VILLAGE TREE IN RUNNING TO
TAKE PRESTIGIOUS TITLE
following article was published in the Northumberland
Gazette on Thursday 17th September
Raegan and Casey with the black poplar at Acklington
First School. Picture by Jane Coltman
A rare and historic tree which was in danger of being
felled a few years ago is in the running to win a
prestigious competition – but the public’s support is
needed to help it take the title.
The black poplar, which is located in the grounds of
Acklington Church of England First School, has been
named as a contender in the annual Tree of the Year
contest, run by the Woodland Trust.
It fought off competition from an array of nominations
to make the final shortlist of 10 trees in England.
The public vote will launch on Monday.
A representative from the Woodland Trust said: “The
black poplar is one of Britain’s rarest native trees and
the one in the grounds of Acklington school is believed
to be the most northerly of its kind in Britain and the
oldest thing living in the parish of Acklington.
“The tree, which was there before the school was built
in 1852, came close to being felled a few years back.
“Unfortunately bits started falling from it, especially
during gales and the knowledgeable health and safety
people felt it posed a risk to the pupils.
“However, common sense prevailed in the end and to the
relief of the pupils, the local bats, birds and
wildlife, and to all nature lovers in the parish, the
tree was saved.
“Not only that, it became the centre piece of the
school’s new logo.
“The tree has been nominated for Tree of the Year, a
competition run by the Woodland Trust and despite
receiving more than 200 public nominations, it has made
the shortlist of 10 trees in England.”
With the public vote opening next week, people are
being encouraged to vote for the tree.
The Tree of the Year competition, supported by players
of People’s Postcode Lottery, is a unique celebration of
the links between people and trees.
The contest is open to any living tree in the UK; with
England, Scotland, Wales and for the first time Northern
Ireland each having an individual contest. The deadline
for nominations has closed.
Each country’s individual Tree of the Year will go on
to represent that nation in the European Tree of the
Year competition, organised by the Environmental
The Woodland Trust hopes to improve the chances of a UK
tree being crowned European Tree of the Year, after the
Major Oak, the highest placed tree in the 2014 contest,
only finished in sixth place.
For more information and to vote for the black poplar
at Acklington, visit
TRIP TO THE PALACE
The following article was published by the Morpeth
Herald on Thursday 2nd July 2015
Sylvia Linnett, from Acklington WI, at the
Buckingham Palace Garden Party.
“WI?” I asked. “Buckingham Palace?” was
the lady’s response.
Thus I encountered Anita Smillie from Falkland
(Newbury) Women’s Institute at the Waterloo
Station taxi rank. We were both carrying large
hats, which was a bit of a clue. Our shared cab
ride was the start of a day spent together, two
excited strangers nominated by their WIs to
attend a Royal Garden Party to celebrate the
centenary of the founding of the organisation.
There were warnings that the queues to enter the
Palace by the front gates would be huge, and
Anita suggested the Hyde Park entrance. As our
taxi drove past the front of the Palace, what a
sight there was to behold: there were hundreds
and hundreds of WI members, dressed to the nines
in every colour of the rainbow. The line
stretched on and on around the side and down
Constitution Hill. Much to the amusement of our
driver, we kept up a running commentary on the
fashions – most of it very positive!
I spotted something next to the queue on the
pavement – a gold wedding band. No-one in front
of us who had not yet entered the Palace gardens
admitted to losing it. The Metropolitan Police
Officer nearby looked mightily relieved when I
took it to him and suggested that we try to find
the owner within the WI.
The rain and damp from earlier in the day had
been cleared by gusty winds, much to our relief.
We left the cab and joined a different queue,
this one stretching down from Wellington Arch.
There were plenty of photos, chatter, exchanges
of introductions, and compliments. After what
seemed like an age, and with anticipation
mounting by the metre, we entered through the
Hyde Park Gate.
The gardens are vast – the lake alone is three
acres in size. We took in the sights, sounds and
scents as we made our way towards the rear of
Buckingham Palace, keeping our fashionista eyes
peeled en route. Two brass bands were positioned
at opposite corners of the lawn, with a flag
system to indicate when it was their turn to
play, and they entertained us all afternoon.
Everyone neared the palace steps to await the
arrival of the Royal party. What a riot of
colour! Each one of the 8,000 WI ladies looked
resplendent in their special outfits. We were
firmly and expertly herded into order by
Beefeaters, the band struck up the National
Anthem, and there they were on the terrace: our
host HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, HRH The
Countess of Wessex, HRH Princess Alexandra and
HRH The Duchess of Gloucester, all looking
elegant and poised.
