Jonathan Wallace

About me, my life, my politics, my travels, my thoughts

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Food swapping event

For some months now I have been working with the Green Branch of the Workers' Educational Association in Newcastle to set up a food swapping event. The aim is to encourage as much local food production as possible and give people the opportunity to swap their surpluses. The first such event went ahead on Sunday at the Station Masters Garden at Whitley Bay Metro Station and by all accounts was a success.

You don't turn up with a cash wallet. Instead, your "money" consists of food you have grown or produced. My wallet consisted on 2 boxes of jams and and a basket containing 15 dozen quail eggs. The eggs had gone within the first hour and we traded about two-thirds of our jam.

An exchange takes place - jam buys 3 pepper plants!

After an hour or so, we had "bought" quite a few vegetables, soft fruit, rhubarb, bread, cake, even other people's jam!

Back home and this was the final tally. There is probably going to be another event in September in Newcastle. I'll be there with my eggs and jam!

Monday, August 18, 2014


Pizza at the High Spen Hop Garden

The Hop Garden is a community allotment in High Spen in Gateshead. Volunteers run it and I have got to know some of them over the past year through my efforts to build up a food swapping network. Yesterday they had a pizza evening, complete with pizzas made in front of their pizza oven. Locally grown ingredients were included.

We were invited so we headed over at 4pm. The Hop Garden is a great project and a valuable way of involving schools and residents in growing food. Hopefully others will be inspired to follow their lead.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Expect the unexpected

Plans for opencast mining at Marley Hill are back on hold after a decision yesterday by Co Durham's planning committee to reject the application by UK Coal to extract one million tonnes of coal from a site south of the village. The situation is very complicated however as Gateshead Council has granted planning permission. The site is mainly in Gateshead but part of it crosses the border into Co Durham, hence the need for the application to be considered by both councils.

UK Coal now face three options: appeal, bring in a revised application or withdraw. As the person who led the campaign against the application, clearly my preference is for a withdrawal. I am not counting my chickens on that. A revised application could take another two years to get through the system if the recently rejected plan is anything to go by. My expectation therefore is that the company will lodge an appeal.

The rejection now puts the spotlight back on those Labour councillors in Gateshead who voted for this application. Eileen McMaster, who represents Lobley Hill and Bensham voted for the application. Were it to go ahead, 61 heavy lorries a day would pass through Lobley Hill. Gary Haley, who often likes to parade his green credentials, voted for it as well. It's time for them to answer for their actions.

Back to the Durham decision - I have to confess it came as something of a surprise. After Gateshead's decision and the recommendation by Durham planning officers to approve it, I was resigned to the application being given approval. After 27 years as a councillor in Gateshead, I need to learn to expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


The sight that greeted me!

I went to Marley Hill Community Centre on Thursday evening last week and was greeted by this sight when I arrived. Quite how this car managed to flip over so completely is not known by me. The police cleared the road within half an hour. By the time I left the community centre to deliver my Focus newsletters around the village, the car was gone and a workman from the council was sweeping up the last bit of debris.


eFocus for the Whickham area, number 88

Our latest edition of our email newsletter eFocus was produced and distributed last week. It led with the Marley Hill opencast story but also covered a number of other issues, including the Coalition's improvements to the A1 in Gateshead.

You can read eFocus on this link.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Focus on Sunniside

My latest village Focus has now been written, printed and delivered. Focus on Sunniside, Streetgate, Marley Hill and Byermoor was written after Gateshead's planning committee agreed plans for opencast mining at Marley Hill. We held this edition back to be able to report the news to residents.

I was planning to deliver my patches on Wednesday but I was in a planning appeal that day for much longer than I expected. I thought I would be there for about an hour to give my evidence. I was actually there from 10am to 5pm. As a result, my patches were delivered yesterday and took longer than anticipated as there were lots of people wanting to talk about the opencast decision.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Discovery Museum 80th birthday

I am a member of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) Joint Committee (something of a mouthful but as an historian it's one of my favourite committees). Within TWAM is the Discovery Museum which over the weekend celebrated its 80th birthday.

There was a birthday cake cutting ceremony at midday though I was not there long enough to enjoy a slice. I had to head off as I had people to see and allotments to visit.

I did however stay for Cllr Ged Bell's speech. (He is chair of TWAM). He's the one on the right! He made a valiant effort to compete with the Transformers. It was a bit of a losing battle as most of the audience was below the age of 10!

Sunday, July 20, 2014


A1 upgrade exhibition

I headed down to Dunston Activity Centre on Friday evening to go to the Highways Agency's exhibition about the A1 improvements from the south of the Team Valley to the Metrocentre. This stretch of road, now one of the most congested in the UK, is to be upgraded to have 3 lanes in both directions. A separate slip road from the A692 at Lobley Hill to Askew Road (A184) will also be built within the curtilage of the existing A1 highway.

The total investment is nearly £100 million. This rather undermines the absurb Labour allegation that the Coalition is spending next to nothing on transport in the North East. Labour claim that the vast majority of transport money is being spent in London. They fail to mention that their figures are based on spending decisions made by Labour ministers when they were in government to back Crossrail.

The improvement to the A1 had been promised for years by the last Labour government but they somehow just never got round to delivering it. Work starts next month and continues until 2016.

Photo above: Cllr Peter Maughan, me and Kevin McClurey at the A1 exhibition on Friday.

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