Cheers! Countryfile celebrates Christmas in Northumberland

TV viewers got in the festive spirit in Northumberland, courtesy of the BBC's Countryfile Christmas special.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 18:17
Matt Baker with Katie Bland and Stephen Shaw at the Bird in Bush, Elsdon.

Today's show was based around the Bird in Bush pub in Elsdon, where presenters Matt Baker, Tom Heap, Steve Fletcher, Anita Rani, Ellie Harrison and John Craven joined regulars and special guests to celebrate the season.

Matt met owners Katie Bland and Stephen Shaw, who moved north from London a decade ago and bought the pub in 2015.

Anita Rani helps Ashlee Donaldson make an oak leaf.

They lovingly restored it and it is now a thriving community hub, which even boasts a library.

Kate told Matt: "The support has been absolutely outstanding from the locals and further afield. It doesn't matter whether you drink, or you don't drink, you come in to find out what's going on."

Matt met George Jennings, from Otterburn, who supplies the Bird in Bush with its vegetables, and, back at the pub, helped French chef Will prepare a Christmas dinner, featuring sprouts braised in beer from the First & Last micro-brewery, run by Red and Sam Kellie behind the pub.

Presenter Steve Brown helped Red pick sloes and then lent a hand stoning damsons for a special Christmas porter.

Steve Brown helps Red Kellie stone damsons for the Christmas porter.

There was more food on the menu, courtesy of John Craven, who was out and about in Kielder Forest with foragers Linus Morton and Louise Hepworth, collecting spruce needles to bake into Christmas tree-shaped biscuits.

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But it wasn't all food and drink.

Tom Heap met the Tarset-based Song Reivers community choir, who sing door-to-door in a bid to combat isolation among people in rural areas.

Andrew Marsh, from Age UK Northumberland, spoke about the loneliness the elderly can feel, particularly in rural areas and the importance of community support.

The Christmas biscuits come out of the oven.

Anita Rani was in Red Row to meet father-and-daughter blacksmith team Stephen Lunn and Ashlee Donaldson and make an oak leaf Christmas decoration.

The forge is about 300 years old and has been in the family for nearly 100 years. Ashlee's grandfather started the business when he came back from the First World War, where he trained to be a farrier.

Ellie Harrison was on the Wallington Estate to find out about the red squirrel population there from the estate's countryside manager Paul Hewitt.

Back at the pub, the party got into full swing with the help of traditional musician Roddy Matthews.

The party in full swing.