After some planned presentations the royal
ladies moved separately through the throngs to
chat to the WI members. I happened to be in the
right place at the right time and was very
fortunate to be selected to be presented
formally to the Countess. The equerry gave us
some tips: “Call her Your Royal Highness the
first time, Ma’am as in jam after that. She will
shake your hand – remember to let go! A curtsey
would be nice, but you are here to enjoy
yourself so don’t worry about it”.
It was a little nerve-wracking to see her slowly
getting closer, but when the moment arrived I
managed my little bob and Sophie was delightful.
The Countess has been a member of Bagshot WI
since 2007. We chatted about the AGM as I was a
delegate and she was to attend with HM The Queen
and The Princess Royal. We joked about her
having to “leave before the interesting bit”.
After this very unexpected and thrilling
experience it was time for tea. Anita and I
joined another queue and soon we were presented
with a rectangular china plate and saucer
combined and offered our choice of drink. Then
we made our selections from the buffet offered:
everything was bite-sized and perfect – down to
a mini brownie topped by a chocolate button on
top with a gold crown on it!
Off I went in search of a WI Official to hand
over the wedding ring I had found, but that
proved to be more difficult than I had
anticipated – in fact it was impossible! Another
solution would have to be found.
There was some unexpected sport next. The gusty
wind had strengthened and it was time to play
“Catch the Hat” on the Palace lawn. With a
particularly nifty sidestep I managed to trap a
wayward fascinator. I was able to hang on to the
brim of mine but this meant I had to decline the
ice cream tub as I didn’t have enough hands.
On the stroke of 5pm the National Anthem was
played again with the ladies singing
enthusiastically. There was a brief pause and
then came the sound of the only thing missing
from the afternoon. Thousands of women’s voices
burst spontaneously into singing ‘Jerusalem’ and
the sound soared and floated in the open air,
making it a very emotional moment.
Time to leave – through the front door this
time. We passed through the Marble Hall of the
Palace and the huge portraits of Queen Victoria
and Prince Albert at various ages, into the
inner courtyard of the palace, through the arch
onto the forecourt, and back to reality via the
Anita and I shared a glass of Prosecco at
Waterloo before heading off for our respective
trains. It was a day that I shall never forget
and I am so grateful to Acklington WI for the
The ring has a continuing saga all its own.
As Acklington’s delegate to the WI Centenary AGM
in the Royal Albert Hall two days after the
Garden Party, I resolved to ask for an
announcement about the lost ring to be made from
the podium. With someone representing every
Institute in the country, it was the perfect way
to reach the owner. To no avail, my note
On my return home I telephoned WI HQ in London.
The lady there had my note and had also received
an enquiry from someone who had lost a ring.
Perfect! A happy ending - or was it?
Two days later the enquirer telephoned me and I
asked her to describe the ring she had lost. It
didn’t sound like the one that I had found at
all! Her’s had been her mother’s ring, not from
their wedding, it was bought by her father for
their Golden Wedding.
Curioser and curioser. Seeking a definitive
answer, I sent a photograph of the ring by email
for identification. Back came the response “No
I’m sorry to say it’s not my ring.” I couldn’t
believe it! What a remarkable coincidence that
two gold wedding rings were lost in the same
Maybe it was not such a coincidence after all.
The following day another email arrived. After
pondering over the picture of the ring for an
hour or so, the lady had decided to forward my
photo to her sister. The sister felt it looked
like their mum’s ring.
My next step is to send it to her to see whether
it fits and looks familiar. If not, she will
send back the ring and I will be trying to find
the owner all over again. I do so hope it will
find its rightful owner very soon.
By Sylvia Linnett
FUTURE IS BRIGHT FOR ACTRESS
following article was published by the
Northumberland Gazette on Thursday 25th June 2015
talented young actress has been signed up by a
London-based theatrical and talent agency, which
will put her forward for film and TV roles.
And delighted Zara Sumner admits it is a dream come
true to be on the path towards achieving big things
in the world of performance.
The 15-year-old from Acklington landed a place on
the agency, whose name cannot be disclosed, after
impressing at an audition.
Zara wowed a panel of three agents with her
delivery of Kellie Powell’s monologue And Turning,
Her name is now in the frame for a variety of work
and she has just had auditioned for a part on a BBC
ident – which is an on-screen channel identity.
On top of this, she is now a member of online
international casting directory, Spotlight.
Zara said: “I didn’t think it was real at first
when I found out that I had been accepted.
“Performing the monologue was really quite scary so
it was amazing to be selected and it is brilliant to
get your foot in the door.”
