Two projects in north Northumberland have been recognised for their efforts at a county-wide awards ceremony.
The Friends of Alnmouth Station was a runner-up in the Best Coast or Countryside Project category, while Harbottle Community Group was highly commended in the same section, as part of Monday night’s Love Northumberland Awards.
The Friends of Alnmouth Station is a team of at least 10 volunteers who come from different communities including Newton-on-the-Moor, Alnwick, Amble, Rennington, Alnmouth and Hipsburn.
They have linked up with the local community group in Lesbury and Hipsburn First School.
The children from the first school have provided artwork which has been installed on the railings of the southbound platform, with the help and advice of local artist Francesca Simpson.
Over the past six years the Friends have built more than 40 wooden containers for year-round displays on both platforms and installed bird boxes. The plants provide food for insects.
The first bird box has already been occupied and the containers are planted to provide interest in all seasons by using annual flowers, perennial herbs, grasses and spring bulbs.
Regular dead-heading and watering ensure that the displays remain attractive. The major regular work on a weekly rota is the watering but the group is also clearing and planting the areas around the car parks, including litter-picking, weeding and sweeping on a regular basis.
Footfall in 2014 was 280,000 and is on the increase. For many passengers this is their first impression of Northumberland and the group has greatly enhanced the appearance of the station.
Meanwhile, the Harbottle Community Group was recognised for its Community Garden project.
This project is a follow-on from a playground/football pitch development and has involved creating a garden and sitting area with access ramp for wheelchairs and pushchairs leading up to the playfield.
So far, 34 individuals have contributed in different ways with the design, offers of materials and physical labour. The project also involved children from the neighbouring school, taking the age range of those who have played a role from 3 to 78 years.
The group has installed bird boxes, hedgehog houses and insect hotels. They use non-chemical weed control and have created a flower meadow area to attract the bees and planted fruit trees for pollination. Ferns have been planted in a stumpery for diversity – a rare thing for the area.
They hope in the future to encourage the younger children in growing fruit and vegetables.
The group is also conscious of the lack of leisure opportunities in some small communities and so far have started a successful luncheon club, and run art, stained glass and Tai Chi groups.
The awards ceremony took place at The Alnwick Garden, with the Duchess of Northumberland helping to celebrate the very best in community and voluntary environmental work across the county.
A total of 13 groups, organisations and individuals were honoured with a winner, runner-up or highly commended award across seven categories, and three schools also received awards for school waste and sustainable-travel projects.
Representatives of all shortlisted entries attended the event, which was supported by main sponsor The Banks Group and hosted by BBC Look North’s Carol Malia.
The Best New Project went to Beaconhill Primary School; Best Urban Project to Josephine Butler Primary Campus; and Best Coast or Countryside Project to Epiacum Heritage Ltd.
The Best Young People’s Project was won by Leading Link for its Plessey Woods Art Trail, while the Best Children’s Project was won by Mickley First School for Community Life.
The award for an individual whose efforts or commitment help to enrich the environment of Northumberland was presented to four winners this year. These were Jean Bell, who is the manager of the Briardale Community Centre in Blyth; Peter Dawson, who volunteers to improve the Wellbeing Therapy Garden at Benmar House in Morpeth; Kenneth Thompson, who has worked as a volunteer gardener in Carlisle Park, Morpeth; and 18-year-old Aaron Ward, who has been a dedicated volunteer at Bolam Lake Country Park since the age of 14.
Newsham Primary School, at Blyth, helped to launch the 2016 Love Northumberland Hate Litter campaign and this helped them to win them the school waste award.
The school sustainable travel award was presented by Go Smarter Northumberland to Mickley Frist School for a range of initiatives around safe and sustainable travel.
The annual awards were developed by Northumberland County Council through its Love Northumberland campaign, with the aim of promoting the work of the council and its many partner organisations, community groups and volunteers who all help to preserve and enhance the environment in the county.
Coun Alan Sambrook, civic head of Northumberland County Council, said: “These awards are about celebrating the fantastic work that individuals and groups do in a voluntary capacity to improve our environment right across Northumberland.
“We hope that all those who were shortlisted for an award enjoyed their visit to the Alnwick Garden - a stimulating place for anyone who is interested in horticulture or the environment.“
Marmax Products Ltd supported the school waste category – presenting a buddy bench to the winning school and a sturdy bench to the runner up – both made from recycled plastic milk bottles.
Each winning entry receives a £250 prize and runners-up £100, with the money to go towards their project or other work within the local community. Each highly commended finalist also receives a small cash prize.