Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Visiting St Mary's Church fair


On Saturday morning, after our street surgery, I popped into the fair at St Mary's Church, Whickham. It turned out to be a useful opportunity to catch up with Rev Barry Abbott. Sadly, the closure of both banks in Whickham has reduced the number of cash machines in the village. The remaining cash machine in St Mary's Green outside Tesco decided not to work on Saturday. The result was I had no access to money. I had enough to buy 2 cheese scones!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Whickham surgery


On Saturday the Lib Dem Councillors in Whickham held their monthly surgery. This time we decided to have it outdoors as well as on-line. It's a good way to meet more people. The key talking points with residents were building houses in Chase Park and the proposals to close Dunston and Gateshead Leisure Centres.

As the surgery in December clashes with Christmas, the next surgery will be held in January.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

I'm getting married in the morning...

On Tuesday last week, I proposed to David. He said yes! The wedding is likely to be in early summer next year, comfortably after the local elections and crop planting are out of the way. I guess I'd better buy a new suit!

History quiz night

Sunniside History Society will be holding their Christmas quiz and buffet at 7pm on Wednesday 7th December at Sunniside Social Club. The quiz this year will be about historical buildings in Newcastle. All welcome.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Goodbye Philip


I was sorry to learn earlier this month that Philip Latham had passed away just 10 days short of his 80th birthday. He was my agent in Hexham constituency way back in 1992, my first parliamentary election. It wasn't just through politics that I knew Philip. He was a beekeeper as well and when I started keeping bees back in 2011, he was there to advise us.

Philip was involved to the very end in a variety of community work and projects and there was a big turnout on Thursday for his funeral. It was the first Quaker funeral service I have attended.

RIP Philip Latham.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Visiting Norman McCord


Professor Norman McCord was one of my lecturers at Newcastle University nearly 40 years ago. We have kept in touch since I completed my PhD thesis 30 years ago. Back in the 1970s, Norman carried out a great deal of aerial photography. He discovered the Roman fort at Washingwell, near Whickham, in 1972 when he flew over the site heading to Corbridge to take photos before the A69 Corbridge bypass was built. Norman spotted the crop marks at Washingwell which revealed the existence of the previously unknown fort. The site is south of the Tyne and the discovery challenged the assumption that the first Roman border on Tyneside was north of the river, where the Roman Wall was subsequently built in AD122.

I visited Norman at his house earlier this month to show him some research I was doing on the Washingwell fort. I also showed him an RAF photo I had been given by a friend and Whickham resident which was taken in the immediate postwar years. The photo revealed crop marks showing the Washingwell fort. It meant the evidence for the fort had been there in plain sight for a generation before Norman's discovery but no one had spotted it.

I talked Norman through the work I have been doing on Washingwell and the talks I have given on the issue recently to local groups. He is now in his 90s but his mind is as sharp as ever.

The above photo (courtesy of Norman McCord) was taken in 1972 clearly showing the fort in the crop marks.

This photo (courtesy of Harry Shipley) was taken in the late 1940s by the RAF. You can see the crop marks in the top centre of the photo.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Back to the floods

I was in North Wales from Tuesday to Thursday. Lovely dry and sunny weather over there. While I was there, I started receiving reports about the heavy rain and, in some places, roads blocked by floods back home. Technology certainly helps me to keep in touch on the now rare occasions when I am away from home (I was even able to attend two council meetings while sitting in a house in Penmaenmawr!) I was back home on Thursday afternoon to experience the heavy rain first hand. Our farm had developed a couple of new streams and one of the henhouses was flooded. A great deal of mud and muck shoveling resolved the latter problem. Judging by the depth of water in our duck pond, we received about 10-14 cm of rainfall this week which is more than we received during the whole of the summer. I wonder if this level of rainfall in such a short space of time is likely to be something we will have to get used to.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Remembrance day photos


The photos we took at the Whickham Remembrance Sunday parade and wreath laying service are now uploaded to my Flickr site. You can view them all on this link.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Wreath laying in Swalwell


Before attending the Whickham wreath laying, I was in Swalwell to film the Remembrance Sunday service outside the Holy Trinity Church. This is the resulting video.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Remembrance Sunday parade


There was a big turnout for the Remembrance Sunday parade and service in Whickham. 46 wreaths were laid and the age range of those laying wreaths was from 3 to 97 years old. I filmed the above video, starting with the forming up of the parade, the parade heading along Front Street and the service at the War Memorial.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Remembrance Day arrangements


