Thursday, 30 November 2017

Have you got a green heart?

An exciting new awards scheme is looking for nominations, and I would like to encourage you to get involved!

The Climate Coalition, a coalition of over 130 organisations, will be holding the very first Green Heart Hero Awards, an award to celebrate people, projects and politicians that are helping with the transition to cleaner and more secure energy to prevent climate change. There are ten award categories, ranging from Greenest School to Most Innovative Rural Project and the awards will be presented at a ceremony at Speaker's House on Tuesday 13th March 2018 with special guests and speakers in attendance.

I know that the environment and sustainability are issues about which Hexham constituents are passionate about, and that there are so many people, businesses, schools and projects across Tynedale and Ponteland deserving of a nomination. If you would like to make a nomination, please visit:

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

December's nearly here and Christmas is certainly coming to Hexham Abbey with so many fabulous events coming up over the next few weeks.

On Saturday 2nd December, 3pm-4.30pm, there will be a Light up a Life service at Hexham Abbey, where you are invited to remember a loved one who has died by making a donation in their memory. The funds raised will go to Tynedale Hospice at Home, which provides palliative care to people in their own homes, and in return for your donation you will receive a card with your loved one's name inside and a memory star to write your own message on. The service is open to people of all faiths and you don't have to have made a donation to attend.

As we all get ready to mark the start of Advent, Hexham Abbey's Choir and Candles for Advent will be taking place on Sunday 3rd December, 6.30pm-7.30pm. The lovely service with the Abbey choirs will be the perfect way to start the Christmas period.

Get your Christmas shopping done at the Hexham Abbey Christmas Fair on Saturday 9th December, 10am-2.30pm! With stalls selling home-made gifts, baked goods and food, as well as children's activities and singing, the fair will be a real highlight of the festive season at Hexham Abbey.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Every one's a winner ...

Saturday 2nd December is Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate small businesses and their owners and to encourage people to shop local and support them.

To showcase these businesses, I recently launched my Small Business Awards scheme to celebrate the best of the constituency’s small businesses. I invited constituents to nominate the shops and businesses that they wanted to see recognised for their excellent produce and service.

Hundreds of nominations for dozens of businesses came in, and ahead of Small Business Saturday I travelled across the constituency visiting nominated businesses, talking to owners and staff and handing out certificates of excellence.

Among the small businesses and business owners I visited were Bardon Mill Store and Tearoom, Louise Hunter and Associates, Prudhoe, Ponteland Hardware and Amanti Cupcakes, Prudhoe. I really enjoyed meeting the business owners and learning about their businesses which are such important parts of the communities they serve. I hope everyone will support their local businesses this Small Business Saturday and continue to shop local - and please do continue to let me know about the local businesses that you value.

Monday, 27 November 2017

The awards just keep coming!

We all know that the Hexham constituency is home to some of the country's best hotels and restaurants, with the Battlesteads, Wark, and The Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland, recently being recognised at a national level.

Now, Woodhill Hall, near Otterburn, has been named as one of the top thirty wedding venues in the country on wedding directory Bridebook's shortlist. The 300 year old Georgian manor house on a private estate near Otterburn was the only venue in the North-East to be nominated. This isn't the first time Woodhill Hall has been recognised- it was shortlisted in three categories at the English Wedding Awards 2018 and was highly commended in the best wedding venue in the North-East and Yorkshire category at the Wedding Industry Awards.

Yet more recognition for Northumberland's brilliant hospitality industry- long may it continue!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Making Christmas magical

I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has bought toys for my annual Toy Appeal. This is the seventh year I have collected toys for the Salvation Army to distribute to children in the local area who otherwise would not receive any gifts this Christmas, and this year the people of Tynedale and Ponteland have once again been incredibly generous.

There is still time to donate toys though- toys, cuddly toys, colouring books and much more will be very gratefully received, but new toys only please! Gifts can be dropped off at my two constituency offices at 1 Meal Market, Hexham, or at Office 2, Horton Park, Ponteland NE13 6BU between now and Friday.

Thank you once again to everyone who has donated toys- they really will help to give local children a very happy Christmas!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Releasing Ratty

Back in June the Kielder Water Vole Partnership released more than 300 water voles into the Kielder Water and Forest Park, and now another 255 have been released! Water vole numbers have been falling since the 1970s, and so the Forestry Commission, the Tyne Rivers Trust and Northumberland Wildlife Trust have teamed up to make Kielder Forest a more suitable habitat for water voles, helped by a £421,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further releases are planned to take place in June and August 2018, and local schools will be taking part in an educational programme about the reintroduction. I am so pleased to see that the project continues to be a success- you can find out more about the project here-

Yet another reason to visit Kielder!

