2017 PARISH NEWS    



The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 31st December 2017


Rocketing violence, 'easy' access to drugs and a string of suicides

It is the prison dubbed a “powder keg” following exploding levels of violence and widespread drug use.

HMP Northumberland has been embroiled in a number of high profile scandals this year following a series of dangerous incidents.

A BBC Panorama documentary uncovered scenes of disarray inside the troubled jail, which sparked major safety concerns for staff – and a damning report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons underlined how violent incidents had more than doubled since the last inspection in 2014.

Four years ago, the 1,300-capacity Acklington jail was placed in the hands of private company Sodexo.

Nick Leader, who became the new director at the prison in May this year, and the third man to run the jail since the firm took over, said staff are continuing to work hard to tackle drugs and violence.

But Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said the past 12 months have shown “just how chaotic things are” at the jail under the company’s leadership.

“I have seen a continual flood of concerns from families, staff and even inmates about operations at the prison,” he said.

“I reiterate the calls I have consistently made over the past four years since the prison was privatised.

“Prisons should not be run for private profit and we need to return this facility to public control or we will see little improvement.”

The report into HMP Northumberland, published last month, found 58% of prisoners had felt unsafe at some time.

Almost two thirds of inmates said that it was “easy or very easy” to get hold of drugs, while 21% said they had picked up a drug habit in the jail.

Inspectors also raised concerns that few of the shortcomings identified by Prisons and Probation Ombudsman investigations into six suicides had been addressed.


The report came nine months after an explosive behind-the-scenes investigation by the BBC revealed the chaos guards face at the category C jail.

Harrowing footage showed one officer having convulsions on the floor after accidentally inhaling spice, a cheap and stronger synthetic alternative to cannabis.

And staff found door alarms did not go off in one block and a hole in an internal security fence, which was believed to have been used by inmates to collect contraband thrown over the perimeter fence.

Druridge Bay councillor Scott Dickinson said: “In the early days they asked for time but this has gone on and on.

“The last report was really concerning which said it was really easy to get drugs on the inside.

“On top of that, prison is supposed to be a place for rehabilitation but they are saying they are developing drug habits. It is having a knock on effect on the local community.”

Mr Leader said since taking over the prison, Sodexo has built positive links with the community, including businesses, authorities, agencies and charities.

“Through those relationships we have been able to provide meaningful rehabilitation activities for prisoners,” he added.

“We have good relationships with trade unions and now Sodexo is responsible for Northumbria CRC, our staff are in a unique position to make a positive impact on offenders’ lives when they’re in the prison and when they’re being supervised in the community.

“We continue to work hard to tackle drugs and violence, which are a challenge across the whole prison estate, and have strengthened our violence reduction team, introduced more drug testing and secured funding for additional CCTV equipment.”

Problems at the local prison seemed to dominate our parish news in 2017.  If you are interested in reading about the many incidents (and reactions) at HMP Northumberland during the year, please press on the link below.




The following article was published in the Sunday Post on 6th December 2017


WITHIN a few minutes we can totally see why Mill House in Guyzance, Northumberland was a silver medal winner in the local tourism awards.

And why the B&B is one of literally a handful shortlisted as the best in the whole of the north of England.

It’s a gem, the sort of home from home that instantly makes you wish your abode really was like this.

And that owner Karen was your neighbour (when snow trapped everybody in a few years ago she dragged supplies on a sledge up hills to isolated neighbours).

The house wins us over just as much as this delightful one-woman force of nature.

It’s a 16th Century cottage, formerly part of the Guyzance Hall Estate and home to mill staff.

We read about one of the workers, Fred – he also served in the local Dad’s Army during the Second World War – in a personal testament Karen points out in the gorgeous sitting room, original beams catching the eye.

It’s the cosiest of country hideaways and every single thing has been done to the highest possible standard. Some, we learn, by Karen herself who donned dust masks to sand floorboards and hunted for period doors.

A former teacher, we wonder if there’s anything she can’t do. Will breakfast disappoint perhaps?

