An £86,000 refurbishment has brought a little romance - as well as comfort - to Wooler Youth Hostel in the foothills of the Cheviots.
Holidaymakers can now experience a little of what it was like to be a Northumbrian Shepherd by staying in specially built Shepherds' Huts in the Youth Hostel's grounds.
Shepherds traditionally slept in huts on wheels, which were pulled into the hills by horses, during the lambing season. The four brand new shepherds' huts were built by joiner Albert Fairnington a local craftsman, Mick Farinington, a local engineer and their apprentices. They each sleep two people.
"We wanted to offer our holidaymakers something different and, after walking in the Cheviots all day, we thought it would be great fun to imagine you were a shepherd bedding down in your hut in the hills or even let the kids have their very own den for the night" says Neil Wilson of Glendale Gateway Trust, the local development trust that owns and manages the youth hostel as part of the YHA Enterprise Scheme
"But of course these huts have a few more home comforts than those used by the shepherds of yore - electric lighting, heating, a bathroom within a few feet and even duvets!"
The huts are part of an £86,000 refurbishment of the youth hostel which was funded by the Northumberland Uplands Leader programme through the Rural Development Programme for England, which is jointly funded by Defra and the European Union and includes work in the main hostel building where four of the rooms have been made ensuite.
"We appreciate that in this day and age most people expect a certain level of comfort, even in budget accommodation like youth hostels, so we now have four rooms - one sleeping two people, two sleeping four people and one sleeping six - with their own toilets and showers," says Neil.
The Youth Hostel was built to house Land Girls during the Second World War and taken over by the Youth Hostel Association in the 1950s. Six years ago the YHA decided to close a number of its hostels, including Wooler, so the Glendale Gateway Trust stepped in, bought the hostel and took over its management, though links with the YHA are still maintained through the enterprise scheme.
"The Youth Hostel plays a big part in Wooler's economy," says Neil, "Situated in the foothills of the Cheviots, with Alnwick, Berwick, the coast and the Scottish Borders all within a 20 mile radius, Wooler is a great holiday destination for walkers, bikers, families and groups, including schools, so it was important that the Youth Hostel stayed open."
To follow up the shepherding theme, the Youth Hostel is working with John Monks, a former shepherd who offers guided walks locally, to arrange outings for people staying at the youth hostel.
"We're able to arrange walks for our guests or even instructor-led adventure sessions such as canoeing, climbing, coastal rock scrambling or sea kayaking through a local company Active4seasons"
Anyone who would like to find out more about Wooler Youth Hostel can browse www.wooler.org.uk/hostel or ring manager Mick Goodwin on 01668 281365
A 15 year old ambition was fulfilled this week when a new community library was officially opened in the Cheviot Centre in Wooler.
Glendale Gateway Trust which manages the library together with Northumberland County Council in a pioneering new partnership contract, built a new extension to the community centre to house the library.
In the six months since the new library opened its doors, book loans are up by 20%, visitors numbers have doubled and the library has tripled its opening hours from 12 to 39 hours a week.
Sarah Davidson, who officially opened the library, said it realised the dream of one of the Trust's founding members, Tom Sale, who died last year.
"Tom would have loved to have seen the finished library here in the Cheviot Centre," she said. "Tom was, of course, the first Chairman of the Glendale Gateway Trust back in 1996 and it is worth reflecting that when the Trust was formed no one really understood what a development trust was or and what it would do.
"Tom steered the Trust through the difficult first years which involved the Trust finding its feet, developing its skills, building partnerships."
Trust director Tom Johnston said: "Incorporating the library into the Cheviot centre was always an ambition but this time the right people were sitting around the table and we've been able to ensure everyone benefits - the community by better access, the council by providing a better yet more economical service and the trust by earning extra income to support its sustainability."
Coun Bradbury, Northumberland County Council's executive member for customer relations and culture, said the new library set-up in Wooler, which combined the staff resources of library, tourist information and Glendale Gateway Trust to extend opening hours, had "raised the bar" for future partnership work.
