Thursday, 31 August 2017

Busy Weekend Ahead- Tour of Britain and more...!

It’s not long now until the weekend arrives, and there are some exciting events happening around the constituency that I want to highlight.

Monday sees the much-anticipated Tour of Britain arrive in Northumberland, and to celebrate cycling fans are invited to KielderFest on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd September from 12pm at Kielder Water and Forest Park. The cycle themed festival is free to attend, and there will be live music, food and cycling related activities to encourage people of all ages and abilities to get cycling! With a pop-up velodrome and mountain bike coaching sessions, it will be the perfect way to get in the mood for the arrival of some of the world’s best cyclists in Northumberland on Monday! For more information visit

Ovington are holding a Go-Local BBQ from 4pm-8pm on Saturday at the Growing Field, Ovington. Food and BBQ facilities are supplied, but bring your own home-made relishes, chutneys and sauces!

And of course, Sunday is the day of the annual Ponteland Rotary Club Duck Race, from 12.30pm-4pm in Ponteland Park! One of the main fundraising events for the Ponteland Rotary Club, this is a fantastic fun-filled family day out with, children's games, a bouncy castle and refreshments! Race tickets are available from Mackley and Steven Optometrists or any Rotarian. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Hexham Constituency Community Champions Awards Winners

Earlier this year I announced the launch of the Hexham Constituency Community Champions Awards, which recognise some of the extraordinary achievements of people in communities across the constituency. Here are some of the latest recipients who have all made outstanding contributions to the local community.

John Holmes- for charitable achievement, cycling 300 miles through Romania to raise money for the Cry in the Dark charity.

Sylvia Lavery and her daughters Stacey, Tanya and Lisa- for charitable achievement, walking 18 miles to raise more than £500 for the British Heart Foundation.

Martha Lewis- for charitable achievement, donating over eight inches of her hair to the Little Princess Trust and raising over £800 for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust.

Alison Ross- for service to the community through voluntary work, and charitable achievement, raising thousands of pounds for Tynedale Hospice at Home.

Many of our Community Champions do their work under the radar. If there is anyone you know who you would like to nominate for an award, please email

Congratulations to all!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A warm welcome round The Hearth

I spent an hour last week meeting Pam and James, two of the Trustees of The Hearth in Horsley, and looking around the facilities. 

The Hearth is a popular community hub for Arts, Music and Heritage, with a first class cafe serving home baked cakes, light lunches, Sunday roast and a fantastic all day breakfast. The Hearth is also home to ten resident artists, who welcome visitors to their studios and who offer work for sale, as well as regular workshops and classes on a range of skills - why not try ‘Daft as a Duck’ on Sunday 1st October?

If History is your thing, forthcoming talks include ‘The 1917 Russian Revolution and Tyneside’ and ‘Hadrian’s Roman Cavalry’ on 28th September and 26th October respectively - tickets £5 and available on the door. 

Facilities like The Hearth don’t run on their own, and it is down to the hard work of Trustees and Volunteers that this centre continues to thrive. They are currently looking for a Treasurer Trustee - if you feel that you may be able to help and would like to be involved in ensuring The Hearth survives into the future, why not get in touch. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

What’s on this week- Monday 28th August- Sunday 3rd September

The summer might be coming to its end, but there is no shortage of events to keep you busy in the constituency this week. Here are just a few…

Monday 28th August, Stamfordham Village Fayre, 1pm-4pm- Revived last year after a 30 year absence, the Stamfordham Village Fayre is the perfect way to spend your Bank Holiday Monday. Classic cars, pony rides and a karate demonstration- there will be so much to see and do! 

Thursday 31st August, Batty about Bats, 7.30pm, Walltown- Learn from Northumberland National Park ecologists and bat experts with a short twilight walk to Thirlwall Castle to use special equipment to identify and listen to bat species in the area. A fantastic opportunity- book your tickets in advance!

