2015 PARISH NEWS    


The following article was published in the Northumberland Gazette on Thursday 17th September

         Raegan and Casey with the black poplar at Acklington First School. Picture by Jane Coltman
 A rare and historic tree which was in danger of being felled a few years ago is in the running to win a prestigious competition – but the public’s support is needed to help it take the title.
 The black poplar, which is located in the grounds of Acklington Church of England First School, has been named as a contender in the annual Tree of the Year contest, run by the Woodland Trust.
 It fought off competition from an array of nominations to make the final shortlist of 10 trees in England.
 The public vote will launch on Monday.
 A representative from the Woodland Trust said: “The black poplar is one of Britain’s rarest native trees and the one in the grounds of Acklington school is believed to be the most northerly of its kind in Britain and the oldest thing living in the parish of Acklington.
 “The tree, which was there before the school was built in 1852, came close to being felled a few years back.
 “Unfortunately bits started falling from it, especially during gales and the knowledgeable health and safety people felt it posed a risk to the pupils.
 “However, common sense prevailed in the end and to the relief of the pupils, the local bats, birds and wildlife, and to all nature lovers in the parish, the tree was saved.
 “Not only that, it became the centre piece of the school’s new logo.
 “The tree has been nominated for Tree of the Year, a competition run by the Woodland Trust and despite receiving more than 200 public nominations, it has made the shortlist of 10 trees in England.”
 With the public vote opening next week, people are being encouraged to vote for the tree.
 The Tree of the Year competition, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, is a unique celebration of the links between people and trees.
 The contest is open to any living tree in the UK; with England, Scotland, Wales and for the first time Northern Ireland each having an individual contest. The deadline for nominations has closed.
 Each country’s individual Tree of the Year will go on to represent that nation in the European Tree of the Year competition, organised by the Environmental Partnership Association.
 The Woodland Trust hopes to improve the chances of a UK tree being crowned European Tree of the Year, after the Major Oak, the highest placed tree in the 2014 contest, only finished in sixth place.
 For more information and to vote for the black poplar at Acklington, visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk





The following article was published by the Morpeth Herald on Thursday 2nd July 2015

                                Sylvia Linnett, from Acklington WI, at the Buckingham Palace Garden Party.

“WI?” I asked. “Buckingham Palace?” was the lady’s response.

Thus I encountered Anita Smillie from Falkland (Newbury) Women’s Institute at the Waterloo Station taxi rank. We were both carrying large hats, which was a bit of a clue. Our shared cab ride was the start of a day spent together, two excited strangers nominated by their WIs to attend a Royal Garden Party to celebrate the centenary of the founding of the organisation.

There were warnings that the queues to enter the Palace by the front gates would be huge, and Anita suggested the Hyde Park entrance. As our taxi drove past the front of the Palace, what a sight there was to behold: there were hundreds and hundreds of WI members, dressed to the nines in every colour of the rainbow. The line stretched on and on around the side and down Constitution Hill. Much to the amusement of our driver, we kept up a running commentary on the fashions – most of it very positive!

I spotted something next to the queue on the pavement – a gold wedding band. No-one in front of us who had not yet entered the Palace gardens admitted to losing it. The Metropolitan Police Officer nearby looked mightily relieved when I took it to him and suggested that we try to find the owner within the WI.

The rain and damp from earlier in the day had been cleared by gusty winds, much to our relief. We left the cab and joined a different queue, this one stretching down from Wellington Arch. There were plenty of photos, chatter, exchanges of introductions, and compliments. After what seemed like an age, and with anticipation mounting by the metre, we entered through the Hyde Park Gate.

The gardens are vast – the lake alone is three acres in size. We took in the sights, sounds and scents as we made our way towards the rear of Buckingham Palace, keeping our fashionista eyes peeled en route. Two brass bands were positioned at opposite corners of the lawn, with a flag system to indicate when it was their turn to play, and they entertained us all afternoon.

Everyone neared the palace steps to await the arrival of the Royal party. What a riot of colour! Each one of the 8,000 WI ladies looked resplendent in their special outfits. We were firmly and expertly herded into order by Beefeaters, the band struck up the National Anthem, and there they were on the terrace: our host HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, HRH The Countess of Wessex, HRH Princess Alexandra and HRH The Duchess of Gloucester, all looking elegant and poised.

