runner-up or highly commended accolades across eight categories at the LOVE Northumberland awards.

Longhorsley Parish Council was runner-up in the Best Coast or Countryside Project category. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

Longhorsley Parish Council was runner-up in the Best Coast or Countryside Project category. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

They received their prizes at The Alnwick Garden. The evening was hosted by historian and television presenter John Grundy.

The winners in the Outstanding Individual Awards category included Morpeth resident Lindsay Thompson, who became a volunteer with Groundwork North East six years ago.

Groups and organisations in Longhorsley, Lynemouth and Ponteland were also honoured and there was a highly-commended accolade for Morpeth All Saints First School in the Best Children’s Project category.

The annual awards were developed by Northumberland County Council through its LOVE Northumberland campaign.

The entry from Friends of Lyne Dene/Groundwork North East was runner-up in the Best New Project category. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

The entry from Friends of Lyne Dene/Groundwork North East was runner-up in the Best New Project category. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

Civic head of the local authority, Coun Anthony Murray, said: “All of the shortlisted entries should be very proud of their work.

“These awards are all about celebrating the work that individuals and groups do, largely in a voluntary capacity, to keep their local areas green and clean right across Northumberland day in and day out.”

Each winner received £250, each runner-up £100 and each highly-commended entry £50 to go towards their project or other work within the local community.

The descriptions for the entries in the county council’s Castle Morpeth Local Area Council boundary are as follows.

Ponteland Community Partnership was highly commended in the Best New Project category. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

Ponteland Community Partnership was highly commended in the Best New Project category. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

LINDSAY THOMPSON

‘Her knowledge of tools and environmental management since joining Groundwork North East has evolved so much that she now leads tasks for groups of volunteers and keeps everyone else right.

‘From an environmental improvement, Lindsay has spent over 2,000 hours improving green spaces across Northumberland for both people and wildlife, working on a huge array of projects.

‘They include helping to manage a wildflower nursery, developing gardens at care homes, schools and hospitals, hand raking acres and acres of wildflower meadows, footpath work, building picnic tables, planting trees, installing interpretation and signage and removing literally thousands of redundant tree guards.

Morpeth All Saints First School was highly commended in the Best Childrens Project category. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

Morpeth All Saints First School was highly commended in the Best Childrens Project category. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

‘She has set up a Forest Schools project, been involved in removing Himalayan Balsam along the River Wansbeck and is also involved in the Growing Well Garden at Wansbeck General Hospital.

‘She has worked from Berwick to Hexham, including Bedlington, Ashington and most places in between, and so many fantastic environmental projects have been able to take place because of the hard work Lindsay has put in helping with the initial set up and infrastructure.

‘If this wasn’t enough, in 2015 Lindsay cycled, with support from a Groundwork member of staff, coast-to-coast along the John Muir Way to raise awareness of the importance of looking after our natural spaces and to raise funds for a dementia gardening project based in Bedlington.

‘By the time of these awards, Lindsay would have also completed a walk coast-to-coast across the Highlands to raise funds for an Older Persons Active Green Living Allotment Project.

‘She is incredibly brave and committed to improving the environment and enriching the lives of residents in Northumberland.’

BEST COAST OR COUNTRYSIDE PROJECT RUNNER-UP – LONGHORSLEY PARISH COUNCIL FOR LONGHORSLEY COMMUNITY WOODLAND

From left, Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services at Northumberland County Council, the Duchess of Northumberland and John Grundy. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

From left, Coun Glen Sanderson, cabinet member for environment and local services at Northumberland County Council, the Duchess of Northumberland and John Grundy. Picture by Andrew Bryson.

‘The parish council purchased this historic field on the edge of the village at the end of 2016.

‘The 16-acre field is on the south edge of the village and a causeway path crosses the field to the old parish church.

‘Records suggest that this path may date as far back as far as the 11th Century, with church documents revealing repairs to the path being carried out since 1742.

‘The previous owner of the land had begun to establish a woodland and the parish council’s intentions are to continue this work and open up the field as a community woodland for all to share and enjoy.

‘A co-ordination group has so far arranged tree planting and maintenance sessions for volunteers, a base line survey of nesting birds and the establishment of new mown paths around the site to create circular routes.

‘An Adopt a Tree scheme has been launched in the village and it is hoped the village school will be able to become engaged with the project in the future. There are regular project updates within the local parish newsletter.

‘The field and woodland will be managed to protect and enhance the wildlife and flora already present on the site.

