News July 2020

Verge Walks
We were lucky to catch a dry couple of hours for our first verge walk of the season at Thorngrafton. This is a particularly interesting verge as there are a variety of underlying rocks and, consequently, changing soil pHs associated with the cuesta landscape. Although the verge had been mown we were rewarded with all of the flowers we anticipated finding, including twayblades, hoary plantain and agrimony.

Many of the more common plants we recorded have names which indicate valued characteristics - selfheal, eyebright, bedstraw - a whole world of knowledge which is deemed of little relevance to the modern way of life.

Dilston Physic Garden, near Corbridge, is ensuring that this knowledge is not only retained but is validated and built on by using cutting edge science to quantify and explain the health giving and medicinal properties of plants. It's a fascinating place, a visit won't disappoint!

The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette De Bairacli Levy (1912 - 2009) is still the go-to reference work for many livestock keepers looking for plant-based treatments to improve and maintain animal health. Juliette started a conventional veterinary studies course at university but always held in higher esteem the ancient knowledge she gained by living with and learning from Romany gypsies.
Across the Atlantic Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist with Native American heritage, weaves together her inherited wisdom and her modern academic understanding of plant biology into an inspiring book. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants contains a wealth of stories illustrating the need to live with respect and reverence for the land.
Diana Beresford Kroeger, the renowned Canadian botanist, biochemist and visionary is on a mission to revolutionise the way we see trees with her book To Speak for the Trees. Diana's research includes the discovery of mother trees at the heart of a forest; the fact that trees are a living library, have a chemical language and communicate in a quantum world; the major idea is that trees heal living creatures through the aerosols they release and that they carry a great wealth of natural antibiotics and other healing substances; and, perhaps most significantly, that planting trees can actively regulate the atmosphere and the oceans, and even stabilize our climate.

We have two further walks this year - please call Lesley Silvera 07933 326711 or
email me if you'd like to join either or both walks, just so we know how many people to expect and will be prepared with enough leaders to work with Covid-19 restricted group sizes.

Tues 14th July: Meet at Cawfields car park
7pm - Meet at car park; we are going to look at Markham. Grid ref: 714666

Tues 28th July: Meet near Caw Gap
7pm - Meet at wide verge near junction of Sook Hill & Caw Gap. We'll walk along to Ventnor's Hall and back.
Grid ref: 726675

Rural Housing Questionnaire

The Rural Design Centre which, once fully operational, will be in Stannington near Morpeth aims to bring communities, researchers and businesses together to help solve rural issues. Their current focus is on rural housing and the issues faced by people living in rural Northumberland. In order to explore and understand these issues, and to help in the search for solutions, they are asking Northumberland residents to fill in a short questionnaire:
The cut-off date for completing the survey is the 12th July.

A boost for active travel

The Northumberland Cycling and Walking Board which brings together councillors and staff from the County Council with representatives from Sustrans, NHS England, Northumberland National Park, Northumberland Tourism, Active Northumberland, Northumberland Sport, Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust, Northumberland Sport, Forestry England and Natural England has developed a wide ranging action plan which aims to increase levels of cycling and walking in the county by both residents and visitors.

The strategy the Board has formed is progressive and new priorities will be added over time. Funding sources are currently being explored and it is hoped that, by the end of 2020, £5m will be available to improve routes and infrastructure around the county and to increase marketing and education to promote active travel in Northumberland.

Farmers' Markets are back! Stay local and enjoy the best!

Brampton Farmers' Market - Saturday, 25th July
For a list of stallholders, ordering/delivery details and other info see:

Hexham Farmers' Market - Saturdays 11th & 25th July
For a list of stallholders, ordering/delivery details and other info see

Hadrian's Wall Farmers' Market in Greenhead - all stalls will be outside on Sunday July 12th
New stall - Warwick Bridge Mill will be selling flour!

Anti-racism in the countryside

In this area most of us can walk out of our front doors and enjoy some green space pretty immediately. Lockdown during the pandemic has made the divisions between those with this access to nature and those without more evident. This realisation has come at a time when the disproportionate number of deaths attributed to Coronavirus amongst BAME communities and the Black Lives Matter movement have combined to highlight health inequalities. Racism might not be as apparent in the countryside as it is in urban areas but, arguably, the issues which perpetuate it are structural and even harder to shift than more obvious manifestations in our towns and cities.
There are few organisations committed to tackling the major underlying factors such as access to land. A rare example is Land In Our Names (LION) which aims to address land justice as a centre point for issues around food insecurity, health inequalities, environmental injustice and widespread disconnect from nature.
The importance of building an anti-racist food movement in the UK is highlighted in the current edition of the Oxford Real Farming Conference newsletter.

The Land Magazine is dedicated to the politics of land and makes no bones about the importance of access to land for everyone irrespective of race, class or religion, here's an extract from their manifesto:

Economists define wealth and justice in terms of access to the market. Demands to "make poverty history", and the responses from those in power, revolve around money. Land is rarely mentioned.
The more people are dependent on the market, the more securely they can be roped into the fiscal and political hierarchy. But anyone who has access to land already has access to energy, water, nourishment, shelter, healing, wisdom, ancestors and a grave. Access to land is not simply a threat to landowning elites - it is a threat to the religion of unlimited economic growth and the power structure that depends on it.
The global market uproots and destroys land-based human cultures. The final and inevitable achievement of a rootless global market will be to destroy itself. Rome fell; the Soviet Empire collapsed; the stars and stripes are fading in the west. Nothing is forever in history, except geography. Capitalism is a confidence trick, a dazzling edifice built on paper promises. It may stand longer than some of us anticipate, but when it crumbles, the land will remain.

I'm delighted to see that the ORFC is parenting a new, virtual, real farming conference for the north,
28th Sept to 10th Oct

This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.

John O'Donohue

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South Tyne Sustainability aims to reduce the impact of the community of Haltwhistle and surrounding villages on our environment. This will help individuals, families and our community save money and resources and ensure a more sustainable future for us all.

To join STS contact Sue Seymour, 016977 47359