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  1. The National Trust is to increase its membership charges to help fund its wide-ranging heritage and nature conservation projects. From next month, people over 26 will pay £3 a year extra, while family membership will go up by £6 a year. A family with two adult members will now pay £126 a year. Over-60s who have been members for at least five of the past 10 years will see a £2.52 annual rise and a joint loyal senior membership will go up by £4.80, while young people aged 18-25 will pay an extra £1.50 a year. There is no rise in the £10 membership for junior members aged five to 17 which was introduced last year. The trust said the increase would generate an extra £11million to pay for work to protect countryside and heritage, and major spending projects in the North East include two on the Northumberland coast. In 2017 the trust acquired its first stretch of Northumberland coastal land for almost 30 years in a £1.5m deal.
  2. It might not mean much to families outside the region but the word 'plodge' is a familiar one in the North East and it has fond associations: mainly to do with getting messy. And that's exactly what our local National Trust properties - from Northumberland to Sunderland - are inviting families to do over the upcoming February half-term. It has drawn up a programme of events for the school holidays which encourage all ages to get out and about - and messy, muddy and back in touch with nature at the same time. So that means digging out those wellies. Besides the likes of enjoying a plodge in the mud at Gibside and making the sloppiest of mud pies at Seaton Delaval Hall, ideas include helping to plant 100,000 snowdrops at Wallington and building a bird box at Souter Lighthouse. The National Trust also has a list of '50 things to do before you're 11 ¾’ challenges, which range from jumping in puddles to making homes for wildlife. Here are its top seven suggestions for where to visit - and the venues' normal admission charges will apply.
  3. More cuts, a council tax rise of just under 4% and well over half-a-billion pounds of capital spending are on the cards in Northumberland in the coming years. The county council has now published its detailed budget for 2019-20 as well as its medium-term financial plan for the next three years, with proposals for cutting £25m out of the required savings of £36m - including £12.8m next year. Ratepayers will be doing their bit with council tax to increase by 2.99% - the maximum allowed by the Government without a local authority holding a referendum, plus a further 1% ring-fenced for adult social care. But this doesn't mean that there won't be investment in the county, with a significant £589m of spending lined up. Council leader Peter Jackson said: "We've worked tirelessly over the past year to balance our books and we're confident we'll be delivering a deliverable but ambitious budget. "We've always had bold plans and this budget will help support a thriving local economy and deliver value for money for all the communities we serve."
  4. A former aftershave factory in Northumberland could become a vegan food facility owned by Heather Mills, the former wife of Paul McCartney. Government Minister Jake Berry is to speak with VBites, the vegan food company founded by Ms Mills, to see if the Government can help it buy the former Coty factory, which is in Seaton Delaval. The possible move was raised in the House of Commons by MP Ronnie Campbell. He said the scheme could provide up to 1,000 jobs, but VBites faced costs of £6 million to get the factory up and running, on top of the cost of buying it. Heather took to instagram to share her excitement at the developments saying it was 'great news' and she was 'hoping to keep it a surprise'. He said: "I drive past the factory often, and it is a shame to see that nice factory, which has had a lot of investment put into it, standing empty. I would like to see the Government giving a bit of encouragement and help." The factory was originally owned by a firm called by Shulton and made Old Spice aftershave. It was then taken over by Procter & Gamble in 1990 before it merged with Coty in a multi billion pound deal.
  5. When Liam Murray says that he received a message from his “friend” asking for a favour, he was more than willing to help. But Liam says all was not what it seemed and he claims that he was left more than £4,500 out of pocket after being caught by a scam involving Facebook Messenger and PayPal. Now, he is warning others not to fall into the trap and is telling people how the apparent scam works. Liam, who is a disability vlogger, said: “This is a warning to anyone with Facebook Messenger. I was sent a message from someone who I thought was my mate, we chatted about normal stuff and then he asked if I had PayPal because he was thinking of getting it. He then came back and said he had it but couldn’t receive any money and he had sold some items on eBay. “He asked would it be OK if the lady who bought them paid money into my account? I said as long as I didn’t need to give out any bank details and only my email address that shouldn’t be a problem. “After doing that I started getting payments to my PayPal which I told my friend about and he asked me to send it to him. Which I did as it was not my money. I took it out of PayPal and put it in my bank and transferred the full amount.”
  6. When Liam Murray says that he received a message from his “friend” asking for a favour, he was more than willing to help. But Liam says all was not what it seemed and he claims that he was left more than £4,500 out of pocket after being caught by a scam involving Facebook Messenger and PayPal. Now, he is warning others not to fall into the trap and is telling people how the apparent scam works. Liam, who is a disability vlogger, said: “This is a warning to anyone with Facebook Messenger. I was sent a message from someone who I thought was my mate, we chatted about normal stuff and then he asked if I had PayPal because he was thinking of getting it. He then came back and said he had it but couldn’t receive any money and he had sold some items on eBay. “He asked would it be OK if the lady who bought them paid money into my account? I said as long as I didn’t need to give out any bank details and only my email address that shouldn’t be a problem. “After doing that I started getting payments to my PayPal which I told my friend about and he asked me to send it to him. Which I did as it was not my money. I took it out of PayPal and put it in my bank and transferred the full amount.”