Saturday 2nd September, Corbridge Village Show, 2pm-4.30pm, Parish Hall- Saturday sees Corbridge’s annual village show take place, and with a tombola, demonstrations and prizes to be presented by Sean Murray, winner of BBC2’s Great Chelsea Garden Challenge, this will be a great day out for everyone.

Saturday 2nd September, Heddon Village Show, 2pm, Knott Memorial Hall- The Heddon Village Show also takes place on Saturday. There will be lots going on, with refreshments, a raffle, stalls, children’s activities and a dog show starting at 11.30am- make sure to go along and support everyone involved!

Saturday 2nd September, Arts and Crafts Fair, 11am-3pm, Bellingham Town Hall- A fantastic selection of stalls featuring Northumbrian artists and crafters showcasing jewellery, wood crafts, books and much more, this free entry event will be a fantastic celebration of Northumberland.

Saturday 2nd- Sunday 3rd September, History Village, 10am, The Sill National Landscape Discovery Centre- Learn a variety of skills from expert historians- from how to make Stone Age weapons to how to grind corn, it’s going to be a great weekend at The Sill!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Sunday Trivia

I've had another busy week travelling around the constituency, visiting constituents and local businesses. Where was this photo taken?

And as an extra trivia question- does anyone know which football World Cup winner once lived in this village?

Enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend!

Saturday, 26 August 2017

An appointment with the Prime Minister for Alex

Alex Elliott-Smith, 17, from Ponteland recently travelled to Powys in South Wales to meet the Prime Minister to share her thoughts on how to improve mental health amongst young people. Alex, who is a Ponteland High School student, is a graduate of the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme, which allows 16 and 17 year olds to gain important skills to use in life and work. As part of her role on the regional NCS youth board, Alex designed a booklet to help North East teenagers affected by mental health issues in partnership with the If U Care Share Foundation, as well as running mental health stalls in Durham City centre. There are now plans to print and distribute the brochures at schools across the North East. The Prime Minister was in South Wales to announce that 100,000 teenagers a year will be given mental health training to help them cope with exam pressures and build their self-esteem. The NCS is a fantastic programme and I am delighted to see the Prime Minister support Alex's wonderful work in tacking mental health among young people.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Spending Pennies to revive facilities

I was honoured to be asked to cut the toilet roll ribbon at the opening ceremony of the Prudhoe public toilets yesterday. The toilets at Road Ends had badly deteriorated and were facing closure until Prudhoe's largest employer, Essity Prudhoe Mill, made an incredibly generous donation of £5000 to Prudhoe Town Council to make up the shortfall needed to refurbish and repair the toilets. The company also made a donation of new soap dispensers, air freshener units, toilet roll holders and an ongoing supply of toilet rolls. Essity made the donation as part of its Hygiene Matters initiative which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people around the world. The toilets are such an important public facility in Prudhoe, and I am delighted that they will remain open for the town and tourists. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening ceremony- particularly the delicious pizzas! Thank you once again to Essity for their wonderful donation.

Rebuilding the Wall

One of Northumberland's most famous landmarks, Hadrian's Wall, is set to benefit from a £1.3m grant from the Heritage Lottery fund. The money will help to fund a project to protect at-risk sections of the wall, which have been damaged by severe weather, tourism, invasive plants and erosion. The project will see academics from Newcastle University identify locations in need of protection and train a team of volunteers in a range of skills to prevent damage to the wall, who will be able to continue the work after the project has ended in 2021. This is a fantastic project and I am delighted that Hadrian's Wall- such an important part of our culture and history- will be protected for years to come.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

EGGER- Representing the North East

It's always great to see local businesses celebrated on the national stage, and so I was delighted to hear that EGGER Limited, the wood-based materials manufacturer, is going to represent the North East at the National British Chambers of Commerce Awards in London in November. The Hexham-based business is celebrated for its approach to apprenticeships and employee training, and 10% of its workforce are currently or have been apprentices. Apprentices at the company have access to electrical and mechanical engineering training schemes, and have access to a £4m engineering facility with a state of the art training academy, and the majority go on to have successful careers at the company. EGGER's work in training skilled workers is admirable and I wish them the best of luck in November!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Cheeseburn- Open this weekend!