Friday, 24 November 2017

Last week's animal sentience vote

There has been a lot of confusion on the recent vote on animal sentience, and in the last few days I have been contacted by constituents who have expressed their concerns that I and other Conservative MPs have voted that animals do not have feelings. This is not true.

I am committed to the very highest standards of animal welfare. Not a single MP from any Party believes that animals do not have feelings, and it concerns me that some have suggested that my vote means otherwise.

During a debate on the EU Withdrawal Bill, an amendment was tabled that would have put a recognition of animal sentience into UK law. While the government accepted the principal of the amendment, it rejected the specific amendment on the basis that they felt it was flawed. Instead Ministers have said they will deliver the same result using a different route.

Ministers explained during the debate that the Government’s policies on animal welfare are driven by our recognition that animals are indeed sentient beings. We are acting energetically to reduce the risk of harm to animals, whether on farms or in the wild. The vote last week was simply the rejection of a faulty amendment, which would not have achieved its stated aims of providing appropriate protection for animals.

Article 13 of the Lisbon Treaty, which this clause sought to transfer into UK law, has not delivered the progress we want to see. Its legal effect is unclear and it has failed to prevent cruel practices across the EU. The Government is presently considering the right legislative vehicle by which to make the necessary legal changes that will ensure animal sentience is recognised after we leave the EU. We are improving animal welfare standards without EU input, with recent steps including making CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses, consulting on draft legislation to jail animal abusers for up to five years, and introducing Europe’s most comprehensive ban on the ivory trade. Our ban on microbeads, which harm marine animals, has been welcomed by Greenpeace as “the strongest in the world”, and once we have left the EU, there is even more than we can do. EU rules prevent us from restricting or banning the live export of animals for slaughter and from cracking down on puppy smuggling. Leaving the EU gives us the chance to do even more to stop these practices.

The Government will continue to promote and enhance animal welfare, both now and after we have left the EU. This ill-informed outcry should not overshadow an extraordinary string of wins for animal welfare and the environment and the Government’s pledge to do more in the future. We have far higher animal welfare standards than any other country in Europe, and under this Government we will continue to raise them higher still.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Felling the Kielder Christmas tree!

Last week I announced the winners of my 2017 Christmas card competition, and it was fantastic to see winner Brooke Foster from Prudhoe Castle First School and runner-up Lily Macauley from Ovingham Church of England First School in Kielder yesterday to see the felling of the Christmas tree that will end up in Westminster in a few days time. Brooke and Lily designed such creative Christmas cards and so it was great to be able to invite them to Kielder Forest as they prepare to send the country's most famous Christmas tree down to London! The Kielder Christmas trees always look incredible when they are in place in Westminster, and I have no doubt that this year will be no different- I look forward to seeing the decorated tree with Brooke next month. Congratulations once again to my Christmas card winners- I hope Brooke and Lily really enjoyed their day!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Christmas comes to Wylam

Christmas is coming, and what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to attend the Wylam Community Christmas Fair this Saturday. The Fair is at the Wylam Institute from 10am-2pm with all proceeds going to the Wylam Institute. With local crafts, jewellery, glass, candles, wreaths, charity Christmas cards, toys, soft furnishings, refreshments, a raffle and much, much more, it will be the perfect opportunity to start your Christmas shopping whilst also supporting the local community. It should be a fantastic day and I hope there will be a great turnout!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Sharing our skills

Technology has become such an important part of our day-to-day lives, and so I was really interested to hear about the partnership between Wellburn House Care Home in Ovingham and pupils at Ovingham Middle School as part of the care home's 30th birthday celebrations. Residents have been taking part in workshops at the school organised by Year 8 pupils, to teach them how to use specific areas of technology, including emails, news apps and audio books for residents struggling to read because of poor eyesight. The partnership has been such a success that there are plans for the pupils to go to Wellburn House soon to meet with residents with limited mobility.

It is fantastic to see pupils at Ovingham Middle School share their technology skills with residents at Wellburn House. Partnerships like this are so important and are a great example of members of the community working together to help each other. Well done to everyone involved- what a great idea!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Hexham Art Fair- this weekend!

This Saturday (25th November), the Hexham Art Fair will be taking place, with original artwork by local artists on show. The fair takes place from 10.30am-4pm at Trinity Methodist Church, Beaumont Street, Hexham, and there will be a wide range of affordable painting, prints and cards by local artists and crafters, including members of Hexham Art Clubs and the Beaumont Street Art Group. There will also be a selection of fine art by artists working in Northumberland in the 19th and 20th Centuries, and refreshments are also available. It is hoped that the Hexham Art Fair will be a monthly event, with the next exhibition taking place on Saturday 27th January 2018.

I am sure the exhibition will be a great success- it is fantastic to see an event celebrating the work of local artists. Entry is free, so please do go along this Saturday and support our local Northumberland artists!

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Singing for Syrians!

