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Steve’s Nature Diary

As I write this, the memories of those snowy days are still fresh in my mind, but I hear that both a Sand Martin and a Swallow have been seen, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes have started to sing, and the daffodils are about to erupt into a golden host: how nature moves on!

In the snow two species of birds were a pleasure to see; one was in my garden the other was at Bishop Middleham. Whilst working in the study, reading the @Teeswildlife twitter feed, several people were getting excited over seeing Fieldfares in their gardens - and lo and behold, I had my own flock just outside my window. About 30 of these rather smart looking thrushes, winter visitors from Scandinavia, were in the trees and coming down into the garden looking for berries, insects and seeds.

The Fieldfare is a large thrush - just a little smaller than the Mistle Thrush - with very bold plumage. The male has a blue-grey crown, nape, and rump; chestnut brown back; black tail; and a buff breast with black streaks that also extends to the flanks. Were you lucky enough to have them as garden visitors?
Another bird that turned up in large numbers this winter, including a party of at least six seen on and off through January and February, around the church and along the lane to Castle Lake at Bishop Middleham, was the Hawfinch. These delightful birds are normally difficult to see but not this winter. The Hawfinch is a large, heavily built finch with a large head, "bull-neck" and a powerful, conical shaped bill. The back is a rusty-brown, the breast and belly are buff, and the head is orangebrown with a black bib and grey neck. The wings are glossy blue-black with a broad white wing patch. They are often seen around hornbeam and yew trees feeding on autumn fruit.

The Hawfinch is a scarce breeder in Britain, with an estimated 500 to 1,000 pairs. Although small numbers of migrant Hawfinches are noted every autumn from early October onwards, single birds and even flocks are beginning to be observed well away from traditional breeding sites and coastal watchpoints. The remarkable invasion of the bird this year – which is the UK’s largest, rarest and most elusive finch - has been attributed to poor seed crop yields in other parts of Europe, notably in the bird’s main winter-feeding grounds of Germany and Romania. Their loss is our gain, well worth a trip to see, but you might now have to wait until next winter!

As a footnote to last month’s diary, it is possible to have nature friendly housing developments when good partnerships are forged - wins-award-for-best-partnership.

No, you’re not seeing things!

The June 2002 edition you see here marked the beginning of a very special relationship; one which has remained true over nearly 16 years. Yes, it was in Issue 2 of Sedgefield News that we first read a letter from PC Keith Todd. This is what he said…

“Recently I was asked if I would be willing to contribute to the newly established Sedgefield News. With this in mind I thought it would be appropriate for me to briefly introduce myself and my role, to the residents of Sedgefield.
In future issues I will cover crime and incidents that have recently occurred! My official title is "Community Beat Officer" or Village Bobby, as the older generation prefer to call me. This return to community policing has become a high priority over recent years and I am proud to say that I have been part of it since my post was created, nearly 3 years ago!
My role is to focus on local community issues, whilst providing high visibility foot patrol in Sedgefield; and also in my other area of responsibility, Fishburn. This also includes the surrounding rural area. I am grateful to Sedgefield Motor Co., for the donation of my Skoda motor vehicle, which most of you will have seen, in and around the Village.
If you would like to speak with me, regarding any police matters, or just a general chat, please just stop me in the street. Though, as a Manchester United fan, the topic of why we failed to win a trophy this year is not a subject for open discussion- you'll have to ask (Sir) Alex!
You can also contact me at Sedgefield Police office:- Tel: 620272 or at the newly opened, part-time Police office located in Fishburn. Tel: 621989.
Finally, I would like to wish this news-letter every success and look forward to making my own contribution to it, each month. Please note, my sponsors will need to do their own advertising in future!”

Sedgefield News has had very good value from our “Village Bobby” since his debut contribution to these pages, but Keith retires on the 11th of this month. We’re promised one last letter for the May edition. We will miss his advice, his turn of phrase and his sense of humour, but mostly we’ll miss the knowledge that PC Todd is out there, taking care of this, his patch - and ours. We wish you a very happy retirement, Keith, and thank you from the whole Sedgefield News team. “Until next time!”

Woodland & Wildlife Big Planting Day!

Despite the worst efforts of the #beastfromtheeast2, WE DID IT! All 840 trees were planted over a day and a half, by a fantastic band of all-weather heroes and heroines, whose ages ranged from pre-school to beyond 70! It was painfully cold (see below) and the badly overgrown ground was hard to work on, but if you took the time to look up now and again, the progress was so amazing that it inspired you to dig in. With so many people coming together with a common aim, it felt as though we were creating a new community as well as a woodland. All in all, a wonderful experience.