There is an exciting weekend ahead at Cheeseburn! From 11am-4pm on Saturday 27th-Monday 28th August, Cheeseburn Sculpture will welcome visitors with the chance to see a new exhibition over the Bank Holiday weekend- Dawn Chorus, a sound installation and exhibition by Mike Collier. Featuring sounds such as the birds inhabiting Cheeseburn recorded by Mike himself, it is a unique exhibition with poetry, text and relief sculpture on wood. Cheeseburn is a fantastic destination for contemporary art in the North East which supports artists and projects, as well as providing a showcase for sculpture within the historic setting of Cheeseburn Grange. Make sure to visit this Bank Holiday weekend! 

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Protecting our Heritage

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to celebrate, protect and educate us about our diverse heritage. HLF grants have benefitted museums, historic buildings, parks and photographic records for us all to enjoy, and so I was delighted to learn that The Bellingham Heritage Centre has been awarded a grant of £15,300 as part of a six month project to aid and develop the centre in areas such as staff, services and income generation. This is fantastic news that will benefit the centre and the Bellingham community as a whole, and I look forward to seeing the Heritage Centre thrive for a long time to come!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Go back in time with the Romans at Hexham Abbey!

This August Bank Holiday (Monday 28th August, 11am-5pm), Hexham Abbey is giving you the chance to go back in time and explore Hexham's Roman past. Flavinus Day is a free event celebrating Hexham's famous Roman Cavalryman whose 2000 year old tombstone stands at the foot of the Night Stair inside the Abbey. Learn about his life and Hexham's Roman history with exhibitions, talks, demonstrations and guided tours around the Abbey, as well as enjoying a range of children's activities and a Roman barbecue and menu in the cafe. It will be a fascinating, fun-filled day- more information is available here-  

What's on this week... 21st-27th August

As always there are lots of exciting events planned in Tynedale and Ponteland this week- here are just a few of the events going on in the constituency this week...

Wild Wednesdays- Orientreeing, Wednesday 23rd August, 10.30am, Simonside Forestry Commission Car Park- Aimed at families with children 12 and under, this is your chance to explore and navigate the forests of Northumberland National Park. There are two sessions on Wednesday- make sure to book your place in advance!

Feathers Inn Wagyu Weekend, Friday 25th-Monday 28th August- This Bank Holiday weekend, the Feathers Inn will be serving delicious locally reared Wagyu Beef cuts on the menu all weekend, culminating with a barbecue on Monday 28th August. A great way to celebrate local farmers and produce!

Bellingham Show and Country Festival, Saturday 26th August, 9am-5pm- Celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Bellingham Show on Saturday. With horses, sheep, terrier racing, live bands, beer tents and vintage vehicles, it's a great family day out and celebration of Northumberland.

Allendale Horticultural and Industrial Show, Saturday 26th August, Allendale Primary School, 1pm-4.30pm- With children's games and sports, homemade teas, a tombola and the Stocksfield Stompers Band, this looks to be a great day out for all the family. There are even flower, vegetable, industrial and children's classes that you can enter!

Open Garden at Thornley House, Allendale, Sunday 27th August, 2pm-5pm- The busy weekend in Allendale continues on Sunday with an open garden day at Thornley House in aid of the British Red Cross. As well as refreshments, attractions and live music, this is a great opportunity to explore a beautiful country garden.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sunday Snapshot

This impressive arch in Hexham was presented to the town to commemorate members of the Fourth Northumberland Fusiliers in France and Belgium during World War I. The companies of Hexham, Bellingham, Haydon Bridge, Prudhoe, Corbridge, Haltwhistle and Newburn are remembered with this arch, which stands as a wonderful reminder to us all of their incredible service.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