"Wooler is leading the way with this innovative scheme. It's involved a number of partners working together to strengthen community services and get the best for the town," he said.
Written by Kevin O'Hara, conservation officer at Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Where do they all go in winter? - Part 1
Recently I felt the first twangs of winter; the 'first frost' gripped my garden, the chickens came skidding out of their ark, and I had to break the ice on their drinking water. I really like those first days, when we still have some daylight left to enjoy the wonderful colours and smells. I take the camera and binoculars with me when I walk the dogs, keeping an eye out for winter thrushes or other visitors. The clocks have altered and we start the long haul of winter - not until February will some real light return to the sky, and warmth to the sun.
It is during these months that we wonder where, exactly, many of our resident wildlife species go to survive the coldest and wettest days of winter, especially those that are more delicate and less mobile.
How do you diffuse a bomb or navigate your way across a toxic swamp? That's what young people have been finding out as part of a teambuilding weekend in Wooler.
The weekend, the first of two aimed at getting young people together to develop new skills and confidence, was organised by Glendale Gateway Trust in partnership with Sure Start andBerwick Youth Project.
The group stayed at Wooler Youth Hostel and started their weekend of activity on Friday night with cake making and decorating demonstrations in preparation for their second residential weekend in November when they will be taking part in a cooking competition.
On Saturday the pace was stepped up a gear with Adventure North East providing teambuilding and problem solving tasks at the Riverside Caravan Park which hosted the event.
As well as diffusing a mock bomb and working out how to cross a toxic swamp on multi-person skis, they had to shepherd sheep and navigate a minefield blindfolded - testing their team work, problem solving skills and trust in one another.
"The idea behind this weekend was to let the young people taking part get to know each other so they will be able to work as a team when they meet together later in November for a 'Come dine with me' challenge," says Gemma Douglas of Gateway Development Trust.
On November 18, teams competing in the Come Dine with Me challenge will have to prepare and cook a meal for the other groups - creating breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. This will include sourcing the raw ingredients, working within a budget, team work, preparing and cooking food, servicing and presentation. The meals will be judged and scored.
"Opportunities to participate in residential weekends such as these don't come along too often and they are a great way to build confidence in young people," says Merrick Thomson of Berwick Youth Project. "The Come Dine with Me Challenge helps develop the skills they will need when they set out to join the working world - enterprise, motivation, team work and the ability to compete."
Young people in Glendale who are going on to further education are being invited to apply for grants from a Wooler education trust.
The Robson Patterson Ancrum Endowment Fund supports former pupils of Glendale Middle School who are continuing their studies.
Last year the trust was able to provide grants of £150 to six former pupils to help with books, IT and other equipment they needed for their courses.
"The trust uses the interest on its capital and, although interest rates have continued to be poor this year, we are still able to award grants," says treasurer Ian Thompson .
The Robson, Patterson and Ancrum Educational Trust fund was originally started in 1965 with monies collected for a retirement presentation to Aiden Robson, the first head teacher of Glendale County Secondary School. It has since been added to through a behest by the late Jackie Patterson and donations from Mr and Mrs Roy Ancrum.
Any former Glendale Middle School pupil who would like to apply for a grant should send their name and contact details as well as information about the course and the college or university to Ian Thompson, Westfield, Gallowlaw, Burnhouse Road, Wooler, NE71 6ST. Applications should be made by November 30, 2011.
Five carers with more than 80 years experience between them have launched their own company so they can continue to look after elderly people in their own community.
"When the county council decided to outsource home care to private companies, we were told we'd no longer be guaranteed work in the same areas but we wanted to continue looking after our elderly clients," says Marie Purvis who, like the other women, trained under and worked for the local authority.
So the five carers pictured above, Carol Nesbit, Ishbel Little, Shirley Lockhart, Marie Purvis and Judith Stanwix, decided to set up their own company working in the Wooler and Glendale area.