  7. A Northumberland school has been evacuated and forced to close following a gas leak. Astley Community High School on Elsdon Avenue, Seaton Delaval, posted on social media to confirm the school closed at 1pm on Friday as a result of the leak. Parents have been advised to collect their children and to avoid the school site. All pupils are confirmed to be safe. A statement posted on the school's Facebook page reads: “Please collect your child from the front of school (Astley or Whytrig as appropriate) at 1pm. “Do NOT come on to the school site. “If you would like us to retain your child at school safely please phone Seaton Sluice Middle School on 0191 237 0629.
  8. Five parks in Northumberland are to be upgraded thanks to an investment of £287,000. Northumberland County Council's cabinet approved to spend £204,000, with the remaining £83,000 funded by contributions from the likes of town and parish councils. As part of its medium-term financial plan, the local authority has already set aside capital funding of £150,000 per year from 2018-19 to 2020-21 to invest in parks and green spaces. So far, money has been spent at Jennings Field in Bedlington , Astley Park in Seaton Delaval, and Eastwood Park in Prudhoe. Following the sign-off on Tuesday, Blyth's Ridley Park and Mermaid play area, Alexandra Park in Cramlington , Gallagher Park in Bedlington, and Rothbury's Riverside play area are all set to benefit. At Ridley Park, £45,000 will be spent in total with £25,000 being used to refurbish the hugely-popular water play area.
  9. A man has been hit with more than £800 in fines and court costs after he was found running an illegal waste removal operation. Michael Lascelles was advertising his work on Facebook and claimed he was a "fully licensed waste carrier". His advert read: "A man with a van, who removes all types of waste." He said he could take away rubble, soil, cardboard and plastic, and could deal with house and garage clearances as well as garden tidy-up jobs. The advert further added: "We are a fast and reliable service and fully-licensed waste carriers. No job is too big or small." However, he did not have the permit to carry out the work and was found to have lied about where he was taking waste, it was said at Newcastle Magistrates' court.
  10. An estranged husband who blew more than FOUR times the drink-drive limit has been warned he could face a spell behind bars. Dad Glen Stewart was pulled over by a police officer on Astley Road, Seaton Delaval, at 11.30am on November 11. The Skoda Octavia driver was judged to have "glazed" eyes, "slurred" speech and the stench of alcohol on his breath. The 50-year-old failed a roadside test and was immediately arrested. Stewart was found to have 143 micrograms of alcohol in 100ml of breath. The legal drink-drive limit is 35 micrograms. Now, Stewart has been warned he could be imprisoned after pleading guilty to drink-driving at Bedlington Magistrates' Court on December 6.
  11. Christmas might be a flash in pan frenzy of family, food, presents for the majority of us, but for some businesses it’s an all-year round concern. Coreena Ford spoke to three North East businesses whose bottom line is dominated by December 25. While the majority of the UK rushes around shops for last minute gifts for this Christmas, spare a thought for Sarah Greenwell, who is already working on plans for Christmas 2019. Sarah is the founder and director of Big Little Toys, a company which many parents will now as the creator of the Elf For Christmas toy – the mischievous elf which appears in households on December 1st to chaos general mayhem in the build up to the big day. The entrepreneur launched the business three years ago from her Durham home, designing her elf and accompanying good-behaviour kit which includes report cards, Nice List certificates and reward charts. Since then, the range has been expanded to include products like advent letters and personalised letters, and the elf’s popularity has become a global phenomenon, attracting sales as far afield as Europe, Australia, South Africa, Hong Kong, UAE and New Zealand. Thousands were sold this year – with 35,000 already on the books by May, the same month that Big Little Toys won the Best Creative Company trophy at the North East Business Awards.
  12. This weekend is set to see lots of families out and about looking for real Christmas trees. While December 1 tends to be the date that many families like to start decking the hall and - forget that sprig of holly - go all-out with a sparkling and glitter-strewn frenzy of decorations, it's different for the real tree lovers. Those are the ones that tend to wait, knowing that holding off a few more days can make a difference to how long their tree will last over the festive season. For them the decision 'fake or fir?' has been settled by knowing that a real tree uses about 10 times fewer materials than the artificial variety and five times less energy. And they can smell wonderful so it's no wonder they want that aroma to last as long as possible. With the optimum buy-time approaching, venues across the North East are preparing for big business in the countdown is on to Christmas Day. Aside from the pleasure of decorating a tree, half the fun is going out and choosing it in the first place.
