News review of the year 2015 - Part 2

SEPTEMBER: The 'blood red supermoon' pictured at Alnwick War Memorial by Jane Coltman
SEPTEMBER: The 'blood red supermoon' pictured at Alnwick War Memorial by Jane Coltman
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This is the second part of our look back at the big news stories of the past year in north Northumberland. Click here for the first part, from January to June.

JULY

JULY: Robson Green working with Red Row blacksmith Stephen Lunn during filming for Tales from Northumberland.

JULY: Robson Green working with Red Row blacksmith Stephen Lunn during filming for Tales from Northumberland.

Six-year-old Daniel Davison, whose north Northumberland school, Embleton Vincent Edwards CE First School, faced the axe, took the matter to the very top – by writing to the Prime Minister. Daniel was upset to learn the school could close as part of proposals for the Alnwick Partnership. There was to be good news for Daniel in November.

Meanwhile, there were reasons to celebrate for another school, as Lindisfarne Middle in Alnwick was rated good by Ofsted in its first full report since it was deemed to require special measures in late 2013.

The parents of brave little Ella Chapple, who lost her eyesight, continued their mass fund-raising efforts for pioneering research, with the dream that it could one day help her see again. Eight-year-old Ella, who lives near Guyzance, was born without irises, suffering from the rare genetic condition aniridia and was thought to be the only child in Northumberland who has deaf-blindness. Full story and video here

The closure of Alnwick care home, Abbeyfield House, on South Road, which would have led to job losses and elderly residents being relocated, was averted in a last-minute reprieve.

JULY: Ella Chapple, who lost her vision despite five major operations to try to save it. Picture by Michael Pearson

JULY: Ella Chapple, who lost her vision despite five major operations to try to save it. Picture by Michael Pearson

AUGUST

The Alnwick Pastures concert, starring Tom Jones, faced controversy before a note was sung, when the organisers Loose Cannon Events decided not to allow picnics on site, flying in the face of tradition at the popular event and angering ticket-holders.

The concert itself became a catalogue of disasters as a power failure brought the show to an abrupt end, prompting punters to demand their money back.

Wine retailer Majestic Wine decided not to go ahead with its latest opening, next to the new Aldi store in South Road, Alnwick.

JULY: Filming Downton Abbey in Alnwick. Picture � Margaret Whittaker

JULY: Filming Downton Abbey in Alnwick. Picture � Margaret Whittaker

Footballer Lucy Bronze, from Alnwick, hit the headlines again as her exploits in the summer’s Women’s World Cup earned her a place in the Fifa All-Star Squad.

Under-threat bus company, Spirit Buses, based at Rothbury, which connects some of the county’s most rural communities was handed a last-gasp reprieve when Northumberland County Council stepped in to offer support for the next year.

SEPTEMBER

A judicial review looked to be the best hope for a determined campaign to save the vital Harbottle Surgery from closure, after NHS England announced the decision ‘in the interests of public safety’.

AUGUST: Organisers of this year's Alnwick International Music Festival were dealt a late blow when acts from India and Bulgaria pulled  out, but the quality of the remaining groups from America, Ghana and Belgium meant the annual event was declared a success. The picture, by Jane Coltman, features Belgium's The Gelmelzwaaiers.

AUGUST: Organisers of this year's Alnwick International Music Festival were dealt a late blow when acts from India and Bulgaria pulled out, but the quality of the remaining groups from America, Ghana and Belgium meant the annual event was declared a success. The picture, by Jane Coltman, features Belgium's The Gelmelzwaaiers.

Northumberland was again in the spotlight as the top cycling event, the Tour of Britain, sped through the county, its first visit to the North East since 2009. Stage 4 of the race entered Northumberland from Scotland at Cornhill and followed a route through Ford, Wooler, Alnwick, Warkworth, Amble and Widdrington, before finishing at Blyth.

Crucial support was promised in a desperate bid to save more than 100 jobs at the under-threat pharmaceutical site Covance in Alnwick.

A parish council meeting at Rothbury was brought to a dramatic end when police were called to an altercation between Berwick and Rothbury residents and councillors. It led to the resignation of MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s press secretary Georgina Hill, who was at the meeting.

After a long battle to launch a store in Alnwick, McDonald’s finally opened its doors for business at Cawledge, next to the A1.

There was sadness as the community said farewell to the iconic yellow Sea Kings flown by A Flight 202 Squadron at RAF Boulmer. The military search and rescue service had operated for 40 years but was handed over to HM Coastguard and their new Sikorsky S92s, operated by Bristow Helicopters Ltd.

OCTOBER

AUGUST: Sir Tom Jones concert at Alnwick pastures. Picture by Jane Coltman

AUGUST: Sir Tom Jones concert at Alnwick pastures. Picture by Jane Coltman

Eleventh-hour efforts were made to put forward a viable ‘mixed-economy’ model for schools in Alnwick and the surrounding area, despite a strong argument for conversion from three-tier to two-tier education.

