CHRISTMAS has arrived a little later for residents of Northumberland’s newest animal attraction.
Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens near Ponteland has been inundated with donations of old Christmas trees after requesting them for use in the animal enclosures.
More than 400 trees have been donated by families and businesses across the county and will be used to provide additional cover and shelter for the animals.
Animal Centre Resource Manager Steven Sykes said: “I cannot believe the generous response from the public and local businesses, in particular Dobbies Garden Centre and Heighley Gate Garden Centre, to our Christmas appeal.
“The trees will make a massive difference to the animal enclosure during the cold winter months. We would like to say a big thank-you on behalf of the animals to everyone who donated their trees.”
The animals are also getting used to two new faces at the zoo as Northumberland College apprentices join the team.
Kimberley Brown, 20, beat off stiff competition from more than 80 applicants to be offered the position of Apprentice Animal Keeper.
The tourist attraction, which opened to the public last May, houses more than 100 species of animal and is also a realistic learning environment for the students working there.
The Whitley Bay resident is involved in the day-to-day care of the animals and she is able to gain valuable knowledge and experience by handling them in their enclosures, which are designed to replicate their natural habitats.
Horticulture apprentice Nick McEvoy, who lives in Wallsend, works alongside the team of gardening staff at Kirkley Hall to maintain the historical grounds of the estate.
The gardens exceed four hectares and include the National Fagus collection, a Victorian walled garden and a large collection of unusual trees and shrubs.
The 20-year-old has a range of daily duties such as weeding the ornamental beds and pruning and cutting back the perennial borders, which all contribute to maintaining the picturesque landscape.
Northumberland College offers a wide range of apprenticeships with study at its centres across the county.
Other subjects at Kirkley Hall include arboriculture and equine studies, and more traditional areas, such as business and administration and engineering, are available elsewhere.
For more information telephone 01670 841200, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.northumberland.ac.uk