  13. The firm driving forward the Bigg Market regeneration is poised to take forward a second landmark scheme in the North East. North Shields based Historic Property Restoration (HPR) Limited has been working on the £3.2m revamp of Newcastle’s historic Bigg Market since May, as part of moves to bring it back to its glory days. Now the firm has been appointed as principal contractor for the construction phase of a National Lottery-funded project at Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland. The firm was appointed to the National Trust property following a Europe-wide procurement process. Formerly the direct labour arm of English Heritage, the company now employs 65 people and has been involved in a number of high profile projects including work at Alnwick Castle, Fountains Abbey and Gateshead Old Town Hall. Seaton Delaval Hall’s project manager Helen Nisbet said: “We’re delighted to have confirmed HPR Ltd for this work.
  14. There's nothing that says Christmas quite like the scent you smell walking into a room where there's a real Christmas tree. Not only does a real Christmas tree smell divine, it looks great, and choosing the perfect one should be as much a part of the festive tradition as pulling crackers and singing carols. Here's your chance to win a real Christmas tree, that you can pick yourself, courtesy of Edelweiss Christmas Tree Company. We've teamed up with the North East's premier Christmas tree retailer to offer five lucky readers a real Christmas tree up to the value of £70. All you have to do to enter the competition is comment on our Facebook post which year Edelweiss Christmas Tree Company was established by 4pm on Friday, November 30. A winner will then be selected at random after the competition closes. Terms and conditions apply.
  15. In a year where one of Britain's most famous pub chains banned dogs, animal lovers will be pleased to know there are still many bars where they can enjoy a pint with their pup. And in the North East - where saying you're 'taking the dog for a walk' has historically meant you're sneaking off for a crafty drink - there are plenty of pubs to take your pooch to. Dog sitting website DogBuddy.com has been running the Dog-friendly Pub Awards for three years. Last year, Seaton Delaval's The Keel Row was crowned the North East's most dog friendly pub. And The Keel Row has retained its crown in the 2018 awards, which were decided by a public vote. The Keel Row fought off fierce competition from a number of dog-friendly watering holes across the North East but held on to the top spot after accumulating the most votes. Sharon Herron, the licensee of The Keel Row, said: "We are over the moon to receive this award again and happy to remain as a dog-friendly pub. Winning the award last year brought us even more customers with their pooches. We have also had a couple of dog parties in the bar area where the owners brought their retired greyhounds and they had a ball."
  16. A man has been taken to hospital after being allegedly stabbed in Seaton Delaval. The North East Ambulance Service was called to Kearsley Close in the Northumberland village just before 2pm on Friday. They found a 21-year-old man with injuries from an alleged stabbing, which are not believed to be life threatening. He was taken to the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in Newcastle where he remains in a stable condition. Police officers were called to the scene by paramedics and a 27-year-old woman was arrested in connection with the alleged assault. She is being questioned by officers and remains in police custody.
  17. Where is the North East's most dog-friendly pub? That's the question online dog-sitting platform DogBuddy is asking as voting for the prestigious title heats up. The North East leaderboard is now live ahead of the third annual Dog-Friendly Pub Awards. Last time out, The Keel Row in Seaton Delaval was crowned the region's favourite and is currently leading the way again ahead of close competition from The Woodman Inn in Durham. The current leaderboard for the North East reads as follows: 1. The Keel Row, Seaton Delaval
  18. You don’t need us to tell you that Northumberland is one of England’s great counties. Peerless coastlines, rugged scenery, ancient castles, atmospheric battlefields, noble stately homes, and charming towns and villages, it’s got the lot – not to mention the small matter of Hadrian’s Wall, a spectacular and ancient reminder of the Romans’ time in Britain. With its rivers, forests and hills, it is also, in places, a bleakly beautiful corner of the UK. Now, local historian and photographer Steve Ellwood, in his latest book 50 Gems Of Northumberland, highlights the very best of the county. Steve, who hails from Westerhope in Newcastle, knows a thing or two about North East history. His earlier books include River Tyne, and Newcastle in 50 Buildings.
  19. Fading wallpaper, exposed timbers and peeling paint and plasterwork are captured in images taken inside the East Wing of the 18th Century Seaton Delaval Hall in Northumberland . They might show that the wing - normally closed to the public - is in need of care and attention but the scenes also capture the enduring beauty and grandeur of the building. The Chronicle was granted a peek inside the wing of the National Trust property which has none of the gilt and glitter of its mirror image West Wing directly opposite, where visitors can admire paintings and furnishings and hear stories of the infamous parties given by the flamboyant Gay Delavals who once lived there. By comparison, the atmospheric East Wing - whose rabbit warren corridors and succession of spacious rooms reflect changing decorations and styles over the years - is not open to visitors. But, besides giving a sense of its scale and history, a look inside reveals plenty evidence of its ongoing role as more of a working wing. Boasting a variety of current uses, it is classed as the estate wing and includes offices, stores and accommodation which provided the former living quarters of the estate manager.