Of course, this was just the start. There will always be things to do, so if you weren’t able to get involved this time, please do stay in touch. Check out the Sedgefield News Facebook page and Twitter feed for Woodland related posts, and if you would like to add your name to the group, please text 07803 269956 with your name (including surname please) and email address if you have one.

Mayor’s “Final Fling” Fundraiser

The Mayor of Sedgefield, Cllr David Brown will be the host at Sedgefield Cricket Club on Friday 20th April. David and his wife Elizabeth, or Libby as many readers know her, are very involved in the local community and take part in various groups. Many of you will know the difficulties Elizabeth faces with her eyesight, which is why the Macular Society was chosen as one of the main charities to support as well as the Great North Air Ambulance Service, which any one of us could need.

David and Elizabeth have enjoyed meeting people at the various functions and events they have attended during the Civic Year and are delighted with the support they have received. They look forward to their Final Fling and hope as many people as possible can share this evening with them.

Walking Football

One of the latest crazes in the football world, this is an activity that gives those that have given up, the chance to get back into the sport they love. As has been proved lately, women enjoy football too; both men and women are welcome here.

As you’ve guessed, Walking Football involves a lot of…well…walking! It carries all the same rules as everyday football, except that you can’t pick up too much speed. It provides a sociable, fun and safe environment for those looking to be a little more active in their spare time. If you are interested, please contact Penny Walmsley. Tel: 01740 617777 email:

Foodbank helps local families

Seven hundred people living in Sedgefield, Fishburn, Bishop Middleham and the Trimdons were supported by Foodbank last year and, say Sedgefield Area Churches Together, caring locals donated 1793 kgs of foodstuffs through collection points in the churches, Co-op stores and St William’s School. Organisers have praised the generosity of local residents for helping families currently battling the region’s challenging economic situation.

In 2017, the Foodbank initiative run by the Durham Christian Partnership fed 14895 people (4855 of them children) across the county with 109320 kgs of food donated by members of the public. For more about the foodbank, contact Michael King on 01740 620910.

Saffire: the shares club on your doorstep

Saffire was established over 20 years ago by a few Sedgefield residents to hold equities in joint ownership of its members and to pool their knowledge to make joint investment decisions. The club meets monthly at Ceddesfeld Hall and holds occasional dinners for members and guests - the social element is as important as the investments - and above all, to improve our investment performance.

Present members come from varied backgrounds and have a wide range of experience. We are proud of our performance over the years when compared with the FTSE 100. If you would like to know more, and perhaps attend one our meetings, see what we do without obligation, contact Chris Rowsby on 01740 621125 or email

Sedgefield Community College scores a World Book Day goal.

The recent bad weather failed to freeze proceedings at Sedgefield Community College as World Book Day celebrations were merely postponed until Monday 6th March, with a host of literacy themed events taking place throughout the day.

The English department dressed up as a raft of literary characters for the day, while local author Tom Palmer (@tompalmerauthor) ran workshops entitled “The Reading Game” with around 200 of the school’s students from Year Seven. Through a theme of football, Tom talked about reading and writing, emphasising the importance of communication, as students embraced the sessions with a variety of questioning, quizzes and games. Students were given the opportunity to enter a penalty shoot-out by virtue of answering quiz questions, with the winning student claiming a commemorative trophy. English lessons had a strong theme of World Book Day running through them while a current focus within the school library is promoting staff and students to share their reading experiences with each other.

News from NETPark: Spotlight on Photonics

Photonic technologies use light for a range of healthcare applications including therapies, diagnostics, imaging and surgical interventions.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and Durham University have joined forces in a new project, which was launched at CPI’s printable electronics facility at NETPark, Sedgefield on Thursday 22nd March. The Spotlight project will commercialise photonics and other emerging technologies through localised innovation infrastructure and commercialisation services. The project will run for three years, supported by the European Regional Development Fund.

CPI has also just opened its new National Formulation Centre. Formulation involves the creation of multi-component, often multi-phase products, which are abundant in markets such as healthcare, food, drink and personal care. CPI will guide companies through the steps needed to take their next -generation formulated products to market with reduced risk on their decisions or capital investment plans. This unique centre will create an environment for innovation that will allow businesses and academic partners to collaborate to develop, prove and commercialise innovative products and processes in formulation science, and be more efficient in the use of resources to generate further value for the UK formulation industry.

The new building is home to world-class laboratories and accompanying expertise focusing on measurement, high-throughput formulation, process chemistry, process technology, complex particles, nanomaterials, composites, and chemistry and dispersions. Exciting times for our highly successful technology park.