Don’t be silly. It’s simply sensational. All cooked on an Aga and with attention to detail you’d struggle to beat in the most high-end hotels.

Everything is perfection, from the porridge with honey and coconut milk to the full English, with the tomatoes marinated overnight. If there’s a better start to the day anywhere, I haven’t found it.

Mill House is the sort of place you could just settle down with a book in the garden to watch the deer on the hillside.

But it’s just a few miles from Amble, which hugs the estuary of the Coquet, the river that actually runs right by the B&B.

Seafood has always played a massive part in the pretty little town and one of the most recent additions is the Harbour Village with its chic huts and fab foodie choices.

It’s a lovely place for a seaside stroll and explore.

A short drive away, on the other side of the A1, is Cragside.

Run by the National Trust, it was the extraordinary Victorian home of Lord and Lady Armstrong. It stands in 1000 acres of grounds – brilliant for a peaceful walk – that look as though they have been like that for hundreds of years.

The reality is that the landscape was designed, like the house, to the taste of the inventor, engineer and businessman who was a massive figure far beyond the north east.

Seven million trees were planted, lakes created and sweeping drives laid out (we take the six-mile Estate Drive as we leave).

Cragside was the first house in the world lit by hydroelectricity and standing in the very room where people marvelled at this wonder, you can feel the sense of history wash over you. Thankfully, we weren’t in a hurry. This isn’t really a pop in and have a quick peek place, there’s so much fresh fascination round every corner that hours passed in a flash.

And when it comes to there always being something new to discover, there’s Alnwick and Bamburgh Castles, two of Northumberland’s greatest and grandest attractions.

Alnwick Castle, right in the centre of the glorious market town, is famous for both being the real home of the Percy family and the fictional one of Harry Potter, as Hogwarts in the smash-hit films. We learn some of the behind-the-scenes stories by joining one of the fun location tours – a Downton Abbey Christmas special was also shot here – before exploring the magnificent house.

And surely there can’t be a castle that dominates the coast more spectacularly than Bamburgh

It’s gloriously intact and we discover that we have our old friend Armstrong to thank for that. It was his deep pockets that brought it back to life after he bought it in the late 19th Century.

It took a decade and more than a million pounds – a massive fortune back then – to reverse hundreds of years of neglect.

We can’t help but feel that if he needed some know-how in bringing a building to brilliant new life, Karen would have been just the lady to help!

Mill House has single occupancy from £80, doubles from £90, bed and breakfast.
Website: http://escapetomillhouse.com




The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on 7th November 2017


The closure of Acklington CofE First School has been signed off by councillors and the final bell is set to ring in the summer.

In line with the recommendation at last week’s meeting of the county council’s family and children’s scrutiny committee, the decision-making cabinet voted on Tuesday that the school should stay open until the end of the academic year (August 31, 2018).

This is subject to final approval as it is different to what was originally proposed by the governing body of the James Calvert Spence College (JCSC) federation, which was to close at the end of next month.

The closure is based on the falling pupil numbers, which puts the school in a precarious financial situation as well as raising concerns about whether a broad curriculum can be provided to pupils alongside the impact on their emotional and social development.

Andy Johnson, the council’s interim director of children’s services, and Neil Rodgers, JCSC’s executive headteacher, set out the rationale behind the closure, which Mr Rodgers described as ‘the only viable option’.

Parent Steven Bush repeated the concerns he raised at last week’s meeting, saying: “We believe the school hasn’t taken the necessary time or actions to investigate alternative options to closure.”

Local ward member, Coun Jeff Watson, added: “It’s very sad when a school like Acklington, that has been around for so many years, is facing a situation like this.

“Many of the parents feel let down by the system. Twenty-one months ago (when Acklington joined the JCSC hard federation), promises were made and they felt they weren’t kept.”

He added: “I can’t argue against the closure, but we should keep the school open until the summer term. I know there will be a cost and I know that’s difficult, but in this case, I think we should bear it.”

When the governors launched a consultation on closure in May, there were 13 pupils on roll. Now there are just eight, although it is accepted that the uncertainty around the school’s future has had an impact.