  20. It's been playing out over 56 days this summer and now Great Northumberland - the first event of its kind - will be wrapping up this weekend with another first. Saturday, September 1 offers the first ever opportunity to hear The Great Song of the North which promises to be a coming together of proud traditions and current talents. The song has been composed as a musical ode to Northumberland and it will be showcased at a concert in Berwick which will round off Great Northumberland in style. Here's what it's all about. It's described as a musical love-letter to the county and is a special commission by Northumberland County Council which has been composed by Dominique Le Gendre who, for the past 28 years, has written music for theatre, film, dance, radio and TV. The London-based Trinidad composer says she took inspiration from the landscape, people and various local communities and towns and created this piece to be performed by community choirs and orchestras.
  21. Eating out with your children can be stressful, especially if your little ones want to run around and play. There’s nothing worse than trying to keep the kids entertained sitting at a table when they still have energy to burn. But being a parent doesn’t mean you have to miss out on eating out, you just need to find a venue that the kids will enjoy too. Pubs with indoor or outdoor play areas can be a godsend when it comes to giving you the rare chance to relax while your little ones keep themselves happily busy. So with better weather upon us, we thought you might find it useful to have a list of 10 family friendly places to eat and drink with children in and around Newcastle . Hartley Lane, Earsdon, Whitley Bay, NE25 0SZ, 0191 2529352 The Beehive is a great country pub offering fantastic food. It is close to the coast and in view of St Mary’s Island and the golden Longsands of Whitley Bay, so is a great place to stop off for a bite to eat after a trip to the coast. It’s also very family friendly as it has a one acre ‘secret’ beer garden which has a state-of-the-art kids play area, offering hours of fun for youngsters. The pub is also dog friendly so why not take your pooch along for a full family day out?
  22. The Delaval family were a pretty batty lot with their love of theatricals and practical jokes on guests at their Northumberland stately home. Now Seaton Delaval Hall is living up to the old tradition after the discovery that the 18th century building is home to the largest common pipistrelle winter bat roost in the UK. A total of 61 pipistrelle bats have been recorded in stone crevices and in the arches of a balcony at the hall. And the discovery turns on its head ecologists’ long held belief that the pipistrelle prefers to hibernate in very dark, damp conditions, with these bats found hanging out in a dry, arid, relatively well-lit area of the National Trust building. It comes after the trust commissioned an ecological survey ahead of work starting in November on repair and conservation work at the hall after a £3.7m award from the National Lottery. Bat ecologist Tina Wiffen said: “We discovered the bats when we were undertaking an ecological survey to assess the possibility of introducing new art and visitor information installations into the Central Hall of the building.
  23. An enterprising man is popping the cork on his new business after being made redundant from a Northumberland perfume factory. Paul McIntyre was one of more than 400 affected when French firm Coty took over Procter & Gamble’s beauty products business and, following a business review, announced it was to close the Seaton Delaval facility. Having worked for the business for more than 20 years Mr McIntyre was devastated to learn that Coty was to transfer all production to mainland Europe and close the Northumberland plant, Now, however, he has opted to try a completely new career, by launching Proseccoflow – a purpose built mobile prosecco bar serving bubbles on tap. The self- confessed fizz aficionado has capitalised on the nation’s love for drinking prosecco and expertly converted an original Italian Ape Classic into a fully licensed mobile bar which is available for corporate and private events, weddings, fairs and festivals. And the bubbles are certainly flowing for the new business, having landed invitations to attend music festivals and garden parties around the region and securing long term contract with a leading north east home builder to help launch their show homes.
  24. Armed police are at the scene of an “ongoing” incident in a Northumberland village . Emergency services were called to Astley Road in Seaton Delaval on Friday evening. A shocked eyewitness described seeing armed officers surrounding a flat on the street. He said: “I’m not sure what’s happening, armed police are on scene and an ambulance. “There is a man in an upstairs flat and they have the flat surrounded. He was talking to police out of the window.” A Northumbria Police spokesman said officers are at the scene of an “ongoing” incident as of 8.30pm.
  25. A sculpture celebrating Northumberland’s mining heritage has been vandalised for the second time in three months. Artist Tom Newstead carved a statue of a miner and a young boy from a tree stump, and placed it in Astley Park, Seaton Delaval. But its creator was left horrified to find the head of the man had been completely removed and was found smashed in the village. It was the second time the sculpture of the man had been beheaded, after thieves targeted it in May. Mr Newstead, 71, said if the damage was caused by vandals then they had “hurt everybody in the community”. “It’s just really unbelievable this would happen again and I’ve no idea why they would do it,” he said.