Twenty-four groups, organisations, schools and individuals were honoured with winner, runner-up or highly commended awards across seven categories in what has been the 10th year for the awards.
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 Ian Hutchinson, civic head, said: "All of the shortlisted entries should be very proud of all of their work.
“I have been extremely impressed by the quality and breadth of the work highlighted through the awards - and thank them all, on behalf of the residents and visitors who benefit.Each winning entry in the awards received a £250 prize, each runner-up £100 and highly commended finalists £50, with the money to go towards their project or other work within the local community. Outstanding individuals also received a small cash prize and a trophy.
1. Best Urban Project joint winners: Mains Place Residents, Morpeth
Mains Place is a popular public footpath in Morpeth Town Centre leading to the stepping stones across the river. However, as it is a private road,the maintenance fell to the residents. Three years ago, the communal gardens that lined the road were full of mature shrubs that were woody and past their best. The residents took it upon themselves to work together to transform the beds into attractive herbaceous borders that are friendly to wildlife and regularly admired by passers-by. Digging out the existing shrubs was a monumental effort over the course of two years, a labour of love if ever there was one. The “wildlife” section contains wildflowers, and insect hotel and a hedgehog house which they hope will gain its first resident this winter. There are also bird boxes installed throughout the gardens.
The gardens are tended to daily to keep the plants healthy and looking great, making it a beautiful public space for everyone to enjoy. Many compliments are received as the volunteers go about their duties - one comment received was “walking through here make me smile”. The area is open to the public all day every day free of charge.
2. Best Urban Project joint winner: Friends of Ridley Park, Blyth
FORP has a membership of 25 people of whom approximately 12 have played a supporting role and 6 have played a leading role in one or more of the enhancement projects. In total several hundred hours of volunteer time have been expended in bringing all eight projects to fruition during the last year.
3. Best Urban Project runner-up: Tweedmouth Pickers - Community Litter Picks
This group has been together for 18 months and litter pick the Berwick and Tweedmouth area every month. After concerns were raised from the St. Boisels residents Rose Kay, one of the main group members felt that there could be more practical intervention by a new “force” and that they could make a difference to their local environment to benefit all.
They litter pick open spaces, play areas, back lanes and woodland areas and are starting to see an overall improvement in people’s habits through good practices.
They have a loyal team of mixed ages and equipment is provided by Frances Povey who is the Green Spaces Officer for Northumberland County Council. Their efforts have even made the local press, and they hope that this will encourage groups in other areas of the town to do a similar initiative. All are welcome to join their group ie children, youths and people who have mobility problems. They strongly believe a clean environment benefits all members of the community.
Helping Hands Environmental provided a ‘Handicart’ - a portable cart for transporting litter picking equipment - was also awarded to the Tweedmouth pickers.
4. Schools Go Smarter Sustainable Travel Award: Stannington First School
The winner of this years Schools Sustainable Travel Award is Stannington First School who have had a huge drive this year to encourage more parents and pupils to leave the car at home when travelling to school, promoting the benefits for everyone including improved road safety, reducing air pollution and also getting some exercise every day.
During Walk to School Week the school decided to launch their ‘Walking Rocks’ initiative, staff members painted rocks with colourful designs and hid them around the village and pupils were encouraged to look for them on their way to school, showing how wonderful it can be to travel on foot and the nature you will see when you are not in a car!
When a ‘Walking Rock’ is found parents and pupils are encouraged to upload a photo to the school’s social media account, photos are also shared in the school’s newsletter, pupils then re-hide the rocks and encourage other families to find them. The school are busy renovating their front garden and making a dedicated display area for their Walking Rocks so that it will become a long term initiative for the school and local community. As well as ‘Walking Rocks’ the school also takes part in Walk on Wednesdays, Bike Week and Cycle Training amongst other initiatives. They have worked with the Local Authority to implement measures to improve road safety outside their school and have set up park and strides from local car parks to reduce the number of vehicles at school. Because of these efforts here has been a massive decline in the amount of cars outside of school, which was highlighted by the school’s Green Team who monitored the traffic as part of their Green Flag submission this year.
Walking Rocks has highlighted the importance of sustainable travel to pupils and families and families have realised how special it can be to be part of a community and enjoy our surroundings more.