A story of pride and produce

Pictured at Pride of Northumbria are artist Ashley Sims, volunteer Moyra Nyberg and 'Mad Jam Woman' Sandy Higson.
Pictured at Pride of Northumbria are artist Ashley Sims, volunteer Moyra Nyberg and 'Mad Jam Woman' Sandy Higson.

It has been a whirlwind first year for a social enterprise set up to champion all that’s great about Northumberland’s home-grown produce.

On Friday, Pride of Northumbria, based on Queen Street in Amble, celebrated its first birthday with a special tasting session, where customers could sample a variety of local goods.

Set up by Amble Development Trust, the aim of the venture was initially to promote the county’s food and drink, as well as offering a space for artists to show off their work. And in June, Pride of Northumbria received a very special guest – Prince Charles, who was on a whistle-stop tour of the region.

One of those who now calls the shop home is Sandy Higson – affectionately known as the ‘Mad Jam Woman’ – who makes award-winning preserves, chutneys and relishes.

It has been a very good first year for us and business is picking up,” said Sandy, who started her Coquet Valley Preserves business from her kitchen in Rothbury back in 1995. “There has been a lot of local interest and the visit of Prince Charles certainly helped.

“The new premises have also given me the chance to experiment with recipes and produce new lines, including a chili and pineapple relish and my Manic Mango sauce.

“We’re always on the look out for local recipes and I had one person give me theirs for Amble Garden Jam, which is rhubarb and rose petals. If anyone has any more old-fashioned recipes, I’d love to hear from them.”

Pride of Northumbria is the retail element of Fourways Foods, established by the development trust, which now produces and distributes local food products nationwide.

It has close links with some of the region’s premier producers, including Borderfields, Cakeroot, Proof of the Pudding and Northumberland Poultry.

The shop was set up in the former Co-op department store on Queen Street, after Amble Development Trust secured a grant of £93,767 to fund interior restructuring work of the buildingto create three separate retail units. It allowed Fourways Foods to relocate its distrubution centre, in a converted farm unit at Eshottheugh.