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Steve’s Nature Diary

Day 1 - read a book outside. Day 2 - visit a nature reserve. Day 3—get up early for the dawn chorus. So what is this all about? It’s the Wildlife Trust’s annual nature challenge 30 Days Wild which encourages people to do something wild every day for the month of June. Over 250,000 people took part in 2017, so why not try it for yourself?

Research reveals that 30 Days Wild helps to improve people’s perception of beauty in nature and that noticing natural beauty makes people happier and want to care for it. This June’s 30 Days Wild challenge from The Wildlife Trusts will encourage thousands of people across the UK to make their neighbourhoods wilder – to help wildlife and get communities sharing the joy of the wild. You can sign-up by clicking on 30 Days Wild at

You will get a free pack with a booklet of inspirational ideas for Random Acts of Wildness, a recipe for wild strawberry and thyme ice cream, wildflower seeded paper to sow, a wall chart to record your activities and wild stickers. There are special packs for schools with outdoor lesson plans and giant Random Acts of Wildness cards. Business can join in too, with tailored download packs to bring the ‘wild’ to work.

30 Days Wild is a lovely way to get closer to nature and marvel at the everyday wildlife that lives all around you. Sit quietly and enjoy watching dragonflies dance over a pond or take a moment to sow a window-box of wildflowers to help bees. Get together with your neighbours to create hedgehog highways or sow front-garden meadows along the length of your street. No matter how small the action, it all counts!

This year’s theme is all about helping wildlife in your neighbourhood. To celebrate the first ever Big Wild Weekend there are events on Saturday 16th June at Portrack Marsh and Maze Park and a Big Community Bug Hunt at Low Barns. So get involved and have a WILD June.

Sedgefield’s new Citizen of the Year

Congratulations to Sheila McMillan, Sedgefield's Citizen of the Year for 2017. Sheila was presented with the award, along with a scroll and crystal decanter, during Sedgefield’s Annual Town Meeting in the Parish Hall. Organised through a partnership of Sedgefield Town Council, Sedgefield Rotary Club and Sedgefield Development Trust, residents were invited to nominate candidates and then a panel of judges (including the immediate previous holder of the award) selected the winner. The judges chose Sheila McMillan for the wide range of work that she does through her involvement in various community groups.

Sheila and her husband Jim moved to Sedgefield in 2004 after retiring from their farm in Walworth. They had farmed together since their marriage in 1964 and have two children - Helen who also lives in Sedgefield, and Ian living in Weymouth, and four grandchildren.

Sheila has been involved with the Inner Wheel organisation for many years, having held many club and district officer positions and has organised several charity functions. She joined Sedgefield WI when she moved here, attending meetings and helping out at and organising social events. When the position of Chairman of the WI Country Market in Sedgefield became vacant a couple of years ago, she took the reins and is still holding them. Sheila is a weekly helper at the Pop in Club at Ceddesfeld Hall, where her scones are very well received! She is also one of the team of ladies who organise the handicrafts marquee at Sedgefield Show, and as a congregational member of St. Edmund's Church, together with a friend she has arranged charity functions for church funds, in addition to supporting coffee mornings and the Annual Church Quiz.

Keeping a secret like this is difficult in a small place like Sedgefield but Sheila was kept completely in the dark. She attended the evening event to receive a cheque on behalf of the Pop In Club as Wendy Easton ? was on holiday, and was surprised to see her daughter and son in law there, but they didn't give the game away as they were there to receive cheques on behalf of Sedgefield Junior Harriers and Sedgefield Scouts respectively. When they started to read out her commendation the penny finally dropped. Sheila was completely overwhelmed and was shaking like a leaf when she received her framed certificate. She said, “Things like this don't happen to people like me. I will endeavour to continue to be a good citizen and help people in whatever way I can. I have made many friends through being involved in Inner Wheel and the WI and get a great deal of pleasure helping out at the Pop In Club.”

Cooking up more success

Ali Hussain, the owner of East India Takeaway in Sedgefield, has won the prestigious title of Asian Chef of the Year for 2018 at the North East Culinary and Trade Association (NECTA) event held at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead.