The school is set to run a deficit of £40,000 in 2017/18, while the buildings are in a poor condition and the mobile classrooms need to be replaced at a cost of around £170,000.

There are places available for the eight pupils across the other first and primary schools in the Coquet Partnership.

Part of Acklington’s catchment area would be incorporated into Broomhill First School’s as the nearest school (1.3 miles) and part would be incorporated into that of Warkworth CofE Primary School as the closest Church of England school offering primary education (2.9 miles). The council would guarantee transport to these schools for eligible pupils.

Acklington School was continually in the news throughout 2017 as staff, parents and community members fought for its future.  If you wish to read more articles about the school the please CLICK HERE.



The following article was published in the Northumberland Gazette on 13th November 2017


A farmhouse brewery, launched in a former milking parlour less than a year ago, is launching a tasting room and licensed bar.

On Saturday, Rigg & Furrow farmhouse brewery, based at Acklington Park Farm near Morpeth, will formally open the tasting room, launch its new Christmas beer and mark its first nine months of business with a special event.

Pippa and Theo Howie at the Rigg & Furrow farmhouse brewery at Acklington.

So far in 2017, Rigg & Furrow has supplied its beer to more than 100 bars, venues and hotels from Scotland to Yorkshire, including well-known Northumberland and Tyneside venues such as The Office in Morpeth – the CAMRA North East pub of the year.

Bespoke, branded labels on bottles of beer to mark special occasions or weddings have proven particularly popular too.

It’s been 12 months of hard graft for the Howie family, who are behind the venture, which came about when Theo, a former music teacher and brewer from London, married farmer’s daughter Pippa. 

If you wish to read more about this exciting enterprise then please click on the link below.




The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 8th August 2017

The second Jumpin' Hot Country Cantina will see fans of American roots music gathering in Acklington

Just a couple of weeks ago the Jumpin’ Hot Club was running the outdoor stage at the SummerTyne Americana festival at Sage Gateshead.

But entertaining thousands at one of the country’s most prominent music venues is not all they do.

On Saturday (August 12) the musical action moves north as Acklington Village Hall, in Northumberland , hosts the Jumpin’ Hot Country Cantina for the second time.

Graham Anderson, who set up the Jumpin’ Hot Club and sister organisation Northern Roots with colleague Adam Collerton, describes it as a family-friendly ‘all dayer’ and live music showcase.

“We did it last year and it was one of the highlights of the year,” said Graham.

“It’s not big but we took over the whole place and there’s a nice bit of grass outside to sit on.  It’s a very nice place for people to come to.”

The plan, weather permitting, is that the action will be both outside and inside.

Graham promises “amazing” food and hot drinks and selected beers and ciders from the Hadrian Border Brewery – “and loads of space to chill (as well as the hall if it’s raining).”

He adds an important note regarding the cider and beer: “We deffo won’t sell out this year.”

Most important of all, though, is a sprightly musical line-up which would grace any Americana festival.

Amanda Anne Platt of The Honeycutters

The Honeycutters, founded in 2007 by singer-songwriter Amanda Anne Platt and guitarist Peter James, who is no longer in the band, are based in North Carolina.

Graham positions them “in between the country-pop of today and the gritty sound of yesterday” and hails “a country-Americana sound that catches the ears of both the young and old”.

Mary Jean Lewis, Louisiana-born but Scotland-based niece of rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis, will be performing with her group The Low Men.

“A very classy live performer with a dynamic personality,” notes Graham.

Kentucky Cowtippers, a Geordie/American bluegrass troupe, also join the line-up with Mush, Newcastle folk duo Skylark Song and the Sour Mash Trio.

A Songwriters’ Circle will feature Tom Blackwell, Gem Andrews and Tony Bengtsson.

Meanwhile Graham will spin old 78 records in the bar and The Lathe Revival, which puts restored vintage recording equipment to good use, will be out to catch some of the performances.

Saturday’s event runs from 1pm to 11pm and tickets, at £22.50 each, can be bought at www.wegottickets.com




The following article was published by Chronicle Live on 16th June 2017

The festival organised by Let's Circus promises an action-packed bank holiday and many summer workshops for kids.