‘The planting of native broadleaf trees will encourage a diverse woodland habitat with glades and pathways and the historic causeway link to the old church will be enhanced and restored.

‘The project benefits the whole community, it is accessible at any time free of charge and there is also disabled access.’

BEST NEW PROJECT RUNNER-UP – FRIENDS OF LYNE DENE/GROUNDWORK NORTH EAST FOR DISCOVER THE DENE

‘The Lyne Dene project has grown from strength to strength.

‘Working with various partnership organisations, including Northumberland County Council, those involved have been very busy securing funding, planning events and working with volunteers to carry out environmental improvements, making it a place to be proud of, and challenging people’s perceptions of the site.

‘It used to be an eyesore that was avoided by local people and had a terrible reputation for being unsafe to visit. It was full of fly-tipping and anti-social users were destroying the understory of shrubs and plants with quad bikes.

‘Under the care of the Friends of Lyne Dene, the space is starting to blossom. Volunteers worked hard at monthly task days to remove tonnes of fly-tipping, along with blockages in the river to reduce flooding and other environmental management activities.

‘Huge infrastructure improvements have been carried out, including footbridge repairs, gates and 3km of path improvements. Those involved have also installed benches and picnic tables and are in the throes of designing interpretation panels.

‘The partners have organised events such as an Easter Egg Hunt to encourage recreational use of the Dene and have worked closely with the school in Lynemouth to educate children about the value of the Dene to the people and wildlife.

‘Following a school assembly, activities such as bird box building, wildflower growing and outings were carried out at the after-school club. The children have adopted 151 acorns that they are growing into trees to plant in the Dene.

‘Now the site boasts a diverse range of wildflowers, a number of which are ancient woodland indicator species, and freshwater mussels, kingfishers, otters and other flora are being protected and valued.

‘Local support is growing, with over 40 adults and children helping out at a tree day planting of 420 trees including hazel, blackthorn and crab apple, which will further improve the habitat.’

BEST NEW PROJECT HIGHLY COMMENDED – PONTELAND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP FOR THE OLD RAILWAY LINE BRIDLE PROJECT

‘The aim of this project is to improve the environment of the bridleway, which is the old railway track of the 1990s from Ponteland Fire Station to the airport.

‘It is now a treasured route for recreation, dog walkers, cyclists and joggers, whilst still retaining its rural surroundings.

‘The first phase of the project has concentrated on the bridleway between the fire station and Rotary Way, as over the years it has become potholed, waterlogged in places and overgrown at the edges by vegetation that has reduced its accessibility to the local community.

‘The volunteers have litter picked and manually pruned the overgrown vegetation, skimmed the sides of the bridleway and reinstated hardcore as needed and planted trees to fill any gaps in the vegetation.

‘The trees planted will improve the environment by moderating climate, improving air quality, reducing storm water run-off and harbouring wildlife. The wildflower plantings will support pollinators that are reducing in number and they will also provide a habitat for insects and birds.

‘Those involved have also designed an interpretation panel to include heritage information on the railway line, a simple map and wildlife illustration. They have placed this in two Douglas Fir frames.

‘Publicity for the improvements to the bridleway appear in the Pont News and Views free monthly community magazine.’

BEST CHILDREN’S PROJECT HIGHLY COMMENDED – MORPETH ALL SAINTS FIRST SCHOOL FOR ITS OUTDOOR LEARNING ACTIVITIES

‘After entering LOVE Northumberland in 2014 with its butterfly garden and also Morpeth in Bloom, the school realised it needed to embed actual ‘teaching and learning’ about the outdoors in the school curriculum.

‘The school leadership teams introduced permanent weekly (fortnightly for each key stage) lessons outdoors, but also let the children participate in the maintenance of the butterfly garden and the raised vegetable beds.

‘As part of this learning, the school has built a new pond and invested in den building kits and key stage two pupils have been developing a wildlife corner. To be able to buy the den building kits, each class held a cake stall raising money for outdoor resources.

‘Outdoor lessons have included art projects linked to artist Andy Goldsworthy on 3D sculpture, sensory trails (looking at texture and smells in the herb beds), maths (building twig towers, measuring tree heights), literacy (winter scavenger hunts, listening games, rhyming hunts) and science (looking at hibernation and blindfolded tree exploration).

‘The school encourages donations of materials and time from parents and governors – one governor recently donated fern crowns, which the children have already planted around the pond.’