There were eight chefs in the running for the title; the candidates had one hour to prepare, cook and present a main course for the highly acclaimed judges to sample. “Having been involved in numerous awards and events over the years this one is something I am honoured to have won. NECTA holds a lot of kudos in the industry here in the north east so I’m proud to have beaten off seven other amazing chefs to walk away as Asian Chef of the Year 2018.” Ali bought East India Takeaway in Sedgefield in 2016 and the venue had a zero-star rating, so he knew he had a mammoth task on his hands. Now, Ali has ten members of staff and has rebuilt the takeaway’s reputation to a near five-star rating. The takeaway offers diners a fresh alternative to a standard takeout and all ingredients are bought fresh rather than from a wholesaler in order to guarantee quality dishes.

Ali was well known in the Sunderland area for Café Bangla, which he decided to close in 2014 due to leasing issues. Since then, Ali has worked at St James’ Park and the Stadium of Light as a chef and worked at the Rugby World Cup in 2016. Ali has also worked with the celebrity chef Mark Poynton from Cambridgeshire’s Alimentum where they cooked a feast for royalty in Punjab, India. Ali has a string of accolades to his bow including Curry Chef of the Year 2017, National Curry Life Chef of the Year, Curry Life Fusion Chef and North East Curry Chef of the Year amongst many more.

Edwin Derrick Lofthouse, 1928 - 2018: an appreciation

Derrick was a member of St. Edmund’s Church from boyhood to his death. He often recalled times, when he was a choir boy, of playing in what is now Ceddesfeld Hall, then the Rectory. In those days it had 56 rooms to explore. Derrick went on to hold various offices in the Church: Church Warden, Lay Chair of the Parochial Church Council; he chaired the group that created the Welcome Room and helped to raise the funding for it; he sang in the choir and would often take part in services by doing Bible Readings. He loved Evensong and would use his lovely voice to harmonise the responses. Derrick made an enormous contribution to the life and work of St. Edmund’s Church over the years, in leadership roles and in work behind the scenes.

As we have heard, Derrick loved singing and when, in 1974, he co-founded the Lyric Singers as a non-auditioned, mixed voice choir, it gave freedom to people who might not have had confidence in their voice, to make music. The Lyrics were encouraged to develop a set of rules too, including about charitable giving, which lasts to this day. As a result, countless good causes, chosen by members, have been supported.

When the Youth choir began to make its mark, Derrick encouraged them to take part in visits to Germany, introducing them to the twinning idea. He was passionate about the need for friendship between the two countries and he made a lasting impression in the Hamminkeln area, as well as here at home. Sedgefield Twinning Association owes much to Derrick’s persistence and enthusiasm.

We haven't space here to say a lot about his career in retailing or his public service as councillor and Mayor; about the talented and hardworking family that he and Audrey nurtured and of whom he was so proud; about his leadership role at Sedgefield Charities or the Pop-In Club for senior citizens - the list goes on. In many ways, Derrick was a visionary - an ideas man, but one who didn’t hesitate to knuckle down to the work involved. He lived a long and very active life, and will be sadly missed by family, friends and all those involved in the schemes he helped to bring into being.

A letter received by Sedgefield News, expressing sorrow on Derrick’s passing - and telling a rather good tale. When us 19 year olds entered Hardwick Camp, we were 565 Northumberland Fusiliers Searchlight Battery, and our first church parade on a Sunday in October 1944 was at St Edmund's.

After the service, a lady asked me and another chap if we would like dinner at their house. It was Derrick's mother, Mrs Lofthouse. Derrick was 8 or 9 and he brought his Monopoly for us to play. We also had tea before returning to camp.

Lots of the lads married girls from the village; my wife, Marjorie, came from the kennels at Hardwick Park, but only Mr Johnny Hill and I stayed here to live. We both worked at Sedgefield RDC for 31 years and I was even a bell ringer at the church in the 50s.

Derrick let me read his book telling his life story, and I gave him my diaries to read. His book brought back memories of the past, when Sedgefield was a small village. L.J. Butler, Elm Avenue.

Ann Beamson is Retiring

In one respect anyone who knows Ann through her many years of service in Sedgefield Library will not be surprised at this news. They will have had first-hand experience of Ann’s lightly worn competence and her unassuming management of the library’s day to day activities. The real shock for generations of library borrowers and general users is that she has actually decided to leave!

