Thursday, 30 January 2020

Giving thanks to our armed forces

Yesterday marked 164 years since Queen Victoria instituted Britain's highest military decoration, the Victoria Cross, which is awarded for outstanding bravery on the field of battle. The metal from which the medals are struck is either from Russian cannon captured at the Siege of Sevastopol or other cannons. Only 1355 VCs have been awarded since 1856- 11 were awarded for the defence of Rorke's Drift in the Zulu wars 141 years ago this week.

Bravery comes in many forms. Locally in Northumberland I commemorate Private Fred Dobson of Ovingham. Private Dobson twice volunteered to go out under heavy fire to bring in two wounded men at Chavonne in France in September 1914. Today, there is a memorial stone to Private Dobson outside St Mary's Church in Ovingham.

Thank you to all those our armed forces and all those who risk their lives to protect us.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Dates to remember...

The new year is less than a month old, but there are already so many exciting events planned in Hexham over the coming year. Here are some upcoming dates in 2020 to put in your diary:

The Hexham Book Festival takes place this spring from 24th April- 3rd May. The festival always features a wide range of authors and storytellers, so whatever your literary tastes, there is bound to be something to interest you!

Meanwhile, the 2020 Hexham Abbey Festival is also starting to take shape, with the programme of events currently being put together. More information about the festival will be announced later in the  year, but for now, make sure to save the date- 17th-20th September!

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Top of the class!

The 2019 primary school Key Stage 2 results were published at the end of last year. Thanks to the hard work of teachers, pupils and parents, the national average of children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics has increased to 65% this year. The results are the fourth since the government introduced more rigorous assessments to align with the new national curriculum in 2016, which has brought England's primary education in line with the best in the world.

Six schools in the Hexham constituency saw an increase in the proportion of children achieving the expected standard. Congratulations to staff and pupils at the following schools:

  • Allendale Primary School (89%)
  • Ponteland Community Middle School (95%)
  • Richard Coates Church of England Primary School (82%)
  • Bellingham Middle School and Sports College (66%)
  • Corbridge Middle School (85%)
  • Hexham Middle School (77%)
You can find the results of all the schools in the constituency here:

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Find out more about developments in Hexham

The second Hexham Hub event takes place this Saturday (25th January), giving local Hexham residents the chance to find out about projects and developments planned for the town. Developers of various sites around Hexham will be in attendance to provide updates, as well as Northumberland County Council which will update residents about the Hexham House wedding venue and apartments and the two new schools which will be built on the high school site. Additionally, Highways England will be there to explain about the improvements to the A69 junction at Hexham.

This is a great opportunity to make your voice heard and find out more about planned developments in Hexham. The first Hexham Hub event took place in March, and residents will be able to find out how these plans have progressed since then. The event will be held this Saturday in the Great Hall at Hexham Abbey from 10am-3pm.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Protecting our dark skies

One of our greatest assets here in Northumberland is our dark skies, which attract tourism to the region. In order to protect our dark skies, Northumberland National Park Authority is encouraging local residents and businesses within the park to apply for funding from energy snack company CLIF Bar to introduce dark sky-friendly outdoor lighting. No new artificial outdoor lighting is permitted in certain areas of Northumberland National Park, and so this funding is being made available to help those living and working in the park to adapt and replace any existing lighting that is currently contributing to light pollution.

To apply for funding, please email 

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Village Halls Week 2020

Ponteland Memorial Hall is joining village halls all over the country in celebrating Village Halls Week. Village Halls Week this week takes place from 20th-26th January, and aims to celebrate rural community spaces and the people who dedicate their time to keep them going. The event is organised by the ACRE Network and events will be happening all over England this week as part of the celebration.

To mark the week, Ponteland Memorial Hall will be holding a free open day on Wednesday 22nd January from 10am-12pm, to showcase the venue and its facilities. If you are nearby, make sure to go along and find out more about this central part of the Ponteland community!

Friday, 17 January 2020

The North's best bakery!

Grants Bakery in Corbridge has been named as the best bakery in the North at the Baking Industry Awards. At an awards ceremony in London, the bakery received the Craft Bakery Business Award for best retail bakery in the North. Grants Bakery is found in Market Place, Corbridge, and is owned by Andrew Cotterell, who has been in the baking industry for more than 40 years.

It is always great to see local businesses get the recognition they deserve. Businesses like Grants Bakery are such important parts of our local communities so please do support continue to support them. Congratulations to all the staff at Grants Bakery on their brilliant achievement!

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Coffee and cake at the Errington Coffee House

I recently visited the Errington Coffee House on Hadrian's Wall at the junction of the A68 and the Military Road. I know Louise, who has taken the Coffee House over, and it was great to meet her team, see the amazing premises and try some of their entirely home-baked menu. There were two log fires going when we arrived- perfect on a cold January day- and the food was delicious.

Whether you're a hiker, day-tripper or a local, I really recommend a visit!

Monday, 13 January 2020

West Wylam's fantastic community effort

It is so important that every community has access to a defibrillator, and community-members in West Wylam recently came together to celebrate the installation of a brand new defibrillator. Children from Adderlane Academy, residents at the Manors Extra Care scheme, local businessman Miv Chahal and county councillor Gordon Stewart were all in attendance. The defibrillator, which is placed outside the Manors, was funded by Mr Chahal and Councillor Stewart.

