Sustainable Haltwhistle Newsletter March 2024

On Tues 19th March we'll screen Six Inches of Soil, a story of young British farmers standing up against the industrial food system and transforming the way they produce food. Several young farmers and growers from our area will lead an after film discussion.
Responding to the issues raised in the film they'll talk about the changes they are making, or have made, on their farms, to heal the soil, benefit our health and provide for local communities.

The April film, on Tues 16th, will be Everything Must Change.

All screenings 7.30pm in Comrades Club, Haltwhistle.

Our first community conference - Tyne for Change

On Thurs. 29 February over 70 people attended a community conference, held in Haltwhistle, looking at the health of the River Tyne. The event combined expert led sessions with community case studies and was designed to both expose the extent of the problem and empower community action across the Tyne Valley and beyond.

Delegates heard that sewage spills by water firms have risen 29 fold over the last 5 years.

There were 1,009 hours of known raw sewage discharge upstream of Haltwhistle in 2022, but the real total will be higher because six sewage assets were poorly monitored.

There were 4,251 hours of known raw sewage discharge on the whole of the South Tyne in 2022, but the real total will be higher because nine sewage assets were poorly monitored.

In total there were 11,977 hours of known raw sewage discharge upstream of Watersmeet (the confluence of the South Tyne and the North Tyne) in 2022, but the real total will be far higher because fourteen sewage assets were poorly monitored.

Although a knowledgeable audience, participants were shocked by the state of ongoing pollution of the whole Tyne basin despite recent improvement and investment by Northumberland Water. There was a lack of awareness of unmarked and unmonitored combined sewer outlets (CSOs) and the difference between lawful and unlawful discharge.

There was shock at the levels of and discrepancy between Northumberland Water profits, executives' earnings, dividends, debts and their spend on services.

There was a surprise at the lack of effective action by the EA as regulator over river health and recent government reduction of funding by 2/3rds. Participants emphasised the need for water companies to prioritise water health over profits, for the EA to be adequately resourced and held to account and legislation to be brought up to date to enable this to occur.

Questions are to be asked of Northumbrian Water at a forthcoming meeting in March and it is hoped that community action will continue to grow around this important issue. Organisers of the conference are now actively exploring supporting further community learning and action.

To go on the post conference mailing list for further developments please e mail
To join the emerging Hexham Clean River group please e mail

Abigail Cheverst, co-organiser of Sustainable Haltwhistle, said 'This is a deeply important issue for the human and non human communities of the Tyne. We do not believe it is acceptable to cause such harms in the name of profit. There is a need to come together to safeguard this valuable biosystem for future generations'.

Delegates at the Tyne for Change conference
Photo credit: Sustainable Haltwhistle

Contact: Sustainable Haltwhistle

The lunch catering included a pear, marzipan and chocolate chunk made by Sara. She received many compliments and several requests for the recipe - so here it is. Sorry about the marks on the image - evidence of an open page and many uses!
The recipe is from 'Women's Institute Cakes' by Liz Herbert, and there are many other similarly bespattered pages!

Haltwhistle Town Council to support verge biodiversity - Ave St Meen

Sustainable Haltwhistle recently approached Haltwhistle Town Council with a request to increase biodiversity in the town's road verges. Verges can be vital oases for wildflowers, linking fragmented semi-natural grassland habitats. The council are responsible for the grass cutting along Ave St Meen and agreed to trial an area on the south side of the road between Lanty's Lonnen and Wannops. A path of about 1.5m wide on the roadside edge of the verge will be kept short for walkers and to maintain junction visibility for motorists.
The first stage in the process is to let the existing grass grow. The grass will not be cut until late August and the cuttings removed to impoverish the soil.

In autumn Sustainable Haltwhistle will sow locally sourced yellow rattle seeds into the verge. When the flowers of yellow rattle fade and the tiny seeds ripen they can be heard rattling in their cases - hence the common name. Yellow rattle is semi-parasitic on grass, tapping nutrients from the grass roots and limiting the plants' growth. Many farmers dislike the plant, saying 'the louder the rattle the quieter the grass', but it is a valued tool in the restoration or creation of traditional meadows - by reducing the vigor of grass it allows less robust wildflowers to thrive.

Once the grass has been weakened, Sustainable Haltwhistle will introduce wildflowers as seeds or plug plants. Unfortunately, this can be a slow process and so residents are asked to bear with the group whilst they endeavour to create an attractive, bee-friendly verge. The change in management policy should, in time, enhance the appearance and biodiversity of the area whilst saving the Council money by reducing mowing frequency.

If you would like to help with this initiative, call Sue 07935 259416, or email
Haltwhistle Town Council to support verge biodiversity - Ave St Meen

Get in touch
Any questions, comments or contributions to this monthly e-newsletter?
Please contact 07935 259416

Sustainable Haltwhistle 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 SH contact Sue Seymour, 07935 259416