I am delighted to hear that there will be a Singing for Syrians event on Friday 8th December in the constituency - Community Carols at Acomb Pant at 6pm. Singing for Syrians is a fantastic initiative designed to raise money by holding singing events across the UK. The initiative is part of the Hands Up Foundation which supports organisations working in and around Syria, often implemented by Syrians and monitored by the UK. So far Singing for Syrians has raised over £180,000 to help establish a nursery in Idlib, fund a prosthetic limb clinic on the Turkish border and more.

It's great to see an event like this  take place in the constituency to raise money for aid for some of the people affected by the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I hope that the event is a great success and I would encourage you all to go along and support it, or hold an event of your own.

For more information-

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Protecting their memory

Last week was Remembrance Day and I was honoured to lay a wreath to pay my respects to our servicemen and women who have shown incredible bravery and sacrifice in armed conflicts, both past and present. Northumberland has played a huge role in armed conflicts for our country, and that is why I am so pleased to hear that ten war memorials across Tynedale have been given listed status by Historic England. The war memorials in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Broomhaugh and Riding Mill, Ovingham, Wylam and Whitfield are just some of the Tynedale war memorials to have been listed as part of a pledge to protect 2,500 war memorials by 2018, the centenary of the end of the First World War.

War memorials are such important parts of our local communities, reminding us of the sacrifices of the generations before us in armed conflicts, and I am delighted that these memorials will be protected and maintained for generations to come. Heritage England are encouraging members of the public to put their war memorials forward for listing as part of the project- please do so!

Friday, 17 November 2017

Community Champion- a worthy winner

My Hexham Constituency Community Champion Awards were launched earlier this year to recognise the people making a difference in the local area. Last week I met recent winner Alan Bland,  who has raised £700 in aid of the Great North Air Ambulance by taking part in car rallies, most recently on the Isle of Mull. I really enjoyed meeting Alan and his wife Elizabeth, who has also raised money for the Great North Air Ambulance in the past doing parachute jumps, and I particularly enjoyed visiting the fantastic bar in their home! Alan is a very worthy winner, and just one of many people who are doing great things to help their communities.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Announcing my Christmas card design winners...

Yesterday I announced the winner of my annual Christmas card competition in Westminster. There were many entries from primary and first schools all across the constituency, but after a lot of consideration the winner was Brooke Foster from Prudhoe Castle First School who designed a fantastic Christmas snowglobe for her entry.  The runners-up were Lily Macaulay from Ovingham Church of England School for her brilliant number 10 door design, and Freya Villiers-Stuart of Whitfield Church of England First School which featured a great ice-skating penguin.

The winning design will be featured on the front of my Christmas card which will be sent all around the constituency, as well as to the Prime Minister. Brooke, Lily and Freya have been invited to Kielder Forest next week where they will see the Kielder tree being felled, and Brooke will also be invited to Westminster in December where we will see the Christmas tree completely decorated in place in College Green.

Thank you so much to everyone for their entries and to all the teachers for their help. I really enjoyed looking through them all- every single design was brilliant! Congratulations to Brooke, Lily and Freya, and I look forward to seeing the finished card and to meeting Brooke next month.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Top nomination for Hexham Auction Mart

Congratulations to Hexham Auction Mart which has been shortlisted for the 2017 Achates Philanthropy Prize for staging Northumberland musical Beyond the End of the Road in June along with theatre company the November Club. Directed by Cinzia Hardy with music and lyrics by Blanchland's Katie Doherty, the musical was made possible by an £85,000 grant from Arts Council England, as well as support from other groups. Opening night was held at the Mart before the musical went on tour in seven villages.

The Achates Philanthropy Prize is awarded by the Achates Philanthropy Foundation which aims to support innovation in the cultural sector. The winner will be announced on 27th November. This nomination is fantastic recognition for the arts in Northumberland and I am delighted for everyone involved.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Northumberland Knowledge- Haydon Bridge's John Martin

We all know that Northumberland is home to some incredibly talented people, but this isn’t a recent development. The painter and engraver John Martin was born in Haydon Bridge in 1789, before he became an apprentice coachbuilder in Newcastle and then moved onto London in 1806.

Martin’s career as a painter in oils brought him huge popularity with the public, with most of his income coming from selling prints and engravings of his paintings. Some of his most famous works include ‘The Fall of Babylon’ in 1819 and ‘Belshazzar’s Feast’ in 1821, and he exhibited works at the Royal Academy and at the British Institution. Martin was principally known for religious paintings and vast landscapes and cityscapes with minute figures. He also achieved fame and success overseas- he was made a member of the Belgian Academy and was created a Knight of the Order of Leopold.

Martin’s influence is still felt in Haydon Bridge today- John Martin Street is named in his honour. I find it fascinating to learn about famous Northumbrians of the past- let me know if your town has any famous sons!