It is brilliant to see so many members of the community in West Wylam work together to deliver on such an important issue. It is thanks to the great community spirit of local residents that West Wylam now has access to a life-saving defibrillator. Congratulations to everyone involved on making this happen!

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Brewing up success at the Dipton Mill Inn

Congratulations to everyone at the Dipton Mill Inn, which has been named value pub of the year in the Good Pub Guide 2020. As well as its character and peaceful garden, the pub was praised for its good value, which its landlady Janet Brooker says is thanks to the fact that they buy good quality, local ingredients to keep costs down- another great reason to shop local. 

Dipton Mill Inn was also runner-up in the ‘pub with its own brewery’ category. The pub has its own brewery on site and has launched a new ale this month called ‘Tynedale’. Why not pay a visit and give it a try?!

Friday, 10 January 2020

The Lost Words- celebrating the magic of nature

This month, The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre is opening its The Lost Words Festival, which runs from 25th January to 20th April. The Lost Words is a book of spells that conjures the near-lost magic and unique qualities of the nature we are lucky to be surrounded by here in the UK and especially in Northumberland National Park. The Lost Words Festival includes The Lost Words Exhibition, which features acrostic spell-poems and watercolour originals that will inspire both children and adults. It will be a wonderful celebration of the beautiful and majestic nature we are lucky to live alongside here in Northumberland.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

A visit to Hexham Hospital

I recently visited Hexham General Hospital, where I was able to spend time with the fantastic doctors, nurses and midwives hard at work on the hospital's many wards. As part of my visit, I was able to visit the Maternity Ward where I met one of Hexham's newest residents!

It is important to remember that this time of year is always especially difficult for our hospitals and emergency services. The team at Hexham General Hospital strongly advise that you get your flu jab this winter, particularly if you are aged over 65, a pregnant woman or have an underlying health condition or weakened immune system. Please also remember to only call 999 in case of a serious emergency- over 40% of calls made to 999 don't need to be taken to hospital. For urgent medical advice instead call 111 or visit

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Join me this January in improving mental health through exercise

I am sure I am not alone in having made resolutions this New Year with the aim of starting 2020 with a positive, healthy attitude. This January I am participating in both Dry January and Red January. Red January challenges people to be active every day, through running, swimming, cycling and more, and works in partnership with ‘Mind’. Physical activity is undoubtedly a great way to improve your mental health, and so I would like to encourage you to join me in exercising every day to improve fitness and mental health, this January and beyond. 

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Welcome increase to national living wage

I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that the biggest ever increase to the national living wage will come into effect in April. The Chancellor previously announced the move back in September, and it is great news that the Prime Minister has now confirmed a date for this new measure. The national living wage will rise by 51p to £8.72 from £8.21; this is the largest increase since it was introduced in April 2016. Nearly 3 million workers will benefit from the increase.

The national living wage is the minimum wage payable to adults aged over 25. 21-24 year olds will receive a 50p pay increase from £7.70 to £8.20 an hour. 

I am delighted that the Government is rewarding workers with the pay rise they deserve for their hard work. 

Friday, 3 January 2020

Make a difference in 2020

I’m sure I’m not alone in having made resolutions for the coming year, but if you haven’t decided on your New Year’s resolutions (or would like to take on a couple more!), charities all across Northumberland would welcome new volunteers to lend a helping hand. Charities including Chrysalis Club Tynedale, which offers support for those living with dementia and the families, and the Tanga Club in Hexham, a social club for children and young people with a range of needs, are just two examples of charities that would be delighted to welcome new members to their teams this new year. 

Why not get in touch with a local charity that is close to your heart and find out how you can make a difference in 2020?

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Shop local this Localanuary!

Last month we celebrated Small Business Saturday, recognising some of our amazing small local businesses and producers across Tynedale and Ponteland. This January, I'm supporting Localanuary - a campaign to encourage everyone to buy local produce from independent shops throughout January.

We have so many amazing local businesses and producers in Northumberland, from Ridley's Fish and Game in Acomb, winners of my 2018 Small Business Awards, to amazing locally produced cheeses from the Northumberland Cheese Company.

Watch my visit to the Northumberland Cheese Company

You can find fantastic fresh fruit and vegetables at Brockbushes Farm Shop near Corbridge, and amazing organic lamb and beef from Kielder Organic Meats in Bellingham. 

One of the easiest ways to shop locally is at Hexham Farmers Market, which takes place every second and fourth Saturday of the month in the Market Place, with the next market taking place on Saturday 11th January. Click here to find out more.

Northumberland County Council also runs the 'Produced in Northumberland' scheme - a verification process so you can identify when produce is local. Keep an eye out for the logo below!

We're all making New Year's Resolutions this year - make yours to shop local this January!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Happy New Year!

I would like to take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy new year. 2020 already looks set to be another amazing year in the Hexham constituency- with the Hexham Book Festival in April, Northumberland Day and the Northumberland County Show in May, the Corbridge Festival in July, and a whole summer of county shows planned, there really is so much to look forward to.

Whatever your plans for the coming year, I wish you all a very happy start to 2020.