Ann has worked at Sedgefield Library for 43 years and in that time she states confidently, “there’s very few days I haven’t enjoyed coming to work; I’ve no regrets in my career. I would have loved to have passed away with a date stamp in my hand, but I’m more likely to pass away now with a glass of wine in my hand.” When asked if she has any nagging doubts about retiring she replies, “I’ll let you know about that; I’ve never retired before, you see.” Ann has grasped the nettle of retirement now as she feels that it is time that she and her partner move on to the next stage of their life while they’re still young enough and active enough to do it justice. She is confident about the future whilst being a tiny bit ambivalent about life without the library. Perhaps this is why her current manager, Katie Burkill, who describes Ann as her “right arm”, is taking every opportunity to reassure Ann that she can ‘pop in’ after retirement any time she likes.

Ann’s affinity for libraries and books goes back to childhood. She was brought up in Trimdon Village when the residents had to rely on the travelling library from Spennymoor for their precious library books. In the early 1970s Ann remembers the building of Trimdon’s first County Library branch. Before long she and her friend were thrown out by the very stern librarian because they were giggling. Far from being annoyed, she admits she was so impressed that library staff were invested with the authority to throw people out that she was drawn to the power. At that time, Ann attended Ferryhill Grammar School where, in her fourth year careers interview, the careers officer suggested that she might consider becoming a Gardener or (with considerably more insight) perhaps a librarian. Although, by her own admission, no high-flyer Ann worked hard to gain the qualifications required to become a Librarian – at least 4 GCE ‘O’ Levels, including English. Suitably qualified, Ann applied for and gained a position in the library service and started her first job in Darlington Library in 1974. After a year of travelling on public transport to Darlington she organised a transfer to Sedgefield where she started work in 1975.

Over the years, Ann has witnessed considerable change and, according to her supervisor, Katie, “she has mellowed massively”. Ann owns up that in the early days she ejected customers for breaking the old library code of silence but she readily concedes that modern libraries are “more of a social space and less of a shush place”. Ann has seen lots of changes in her time with the growth of interactive and participatory events. “In the early days of my career”, she says, “It was more about books than people but nowadays it’s more about people. I understand the need for things to change and I try to do what’s necessary to make that change happen.”

This willingness to stay on the ‘front line’ and quietly just get things done is further evidence of Ann’s retiring nature. She has made conscious choices to not to follow the promotion path, despite being advised by colleagues to do so. “It’s just not what I wanted to do. A service needs good core staff and I’ve always been comfortable in that role, supporting those above me to ensure continuity.” Ann has totally embraced the people aspect of her work from helping borrowers locate resources to listening to their news of family joys and tribulations. And, of course, what better place for a lonely or isolated person to come to, just for a little chat. Both Katie and Ann agree, “It’s one of the positives of a small community library compared to a town library that you actually have time to give to customers such as these”. This attitude is reflected in the users’ comments currently being added to Ann’s retirement card, a card which has had several extra pages affixed to it such is the public’s desire to record their thanks to Ann for all her work and attention to them. The comments are all positive, as might be expected, but I was struck by the number of references to Ann’s kindness, helpfulness, humour and friendliness together with numerous references to how she will be missed. Ann’s official retirement date is Saturday, June 9th so there’s still time to add your message to the card on the library counter. Ann will have a retirement night out with colleagues on Wednesday 6th and an open house Coffee Day in the Library on the 7th, and all are welcome.

In memory of Rosemary

Rosemary Burnip sadly passed away earlier this year on the 11th March. She enjoyed so much being a part of many of the group activities which became such a large part of her life in our village community. She met so many people whilst participating in the various clubs and groups, whose company she enjoyed immensely. Many of them became very close and dear friends and we know that they were a great source of comfort to her during her long battle with Leukaemia.

The family have been overwhelmed by the many cards and very kind messages of sympathy which we have received. St. Edmund’s was full on the day of her funeral, and whilst it was very emotional, it was said by many to be a joyous occasion of which she would have approved, and was truly a reflection of her. We have been astounded by the generosity of the many people and groups who made donations to her chosen charity, Bloodwise, in her memory. Not only is it a wonderful gesture in itself but we like to feel it is a statement of the regard she had within our community. The charity has sent letters of thanks for the very significant amount which has been raised, the level of which they have found amazing. They now also understand and appreciate the warmth and the friendship which exists within our community. Our love and heartfelt thanks to you all.

Rest in peace little one. Husband Peter, son Jonathan and daughter Helen