Believe me — it is the middle of summer, despite what the forecasters are telling us every day as they predict more up and coming unsettled and unseasonable weather with the school holidays just around the corner.
The next few weeks are important ones for towns like Morpeth as we look to draw in summer holiday visitors, hopefully bringing a welcome boost to the local economy, which many believe would be very timely following a perceived drop in town centre trade during and after the pavement works in Newgate Street.
Many, of course, will be heading for the sun and the beaches of the Mediterranean or further afield. Many others, however, will be staying closer to home, and over the next few weeks Morpeth will be setting out its stall to attract a good number of them to the town.
So just what will the town be doing that’s a little different to draw in visitors, as well as encourage local people to make the most of Morpeth?
Over the past few years Morpeth has been gradually developing its own café culture scene, from barista-made expressos and cappuccinos in the coffee shop chains to the local independents offering up their own tempting fayre, with more and more tables and chairs spreading out onto the streets and pavements.
Taking that a stage further, Morpeth Town Team organises a summer series of open air concerts on Saturday afternoons in the Market Place.
All in all, the next few weeks of summer promise to be very busy and exciting ones in Morpeth.
The 2016 Music in the Market Place concerts got under way last week with Jenny Lascelles entertaining shoppers and passers-by. This weekend it is the turn of Dean Haipani, who will be followed by Jason King (July 23), Along Came Lola (July 30), Jeffri Ramli (August 13), Dean Haipani (August 20) and Tom Wylie (August 27).
All the concerts run from 1pm until 4pm and are, of course, free to attend.
This weekend the Greater Morpeth Development Trust — one of the core members of the Town Team, along with Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade, Morpeth Town Council, Sanderson Arcade and Inside Morpeth magazine — stages its annual family fun day Picnic in the Park.
This year the Picnic will be adopting a Medieval theme, with entertainment from Jo Jingles (songs and movement for toddlers), Ellington Colliery Band, circus performer Nat Lunatrick, a climbing wall with the Army Cadets, Guide Dogs for the Blind, stalls from The Chantry, Morpeth Art Group, a bouncy castle, Woodhorn Matters demonstrating proggy and hooky mat-making, medieval tile making and a small Whitehouse Farm animal petting area.
Morpeth Churches Together will also be cooking up a free barbecue.
The event runs from noon until 4pm in Carlisle Park, and entrance will be free.
Morpeth always looks its best at this time of the year with its dozens of hanging baskets and planters coming into full bloom along the town centre streets, backed up by the usual magnificent displays in Carlisle Park.
Past publicity Morpeth has gained as a regular winner of awards in both the Northumbria and Britain in Bloom friendly contests attracts many visitors into the town to appreciate and enjoy the colourful beauty of its floral displays, and this year will be no exception to that rule.
What else will be bringing more people into the town centre of Morpeth this summer?
Well Newgate Street has been boosted recently with the opening of the unique and imaginative Packhorse Lane little alleyway shopping precinct by business partners Les Sage and David Chambers.
Morpeth is known for its ‘curious yards and alleyways’ made famous in her book by Bridget Gubbins, which follow the old oxen furrow ploughs dating from Norman days, which would eventually set the pattern along which the town centre eventually developed.
Les and David have transformed the Packhorse Lane alleyway off Newgate Street into a delightful mix of five niche independent businesses, ranging from a model shop to crafts and antiques, organic skincare, natural remedies and a supplier of specialist products for amateur and professional artists.
As Les says, they are delighted with the tenants they have attracted, who are bringing something very different to the Morpeth street scene and shopping experience.
In September Newgate Street will also be the venue for an imaginative poetry festival when shops and businesses will be encouraged to post poems in their windows — perhaps some written by shopkeepers themselves — and there will be a series of open mic poetry reading sessions in cafes, coffee shops and pubs.
The festival, which is being supported by Morpeth Town Team, will run from September 5 to 12 and is the brainchild of a group of poetry enthusiasts who regularly meet in venues around Morpeth to read and listen to one another’s work. Barbara Ross, one of the festival organisers, says they hope it will give another real boost to footfall along Newgate Street.
Over the next few weeks Morpeth’s latest town centre retail development will also be opening. Three new stores — Next, Home Bargains and Pets at Home — will be filling the space in the £7million development by Dransfield Properties, and between them they will be creating 100 much needed new jobs.
All in all, the next few weeks of summer promise to be very busy and exciting ones in Morpeth — and remember the town’s Food and Drink Festival will also be back, bigger and better than ever, later in the year.