After some planned presentations the royal ladies moved separately through the throngs to chat to the WI members. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and was very fortunate to be selected to be presented formally to the Countess. The equerry gave us some tips: “Call her Your Royal Highness the first time, Ma’am as in jam after that. She will shake your hand – remember to let go! A curtsey would be nice, but you are here to enjoy yourself so don’t worry about it”.

It was a little nerve-wracking to see her slowly getting closer, but when the moment arrived I managed my little bob and Sophie was delightful. The Countess has been a member of Bagshot WI since 2007. We chatted about the AGM as I was a delegate and she was to attend with HM The Queen and The Princess Royal. We joked about her having to “leave before the interesting bit”.

After this very unexpected and thrilling experience it was time for tea. Anita and I joined another queue and soon we were presented with a rectangular china plate and saucer combined and offered our choice of drink. Then we made our selections from the buffet offered: everything was bite-sized and perfect – down to a mini brownie topped by a chocolate button on top with a gold crown on it!

Off I went in search of a WI Official to hand over the wedding ring I had found, but that proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated – in fact it was impossible! Another solution would have to be found.

There was some unexpected sport next. The gusty wind had strengthened and it was time to play “Catch the Hat” on the Palace lawn. With a particularly nifty sidestep I managed to trap a wayward fascinator. I was able to hang on to the brim of mine but this meant I had to decline the ice cream tub as I didn’t have enough hands.

On the stroke of 5pm the National Anthem was played again with the ladies singing enthusiastically. There was a brief pause and then came the sound of the only thing missing from the afternoon. Thousands of women’s voices burst spontaneously into singing ‘Jerusalem’ and the sound soared and floated in the open air, making it a very emotional moment.

Time to leave – through the front door this time. We passed through the Marble Hall of the Palace and the huge portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at various ages, into the inner courtyard of the palace, through the arch onto the forecourt, and back to reality via the main gates.

Anita and I shared a glass of Prosecco at Waterloo before heading off for our respective trains. It was a day that I shall never forget and I am so grateful to Acklington WI for the opportunity.

The ring has a continuing saga all its own.

As Acklington’s delegate to the WI Centenary AGM in the Royal Albert Hall two days after the Garden Party, I resolved to ask for an announcement about the lost ring to be made from the podium. With someone representing every Institute in the country, it was the perfect way to reach the owner. To no avail, my note remained unread.

On my return home I telephoned WI HQ in London. The lady there had my note and had also received an enquiry from someone who had lost a ring. Perfect! A happy ending - or was it?

Two days later the enquirer telephoned me and I asked her to describe the ring she had lost. It didn’t sound like the one that I had found at all! Her’s had been her mother’s ring, not from their wedding, it was bought by her father for their Golden Wedding.

Curioser and curioser. Seeking a definitive answer, I sent a photograph of the ring by email for identification. Back came the response “No I’m sorry to say it’s not my ring.” I couldn’t believe it! What a remarkable coincidence that two gold wedding rings were lost in the same queue.

Maybe it was not such a coincidence after all. The following day another email arrived. After pondering over the picture of the ring for an hour or so, the lady had decided to forward my photo to her sister. The sister felt it looked like their mum’s ring.

My next step is to send it to her to see whether it fits and looks familiar. If not, she will send back the ring and I will be trying to find the owner all over again. I do so hope it will find its rightful owner very soon.

By Sylvia Linnett



The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on Thursday 25th June 2015

           Zara Sumner
A talented young actress has been signed up by a London-based theatrical and talent agency, which will put her forward for film and TV roles.
 And delighted Zara Sumner admits it is a dream come true to be on the path towards achieving big things in the world of performance.

 The 15-year-old from Acklington landed a place on the agency, whose name cannot be disclosed, after impressing at an audition.
 Zara wowed a panel of three agents with her delivery of Kellie Powell’s monologue And Turning, Stay.
 Her name is now in the frame for a variety of work and she has just had auditioned for a part on a BBC ident – which is an on-screen channel identity.
 On top of this, she is now a member of online international casting directory, Spotlight.
 Zara said: “I didn’t think it was real at first when I found out that I had been accepted.
 “Performing the monologue was really quite scary so it was amazing to be selected and it is brilliant to get your foot in the door.”
 Zara’s passion for acting started when she was seven, when she performed in Alnwick Playhouse Youth Theatre’s production of Alice in Wonderland.
 She has been a loyal and dedicated member of the group ever since and has sung, acted and danced her way through many of its shows, including Aladdin, Bugsy Malone, Cats and Sweeney Todd.
 She has also performed in two National Theatre Connections Festivals and has been a willing backstage volunteer at the Playhouse.
 Zara insists that the Youth Theatre has been a massive influence on her development.
 She said: “The Youth Theatre has been amazing and I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for the Playhouse Youth Theatre.
 “I love acting and I really like the idea that when you’re acting, you can be a completely different person and you can use different emotions and different facial expressions. It is liberating and it gives you a real buzz.”