If you fancy running away to the circus, you need run no further than the Northumberland village of Guyzance.

That’s the rather unlikely location for a colourful and action-packed week-long festival – August 25 to September 1 – called Circus In A Field!

Or perhaps it’s not so very unlikely.

This will be the third time the summer circus festival has taken place on a private field in Guyzance, near the meandering River Coquet.

For Circus In A Field! that field will be transformed with circus big tops, outdoor rigs and a specially built ‘circus barn’.

The organisers, Newcastle-based Let’s Circus, promise kids’ summer workshops, intensive training for those with some circus experience and one big public event on the August 28 bank holiday.

This ‘festival in a day’ will be open to the public and feature world class circus performances from midday until 11pm.

Among the performers in the big tops will be The Hogwallops (presented by Lost In Translation), specialists in circus skills and physical comedy.

That's the way to do it! Mastering the tightwire

Also out to entertain on the big day will be international circus performers billed as stylish, contemporary and award-winning.

Live music, food and a bar will contribute to the festival atmosphere.

But the festival is also about enthusing youngsters with summer workshops scheduled for August 26, 27, 29 and 30.

Juggling, tightwire, plate-spinning and hula hoop will be among the specialist skills on offer.

The sessions are aimed at young people aged eight to 15 and parents can sign them up for all four days or just one of the sessions.

Organisers Helen Averley and Steve Cousins, of Let’s Circus, say the training element of the festival offers a “total immersion in circus”.

Roll up, roll up for a Northumberland circus festival

Student to teacher ratios, they add, are kept low and up to 40 workshops are offered each day, guaranteeing diversity and depth.

“It gives you the chance to eat, sleep and live circus surrounded by others who are all doing the same,” they say.

Alongside the kids’ summer workshops will be a programme of high level and focused training for serious circus enthusiasts.

An ‘acrobatics intensive’ session, taking place from August 25-27, will be led by acrobalance stars Forma Fortis who originated in Germany but are based in Durham.

Steve Cousins says: “We’ve been doing circus festivals and projects internationally for well over a decade now and created the festival to bring some of the best of what we’ve seen back home to Northumberland.




The following article was published by the Northumberland Gazette on 25th May 2017

Plans for a new residential scheme in a Northumberland village have been submitted to the county council.
On behalf of the applicant, Mr M Clippingdale, George F White has lodged a full application for 24 new homes in Acklington.

The proposed site for the new houses, which would include six three-bedroom, affordable homes, is to the west of Acklington Village Hall.

Site for proposed housing

According to a planning statement, ‘it is proposed to develop the site for 24 residential properties each providing their own garden/amenity areas and parking. An access road will be provided to serve all of the properties and will be to an adoptable standard’.

It adds: ‘The intention is to create spacious layout including a mix of properties, including three and four-bedroom, large, detached properties, bungalows and affordable properties. The aim is to provide choice to the housing market of Acklington and the surrounding area.’

In terms of the affordable homes, the intention is to provide them for rent in perpetuity ‘to supplement the four existing affordable homes that are already on site and which have proved extremely popular and with 100 per cent occupancy since their completion’.

The four existing affordable homes (two semi-detached blocks) were approved in 2013 in conjunction with the conversion of the buildings at Cavil Head Farm into 11 residential units.

The 18 open-market houses would be comprise two two-bedroom bungalows, six three-bedroom, detached houses and 10 four-bedroom detached houses.




Litter Picking Villager Chris Sayers

On Saturday 22nd April 2017, twenty public-minded volunteers from Acklington gathered together to clear rubbish from the village.

Event organiser, Alison Sharpe said, “Our litter pick is all about villagers working hard, having fun, and making Acklington a great village to live in.”

65 Kilos of litter were collected. Most of the collection was roadside rubbish thrown from cars, and included food packaging, soft drinks containers and glass bottles.

The largest item collected was a full-sized, double mattress.

Well done to everyone.  Our community is now a bit cleaner!