A pair of overseas rugby fans had a trying time with their sat nav, after it took them to the wrong St James’ Park ground. The South African couple had travelled up from London to watch the Springboks take on Scotland in the World Cup at the home of Newcastle United, which holds just over 52,000 fans. Instead, they were directed to Alnwick Town’s namesake ground, which can seat around 100 people.

An injured hiker who was carried by stretcher for three hours from a remote part of the Northumberland National Park praised his heroic volunteer rescuers for their courage and dedication. The incredible eight-hour operation was carried out by Mountain Rescue Teams in complete darkness across difficult, boggy conditions.

Relieved wife Catherine Davies spoke of her gratitude after medical crews from the North East Ambulance Service and a volunteer Community First Responder from Rothbury rushed to help her blind husband Rob, who had suffered a heart attack, admitting ‘their actions saved his life’.

Grateful Darin Ferguson, who had suffered a cardiac arrest, met the stranger, Andy Tomlin, who helped save his life using vital first-aid skills he had learnt just 24 hours earlier at a Stephen Carey Fund training session.

NOVEMBER

The Stephen Carey Fund, set up in memory of a grassroots footballer who collapsed and died while playing the game he loved, was refused permission to install life-saving equipment on the side of the Iceland store in Alnwick – because of health and safety and insurance concerns. After reading the Gazette story, Iceland bosses reversed the decision.

Northumberland County Council gave the go-ahead to a switch to a two-tier system of primary and secondary schools in the Alnwick Partnership, which will result in the closure of four middle schools, including Seahouses, but a reprieve for Branton and Embleton schools, which will become primaries.

A concerned member of the North East Ambulance Service launched a petition calling for the provision of more local accident and emergency services across the region. Martin Jackson, from Amble, believed people’s lives were being put at risk with the opening of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital at Cramlington, instead of spreading cover around the county.

Meanwhile, Wooler mum Pauline Aitchison, whose son Will was treated promptly to remove a potentially dangerous cyst, was full of praise for the new hospital.

Heroic father and son, Tom and Jason Lillico, from Red Row, helped rescue two fishermen whose boat had sunk off the coast of Amble, pulling one from the sea and alerting crews to the other.

Concerns that relocating the high school could cost the centre of Alnwick £250,000 in lost revenue sparked the town’s Chamber of Trade to send out a questionnaire to assess the impact of the impending move.

DECEMBER

Amble won the Coastal Community category of the Great British High Street Awards 2015 after a public vote. The Friendliest Port held off competition from Prestatyn, in Wales, and Bognor Regis, in West Sussex, to take the title. As category winner, Amble received a share of the prize pot worth £80,000, alongside expert training and tailor-made tips from Google.

Struggling Alnwick care home, Ravensmount, on Alnmouth Road, Alnwick, was to close amid financial difficulties sparked by critical inspection reports earlier this year.

It was revealed that the world-famous Alnwick angling brand, Hardy and Greys, had been reeled back from the brink with 40 jobs created in the past two years and production of reels and rods being brought back home. Grant Harris, UK and European managing director of Pure Fishing, which bought the brands two years ago told the Gazette ‘there’s much more of a buzz about the place’ in a remarkable turnaround for a company that seemed to be heading for the end of the line.

Northumberland’s fire chief defended proposed changes to the service, saying ‘we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater’. In the light of concerns raised about the cuts, with the service required to slash £500,000 from the budget in 2016/17, Chief Fire Officer Alex Bennett spoke at town and parish council meetings in an effort to reassure communities.

But hundreds signed an online petition opposing the ‘devastating’ cuts and launched by the Northumberland Fire Brigades Union on the website change.org

England and Manchester City footballer Lucy Bronze, from Alnwick, capped a superb year by being nominated for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The live public vote on BBC1 was won by tennis ace Andy Murray, despite a Gazette campaign to encourage readers to vote for Lucy. She thanked everyone who voted for her.

SEPTEMBER: Tour of Britain bicycle ride at Ford.  Picture by Jane Coltman

SEPTEMBER: Tour of Britain bicycle ride at Ford. Picture by Jane Coltman

SEPTEMBER: Volunteer Susan MacKellar with the Weeping Window installation at Woodhorn Museum. Picture by Jane Coltman

SEPTEMBER: Volunteer Susan MacKellar with the Weeping Window installation at Woodhorn Museum. Picture by Jane Coltman

SEPTEMBER: A Sea King from 202 Squadron based at RAF Boulmer performs a final official flypast over Alnwick. Picture by Adam Sparrow

SEPTEMBER: A Sea King from 202 Squadron based at RAF Boulmer performs a final official flypast over Alnwick. Picture by Adam Sparrow

OCTOBER: The gathering of witches at the Alnwick Garden on Hallowe'en for the attempt to break the world record for the number of witches in one place. Picture by Adam Sparrow.

OCTOBER: The gathering of witches at the Alnwick Garden on Hallowe'en for the attempt to break the world record for the number of witches in one place. Picture by Adam Sparrow.