The following article was published in the Northumberland Gazette on Thursday 23rd April 2015

          The RAF Acklington graduates in April 1965.

This Saturday and Sunday, a group of retired Royal Air Force pilots are holding a reunion at the Linden Hall Golf and Country Club to celebrate 50 years since graduation as RAF pilots and receiving their wings.

The group of aspiring pilots who assembled at RAF Acklington for No 174 Course on May 26, 1964, had just completed their Initial Officer Training at South Cerney in Gloucestershire.


          The parade slow march past of the class of 1965.

In 1964, No 6 Flying Training School (FTS) was one of five schools at the time (the others were located at Leeming, Linton-on-Ouse, Church Fenton and Syerston).

The school originated in 1917, training Army pilots for First World War fighting.  Disbanded after the end of the war, the school was revived briefly between 1920 and 1922 before disbanding again.

As re-armament accelerated, No 6 FTS reformed in 1935. During its history, the FTS boasted Wing Commander Guy Gibson VC, of Dambusters fame, as one of its pupils and other early graduates gained 727 honours, including five Victoria Crosses and 51 Distinguished Service Orders.

In 1961, 6 FTS moved to RAF Acklington equipped with the Hunting Jet Provost training aircraft and remained there until disbandment in 1968.
Acklington had few, if any, permanent buildings and, instead, comprised a village of wooden huts, variously converted.

Only a minority of students owned cars so the station hosted an active weekend social scene, unlike the schools further south within easier reach of London. Locally, the Dirty Bottles in Alnwick was exceptionally popular as it appeared to be, coincidentally, with the Teacher Training College!

Basic pilot training at the time was ‘all through’ on jets and assumed no previous flying experience. The Jet Provost Mk 3 and Mk 4 were two-seat side-by-side jet trainers with a single Armstrong Siddeley Viper engine.  The course comprised some 160 flying hours of which about 110 were dual, under the supervision of an instructor, and about 50 solo.

The Passing Out Parade on April 22, 1965, saw the cherished award of the pilot’s brevet.

Thirteen of the original 19 graduates will join together for dinner at Linden Hall on Saturday at which Squadron Leader (Retired) Stuart Miller will propose the toast to ‘Absent Friends’.



The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on 17th January 2015
A moving tribute was paid today to 10 teenage soldiers killed in a wartime training exercise.
 The Army recruits died on the River Coquet, near Guyzance, when their boat was swept over a weir and capsized on 17th January 1945.
 The bodies of the young men, eight of whom were serving with the Durham Light Infantry and two with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, were found downriver in the following days and months. The last was not recovered until May 28.
 Veterans and villagers gathered today to commemorate the tragedy on its 70th anniversary.
 Among them were Corporal Bernard Crewther, who lives in Rothbury, and Sergeant Burnett Seyburn, who were stationed at Felton with the group.
 Mr Crewther said at the service: “We were called out at night to go down the rive looking for bodies. It’s something I won’t forget. They were all lads that I knew.”
 At the time, the troops were ordered not to talk about the tragedy.
 Mr Seyburn said: “We were sworn under oath never to mention this under threat of court martial.”
 Local historian Vera Vaggs (pictured below) discovered that the deaths had been reported in a newspapaer at the time. She helped to arrange the placing of a memorial at the site in 1995.
 She said today: “It’s nice to think that they are not forgotten and we now have what is a very moving and very appropriate stone memorial here.”
 Sandra Bell, whose uncle Alfred Yates was one of the men who died, and her daughter Charlotte were also at the service.
 The Rev Kenneth Crawford, chaplain to the Durham Light Infantry, led the proceedings.
 Wreaths were laid by the DLI Association, parish councillors and members of the community.