On your bike and get in gear! Tour of Britain comes to Northumberland

It's not long now until the Tour of Britain will return to the roads of Northumberland. Monday 4th September will see day 2 of the race pass some iconic landmarks including castles and the Kielder Dam. The race will start in Kielder Water and Forest Park and will pass through the Northumberland National Park, as well as many of Northumberland's towns and communities. You can watch the start of the race as the cyclists prepare to set off at Kielder Water and Forest Park at 10.15am on 4th September- it is fantastic to see the race return to Northumberland and I encourage everyone to go along and support some of the world's best cyclists as they cycle through Northumberland. More details here-

Friday, 18 August 2017

Allendale Agricultural Show- Tomorrow!

Don't forget to get along to the Allendale Agricultural Show tomorrow. Great day out for all the family- local businesses, livestock, entertainment and more!

Boots are made for Walking... 30th Haltwhistle Walking Festival

Northumberland is not short of stunning scenery and walks, and in October Haltwhistle will be celebrating its 30th Walking Festival. Since 2003, the festival has taken place twice a year and the 30th festival will this time be opened by explorers and adventurers Conrad and Hilary Dickinson before walkers will embark on the first long walk of the festival on Saturday 7th October- 14.5 miles to Whitley Castle. The nine day festival will be packed full of walks, with both longer (10-15 miles) and shorter (4.5-8 miles), so there is something for everyone! The routes are all around Tynedale with some taking in parts of Cumbria, so it is also a great opportunity to take in and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Northumberland.

Booking is now open and more information can be found at

Make sure to book your place on one of the many interesting walks- it will be a fantastic 9 days!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Boom Time for Northumberland Businesses

Supporting and promoting local businesses has always been a key part of my job and I am delighted to support the launch of Business Northumberland’s first ‘Business Boom’ at Linden Hall on 12th and 13th September.

Fully funded by Northumberland Business Development Company Arch and England European Regional Development Fund 2014 – 2020, the conference is free to attend for registered businesses and aims to provide business support for small and medium sized companies through workshops and one-to-one sessions. The event hopes to attract over one hundred companies and will provide a great networking opportunity for businesses to learn from each other.

Northumberland has a host of successful and innovative companies of all sizes and it is great to see an event like this specifically organized to provide support and advice on marketing, finance and funding.

To register for free, visit the Business Northumberland website. I would urge you to do so.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Northumberland Knowledge- The Hedley Kow

Northumberland is home to some fascinating tales, such as the tale of The Hedley Kow which comes from Hedley on the Hill.

The story goes that a poor woman finds a pot on the road full of gold pieces. She decides to take it home but when she looks inside she finds that the pot has turned into a lump of silver. She still keeps the pot though, deciding that this is better than gold because it is less likely to be stolen. A little while later the silver has turned into a lump of iron which she decides will be easier to sell, and further on the iron becomes a rock which she happily decides to use as a doorstop. When she reaches home the rock transforms into the Hedley Kow, a shapeshifting creature, which walks away laughing. Yet still the woman considers herself lucky, to have actually seen the Hedley Kow for herself.

A great story, all about optimism and looking on the bright side!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The National Lottery's Big Lottery Fund

The National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund is the largest community grant-maker in the UK, using money raised by National Lottery players to support a variety of good causes in the charity, voluntary, health, education and environmental sectors.

Over the last five years more than 176 community projects in Hexham have received around £2.5million from the Big Lottery Fund, making an immeasurable difference to the community. For example, Natural Ability in Hexham is supported with a grant of £315,000. The project supports disabled people, including those with learning disabilities, to improve their self-esteem and develop life-skills through agricultural and land-based activities. Participants receive training and hands-on experience to move them towards employment and independent living in the local rural farming environment.

