As an MP I get to see dozens of great local schemes, initiatives and ideas pioneered by local people, I get to go to lots of tea shops, pubs and see businesses all across Northumberland. This year also saw the Pennine Way walk which gave me a chance to get to know the byways and backwoods of the west, in particular. So here is my annual unofficial 2012 Awards:
Community of the Year: Tarset - who pioneered the Oil Buying Groups, helped make the bastle trail happen, and produced the famous Murray Henge amongst many other things. No small community does more: check out their website: http://www.tarset.co.uk/index.cfm
Church of the Year: I have been to many this year but loved the beautiful Byrness Church. It is tiny but possessed of famous stained glass windows: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byrness
Best Pub: Battlesteads Inn in Wark - it ticks every box: a great restaurant, good beer, run by lovely people who really understand the business they are in - they put a lot into the local economy.
Honourable mention to The Bay Horse in Stamfordham - which is thriving under new management.
Best Teashop: The Old Forge Tea Rooms in Greenhead - a livesaver for many a hiker. Great home made cakes! See:http://www.hadrianswallvillages.org.uk/BusinessDetail.aspx?ID=33
Party of the Year: Prudhoe Jubilee Party - made possible by countless people but particvularly the local council, the community partnership and the Rev Charles Hope, who showed how not to light fireworks - do not try this at home kids! A close runner up was the Haydon Bridge Beer Festival http://haydonbeerfestival.co.uk/july-2012-photographs/ who provided a great event in torrential rain. I learnt how to be a proper beer barman thanks to the team from CAMRA. Next years event is 12-13th July 2013.
School of the Year: I visited many this year but the one that really impressed above all others was Prudhoe Castle First School. This is not because it has the best ofsted, or the best facilities. I just loved the commitment and enthusiasm of the teachers, the support of the local parents and most of all the attitude of the kids. They took huge pride in their school: http://www.prudhoecastle.northumberland.sch.uk/. An honourable mention also to the wonderful Ponteland Middle, the Head Caroline Pryer is an inspiration.
Local Campaigners of the Year: the team behind the Opposition to Development on Ponteland Green Belt need to be seen to be believed. Alna nd her team are a formidable group capable of great things. Check out their website: http://www.pontelandgreenbelt.co.uk/
The signs that Lesley Noble has organised all along the airport road and make an impressive statement.
Best Fete: a tough call but I spent a wonderful day in Humshaugh in the summer - only slightly hampered by having to try every single one of the 15 cakes in the cake competetion - and people wonder why I am not at jockey weight any more!
Best Village Hall: I have held surgeries in many of the village halls this year but was really impressed by my time in Corbridge - if only because it is clearly so busy. I finished my surgery and then had 10 mins chatting to the mums and dads who were there with their kids at a packed judo class. There are lots of village halls that are busy and thriving but Corbridge is clearly doing a lot of the basics very well.
Most impressive People and Best Day of the Year: Our Northumberland Day in the House of Commons was very special. A great effort by Pete and the London team for making it happen. To all the people who came 320 miles south in September to showcase Northumberland Day in Westminster - I cannot thank you, and your businesses, and organisations enough - from Taste North East to Fentimans and Gilchester Organics and many more. The team who stole the show were Trees Can't Dance http://www.treescantdance.co.uk/ - who produced a chilli sauce that almost rendered the Prime Minister speechless - see the video above. No wonder he needed some Wylam Beer to take the edge off! http://www.wylambrewery.co.uk/