Remembrance Sunday is tomorrow and if you are joining the parade through Whickham, please meet up on School Lane. The parade will set off at 10.30am, heading along Front Street to the war memorial where the remembrance service and wreath laying will take place.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Whickham eFocus no. 176

 Published tonight, our latest eFocus for the Whickham area (no. 176). Key issues covered are:

  • How you can take part in consultation on closure proposals for Dunston Leisure Centre and Pool;
  • Arrangements for Remembrance Sunday;
  • Beggarswood allotment proposals knocked back;
  • Church Green flowerbeds planted up by volunteers;
  • "Flockdown" in place for all local poultry;
  • Warm spaces in our local communities;
  • Whickham Library Christmas opening times;
  • Local Christmas Fayres.

Low Fell eFocus 115

Another eFocus from Gateshead Lib Dems, this time from Low Fell ward. Ediiton 115 brings the following news:

  • Council launch consultation on Gateshead's leisure services
  • Low Fell's Service of Remembrance
  • Concerned about crime? Come and speak to the Police
  • Kells Lane Swing

Thursday, November 10, 2022

What Next?

The boss of Next, Lord Wolfson, (Tory peer and leading Brexiteer) is moaning that the Brexit we have is not the one he thought he was voting for in the referendum. Quite what he expected to happen when he campaigned for the UK to leave the EU and put up the barriers to free movement and the Single Market is not clear. He is however now unhappy with the way the immigration system is operating. He now argues that we need higher levels of unskilled labour to work in the hospitality and retail sector which has to come from abroad. "Taking back control" of immigration was the holy grail of Brexit. Ending free movement of labour was one of the big prizes of Brexit. Now that he has what he campaigned for in 2016, it is rather sickening to hear his bemoaning what he helped inflict on the country. Chickens coming home to roost spring to mind

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

Planting up Whickham's flowerbeds


A delayed bit of video editing but here is the video I shot on 30th October in Whickham when I joined other volunteers from Planting Up Whickham to plant up the flower beds on Church Green.

Feeling better

I decided not to stay up all night to watch the US mid term election results come in. It felt like self-inflicted punishment. When I woke this morning I discovered the news was not as bad as many feared. The election results seem to be more of a ripple than a red Trump wave. It looks as though the Republicans will win control of the House of Representatives but with a much smaller majority than previously expected. The Senate is finely balanced but could stay Democrat following the Democrat gain of Pennsylvania from a Trump backed Republican.

My concerns about the Republicans still remain: they oppose support going to Ukraine, they deny women their basic human rights on access to abortion and too many of them are climate change deniers. Throw into that mix the claim that the 2020 election was "stolen" and it is not a pretty picture. The USA may be another country but what happens there affects all of us.

At least however I am feeling better about the situation this morning.

Talking the talk

Last week I gave my talk on the lost forts of Whickham to the Sunniside History Society. Double the number of people attended the meeting so it was clearly a subject of some interest. I'm pleased to report the talk went down well and I've had comments since from local residents that they attended and enjoyed the presentation. My next talk is to the U3A in February when I will be speaking about what history has taught me about self-sufficiency. In the meantime, I am planning to turn the Lost Forts talk into a number of history videos. Watch this space!

Tuesday, November 08, 2022



If you keep chickens or ducks on your property, even if they are kept as pets rather than egg producers, as of Monday 7th November you are required to keep them caged or in runs which are netted over to avoid domesticated and wild birds mixing. The restrictions have been brought in to tackle the spread of avian flu. They apply to all poultry keepers, not just farmers. 

In the video above we show what was needed to be done over the weekend to get our flock ready for the latest "flockdown".

Monday, November 07, 2022

I didn't get to London

I had planned to go to London this weekend for the Lib Dem rally and Ed Davey's speech. By early last week I was having doubts about getting there as I am rather busy at the moment. The final nail in the coffin of the plans was when DEFRA announced that there will be a poultry lockdown from this Tuesday. As I have over 100 chickens and ducks, their runs would have to be prepared. This all takes time. Thankfully I didn't book a hotel or a coach to London. And I wasn't looking forward to a 7 hour journey by National Express, travelling overnight from Newcastle. And even had I decided to go, the rally was over subscribed and some kind of lottery was held to dish out the tickets to the event. Alas, my name was not one of those drawn to attend. Such is life.