The Big Lottery Fund is a fantastic source of support to so many charities and causes, and helps to improve the lives of people all over the community. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

Cherryburn- making an impression

I recently paid a wonderful visit to Cherryburn in Mickley, birthplace of Thomas Bewick in 1753, one of the greatest engravers in our history. Bewick lived at Cherryburn until he was 14, when he went to Newcastle to become an apprentice, and the cottage and farmhouse are now a museum run by the National Trust showing what life was like back when Bewick was living there. There is also a fantastic collection of his engravings, printing equipment and publications. I definitely recommend a visit- especially on Thursdays when you can see first-hand the printing and engraving that goes on at Cherryburn!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Sunday Snapshot- recognise this?

Spotted in the constituency this week- does anyone know where I am?

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Prudhoe Golf Club- The Home of Champions

I recently spent a thoroughly enjoyable morning playing golf with Paul Brookbanks, Dave Williams and Tom Hunter at Prudhoe Golf Club- "The Home of Champions". It's a very friendly club that welcomes everyone, of all ages and abilities. Green fees are also half price throughout August and September so give it a try!

Friday, 11 August 2017

Keep on Rolling- Broadband expands across Northumberland

Over the last seven years I have worked hard to bring broadband to as many areas of the Hexham constituency as possible and following on from iNorthumberland's commitment to invest a further £6.4m in Superfast Broadband as part of a partnership between Northumberland County Council and BT, I am delighted that after a series of recent upgrades, the following areas are now live for Superfast Broadband services-

  • Redburn and Bardon Mill 
  • Dilston, Corbridge 
  • Longbyre and Castle Terrace, Gilsland 
  • Melkridge 
  • Langley 
  • Oakwood 
  • Sandhoe 
  • Warden 
  • Gunnerton 
  • Wall
  • Colwell 
  • Allerwash, Newbrough
  • Ponteland 
  • Medburn 
  • Prestwick Village and Prestwick Park
  • Slaley Hall and surrounding areas 
  • Whitley Chapel
  • Juniper 
  • Matfen 
  • Netherton Park, Stannington 
  • New Ridley Village, Stocksfield 
  • Hedley on the Hill, Stocksfield
  • West Woodburn 
  • Horsley 

Great news as we continue to roll broadband out across the county.

Friday Focus... on Hexham

The heart of the constituency, there is always a lot to see and do in Hexham. With the weekend about to begin, here are some of the things you can do in Hexham this weekend.

Hexham Abbey stands proudly in the centre of the town. Dating back to 674 AD, the Abbey has many historic features including the 7th century Crypt and Dark Age Cross. There is also an interactive exhibition and visitor centre, making it a fantastic place to visit and explore. Hexham Farmers' Market is also nearby and takes place in the Marketplace twice a month. With a wide range of locally produced foods for sale, it is a wonderful celebration of Northumberland and its produce.

Another example of Hexham's long history, Hexham Old Gaol is the earliest recorded purpose-built prison in England, built in 1330-1333. Originally built to hold the Archbishop of York's prisoners, the Gaol is also a great place to explore Hexham's history and learn all about crime and punishment in the Middle Ages.

If you're looking for culture, Hexham's Queen's Hall Arts Centre has a fantastic programme of artists, music, dance, exhibitions, drama, film and comedy all year round, with facilities including a 350-seat theatre and two galleries. Meanwhile the community-owned Forum Cinema shows great newly released films for everyone to enjoy.

There are also some great sports activities on offer in Hexham. The Wentworth Leisure Centre has a great variety of activities including swimming, fitness classes, tenpin bowling, a soft play and an outdoor athletics track. It is also worth paying a visit to the Hexham Racecourse, the only racecourse in Northumberland.

Whatever your interests, and with a large variety of shops and cafes to suit every taste, there is always plenty to do in Hexham- give the town a visit this weekend!

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Lighting The Fuse

I recently visited the state-of-the-art Fuse Media Centre in Prudhoe. The Fuse is a media production facility with integrated industry-standard television, radio and recording studios along with a 100-seat digital Community Cinema. It is also the base for Northumberland County Council's Learning and Skills Service and has rooms to rent, adult learning and classes and film screenings with a wide range of films. A brilliant facility so go along and see what the Fuse has to offer!