"This way we can stay with the people who know us and we can offer a lot more services that we could under the council system," says Marie. "As well as the personal care - helping people get dressed and washed - we do housework, laundry, shopping, preparing meals and also taking people out for appointments or visits."
Their company, Cheviot Care, has been set up as a social enterprise which means the women take their salaries but any profits go back into developing the business and improving the service.
"Setting up a company was hard at first but we've had lots of people helping us. We were given grants from the county council's Social and Business Enterprise Hub and Wooler councillor Anthony Murray's community chest. The Glendale Gateway Trust have also been very supportive," says Marie.
"Because we're a social enterprise company our rates are very competitive - we can offer an hour's housework for £8 for example. Also we're all trained to NVQ levels two and three and have experience and training looking after people with disabilities and mental health problems as well as looking after the elderly and young people."
So far business has been good since the company started and they hope that eventually they will be able to recruit more local workers as the business grows.
Anyone who would like to find out more can contact Cheviot Care on 07979885807.
Wooler Camera Club is inviting all photographers - from happy snappers to pros - to join them for an evening with award-winning photographer John Thompson on Thursday September 8.
John, a regular judge and guest at Wooler, will be launching the club's new season with a look at "Corners of Northumberland". His presentation will highlight the parts of the county that are rarely photographed - the places we tend to walk or drive past and never notice
Fifty years after its cinema closed, Wooler is bringing back the big screen for a special public showing of this year's blockbuster, The King's Speech.
The Eildon Cinema on South Road in Wooler closed in September 1961. The last film to be shown there was Elmer Gantry, starring Burt Lancaster. To commemorate the anniversary Berwick Film Society, together with Wooler U3A, is showing the Oscar-winning Colin Firth film at the Glendale Hall on Friday September 2.
"We know the Alnwick Playhouse and the Maltings do a great job of bringing us the best films," says Berwick Film Society's Maurice Ward. "but even so a lot of people don't travel at night and we thought it would be great for Wooler and Glendale to have their own cinema back for one night and be able to see such a fantastic film in their own town.
"Some might have seen it on DVD, but it's not the same as viewing on the big screen and sharing the experience with a live audience."
The film will start at 7.30pm prompt - with no adverts or trailers beforehand. Doors open at 7pm, with tickets at £3.
And for those who do remember the Eildon Cinema... no snogging in the back row.
The author of a new children's book which has become a hit with adults is to visit Wooler on Saturday August 6 to sign books at Florin and The Glendale Gallery.
Georgina Jack, who was evacuated to Northumberland as an eight year old wrote her fictional tale of an evacuee, Calendar Pigs, for young adults but the memories it evokes have struck a chord with older people.
"She was brought up in a town and then suddenly pitched into rural life with an aunt and uncle while her brothers stayed at home," says Sheila Tennet who runs Florin on Wooler High Street.
"The tale is full of incidents from farming life in the 40s and Georgina says that most of the people who have contacted her are from the generations that remember what rural life used to be like"
Georgina Jack, who studied Fine Art at Durham University and went on to teach, has also drawn the illustrations in the book. She will be bringing prints of several illustrations to the signing.
"The illustrations are beautiful, she's obviously a talented artist and while the book might have been written with youngsters in mind, it's a really good read and conjures up the scenes of farming life so vividly that you feel you're reliving the 1940s. She's a lovely lady and I think it's pretty impressive to have your first book published in your seventies."
Georgina will be at Florin from 1pm on Saturday and the shop is offering the books at a discounted price during the signing.
Sunshine, music and great food proved to be a crowd puller at Glendale Free Music Festival at Wooler this weekend.
Hundreds of local people and holiday makers took advantage of the brief taste of summer to enjoy an afternoon of free music and street entertainment as well as browsing stalls with locally produced food and a craft fair.
Barnacre alapacas proved very popular with adults as well as children and as well as the organised events, musicians gathered on corners to give impromtu concerts.
"It was really good to see people enjoying the festival and to see Wooler High Street buzzing," said festival chairman Ray Wood. "It was a great event and our thanks goes to everyone who helped and took part."