Chairman’s Report 2021-22

The 2021 election brought a change to our Council, with new Councillor Aaron Hart elected for the Choppington Ward.  He lives and works in Guide Post and in common with us all on the Council shares the same strong commitment to the area.   I must also thank his predecessor Amanda Barrell for her great contribution to the Council over two terms of office.  I am pleased to say she continues her association with the Parish through her participation in the residents forum.

During the school summer holidays we were able to restart the holiday play sessions.  Covid restrictions did mean we had been unable to run them throughout 2020.  As we had difficulties sanitising the mobile court, football sessions were run without it at Eastgate, Guide Post field, The Pastures field, and two new venues at Sheepwash Bank and West Sleekburn.  As an alternative to ball games, other sessions were available at Stakeford and Bomarsund Welfare including, circus skills, crafts, and pottery.  This year we are piloting a multi sports camp.  During the first pilot session in the Easter holidays we ran football golf, quick cricket and other games which will be repeated over the summer holidays.  The Youth Club resumed late in the year at the Holy Family Church on Thursday evenings for 9-11year olds.  We have a new youth leader, and we are delighted by the numbers who are attending.

Our Councillors have been knocking on doors to ask residents in West Sleekburn and the near Milburn Grange Estate what they would like to see going on at their Village Hall and so have a lengthy list of possible activities.  They now would like to see more people involved as volunteers to run these activities, so if you would like to help, please contact the Parish Council and we will pass the names on.

We joined with West Sleekburn Village Hall for a family fun day during the bank holiday weekend in August and for once the sun shone.  The Village Hall was just starting to gain a presence in West Sleekburn when the pandemic struck and it had to close, so it was so good to see the grounds and building alive with so many people again.  Please remember that the village hall is available for hire for private parties and can be booked through the Parish Council.

We reluctantly said goodbye to Heather Dixon this year who ran the very popular ‘golden burlesque’ class for the Parish Council.  It was a hit right from its establishment many years ago exercise with a twist for older people, followed by gossip over a cup of tea.  Its success was due to Heather and if she ever wants to return, she will be met with a line of eager feather boas waiting to shimmy again.  We continue our association with the Veterans snooker league supporting the team at Stakeford and Bomarsund Welfare, but sadly the one at Choppington Welfare did not run this year.  Bomarsund Bowls club was a recipient of a Parish grant, and they are looking for new players so if you are interested in an outdoor sport with a competitive edge, please contact the Parish Council.  Our small grant scheme is available up to £500 to our local groups providing activities for all ages. This year we have given grants to:

Toddle-in, Veteran snooker team, Bowls, Guide Post Allotment Association, Ashington and District Male Voice Choir and Guide Post over 60s Club.

In September work started on the refurbishment of the play area at Eastgreen.  The Parish Council is responsible play areas in our Parish (excluding the one at Cleaswell Park) and we have refurbished/replaced each one of them.   There was a grand opening with the help and support of residents group Choppington Together and many children.  This play area was very well used in the past and we hope that the children at Eastgreen will enjoy playing there for a very long time.

Our final play area refurbishment at Liddells Field was completed in March.  Unfortunately, after only 6 days the play area experienced vandalism and had to be closed for a number of days until new parts were received.  Luckily, a local resident was able to rescue the larger pieces of equipment, or it would have cost so much more to replace.   During the year we had consulted with residents neighbouring Liddells Field about additional play facilities.  Many liked the proposal for a MUGA, but others did caution against any development that could encourage more anti-social behaviour.  The Council would like to provide more facilities at this location, but it will depend on how well the play area is looked after in the next few months.  We do however still intend to lay a path to access the play area and to place a barrier across the opening into the field to prevent cars driving across it.

Throughout every year, we rely on our partnerships.  There is a well-established partnership with Northumberland County Council.  Our shared workforce looks after the green areas, cuts the grass and hedges, removes weeds, and manages trees.  Some areas in the Parish were part of a weed control pilot by Northumberland County Council.  The current method of using glyphosate-based herbicides is cheap and effective however it is a chemical and there are concerns that honey bees are affected by it.  The trial included treatment with acetic acid and others had weeds mechanically removed.  Hot foam was used in other parts of Northumberland.  We await the results of the trial.  A new partnership is with Groundwork with which we are working to re-establish woodland pathways along the Riverside Park.  For the first time we arranged Christmas lights at Guide Post roundabout.  We must thank the lighting team at Northumberland County Council for their artistry.  We received many favourable comments about the lights, and they even managed in the most part to survive Storm Arwen.

The aftermath of Storm Arwen had a large part of Guide Post and Choppington without electricity for two days and Wansbeck Care Home at Sleekburn for over 5 days.  There was a huge community effort to keep vulnerable people warm and fed during this period which included the organisations of Northumberland County Council, Choppington Together and the Parish Council, but also included many individuals, who took people into their own homes or offered their assistance to supply hot food. We are reminded that people who live in this Parish are just the best.

That said, since the experience of lockdown, and storm Arwen, we all appreciate good neighbours, and we all know people in our Parish who add value to our community.  We would like to celebrate these people.  We discussed options with the Annual Assembly this month with the suggestion that the first presentation of the Choppington Community Recognition Award should take place at the Annual Assembly next year.

Paul S Vaughan


Choppington Parish Council