Zara’s passion for acting started when she was
seven, when she performed in Alnwick Playhouse Youth
Theatre’s production of Alice in Wonderland.
She has been a loyal and dedicated member of the
group ever since and has sung, acted and danced her
way through many of its shows, including Aladdin,
Bugsy Malone, Cats and Sweeney Todd.
She has also performed in two National Theatre
Connections Festivals and has been a willing
backstage volunteer at the Playhouse.
Zara insists that the Youth Theatre has been a
massive influence on her development.
She said: “The Youth Theatre has been amazing and I
don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t
for the Playhouse Youth Theatre.
“I love acting and I really like the idea that when
you’re acting, you can be a completely different
person and you can use different emotions and
different facial expressions. It is liberating and
it gives you a real buzz.”
ACKLINGTON PILOTS MARK 50 YEARS
The following article was published in the
Northumberland Gazette on Thursday 23rd April 2015
The RAF Acklington graduates in April 1965.
This Saturday and Sunday, a group of retired Royal Air
Force pilots are holding a reunion at the Linden Hall
Golf and Country Club to celebrate 50 years since
graduation as RAF pilots and receiving their wings.
The group of aspiring pilots who assembled at RAF
Acklington for No 174 Course on May 26, 1964, had just
completed their Initial Officer Training at South Cerney
The parade slow march past of the class of 1965.
In 1964, No 6 Flying Training School (FTS) was one of
five schools at the time (the others were located at
Leeming, Linton-on-Ouse, Church Fenton and Syerston).
The school originated in 1917, training Army pilots for
First World War fighting. Disbanded after the end of
the war, the school was revived briefly between 1920 and
1922 before disbanding again.
As re-armament accelerated, No 6 FTS reformed in 1935.
During its history, the FTS boasted Wing Commander Guy
Gibson VC, of Dambusters fame, as one of its pupils and
other early graduates gained 727 honours, including five
Victoria Crosses and 51 Distinguished Service Orders.
In 1961, 6 FTS moved to RAF Acklington equipped with the
Hunting Jet Provost training aircraft and remained there
until disbandment in 1968.
Acklington had few, if any, permanent buildings and,
instead, comprised a village of wooden huts, variously
Only a minority of students owned cars so the station
hosted an active weekend social scene, unlike the
schools further south within easier reach of London.
Locally, the Dirty Bottles in Alnwick was exceptionally
popular as it appeared to be, coincidentally, with the
Teacher Training College!
Basic pilot training at the time was ‘all through’ on
jets and assumed no previous flying experience. The Jet
Provost Mk 3 and Mk 4 were two-seat side-by-side jet
trainers with a single Armstrong Siddeley Viper engine.
The course comprised some 160 flying hours of which
about 110 were dual, under the supervision of an
instructor, and about 50 solo.
The Passing Out Parade on April 22, 1965, saw the
cherished award of the pilot’s brevet.
Thirteen of the original 19 graduates will join together
for dinner at Linden Hall on Saturday at which Squadron
Leader (Retired) Stuart Miller will propose the toast to
MOVING TRIBUTE TO THE "GUYZANCE 10"
following article was published by the Northumberland
Gazette on 17th January 2015
moving tribute was paid today to 10 teenage soldiers
killed in a wartime training exercise.
The Army recruits died on the River Coquet, near
Guyzance, when their boat was swept over a weir and
capsized on 17th January 1945.
The bodies of the young men, eight of whom were serving
with the Durham Light Infantry and two with the Duke of
Wellington’s Regiment, were found downriver in the
following days and months. The last was not recovered
until May 28.
Veterans and villagers gathered today to commemorate
the tragedy on its 70th anniversary.
Among them were Corporal Bernard Crewther, who lives in
Rothbury, and Sergeant Burnett Seyburn, who were
stationed at Felton with the group.
Mr Crewther said at the service: “We were called out at
night to go down the rive looking for bodies. It’s
something I won’t forget. They were all lads that I
At the time, the troops were ordered not to talk about
Mr Seyburn said: “We were sworn under oath never to
mention this under threat of court martial.”
Local historian Vera Vaggs (pictured below) discovered
that the deaths had been reported in a newspapaer at the
time. She helped to arrange the placing of a memorial at
the site in 1995.
She said today: “It’s nice to think that they are not
forgotten and we now have what is a very moving and very
appropriate stone memorial here.”
Sandra Bell, whose uncle Alfred Yates was one of the
men who died, and her daughter Charlotte were also at
The Rev Kenneth Crawford, chaplain to the Durham Light
Infantry, led the proceedings.
Wreaths were laid by the DLI Association, parish
councillors and members of the community.