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Steve’s Nature Diary

When I did a site visit the other day to Bowesfield Nature Reserve and was confronted by two people dressed in white suits and masks, I thought I had changed planets or entered a film set. It was only when realised it was two colleagues I realised what was happening – they were dealing with the dreaded Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). During the summer, several members of staff have to try and deal with this foreign invader which can be found on our nature reserves, especially those close to the Tees.

Why the suits? Giant Hogweed stems and leaves contain toxic chemicals called furocoumarins, which react when exposed to sunlight causing weals, blisters and eczema-like rashes on human skin. For this reason the plant is listed as a threat to human health, and under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it is illegal to introduce it into the wild. The plant was introduced by the Victorians for its garden architectural splendour and when you see it in full flower with stems that can reach 5 metres high, you can see why!

The plant, initially from the Caucasus, was first found in the wild in 1828, can produce 100,000 penny sized seeds and is now a widespread problem, now naturalised around Britain and has so far resisted efforts to control it. It does attract pollinators and can look impressive but it you are out and about keep an eye for this triffid like plant and avoid it. This is just one of the jobs that Wildlife Trust staff (not volunteers) have to do to ensure our reserves are safe and accessible. But we have lots of other tasks that we must do and involve our many volunteers in doing them. Both Tees Valley and Durham Wildlife Trusts have various opportunities for volunteers and we can’t really survive without them. From charity trustees to data in-putters, from butterfly surveyors to litter pickers, from dry stone wallers to footpath builders - they all play their part.

Volunteers not only help the Trusts to achieve their aims they also gain as well. Research has shown that volunteers benefit in a number of ways; from making new friends, working as part of team and the opportunity to spend some time outside enjoying nature. If you are interested in getting involved why not contact your local trust and see how you might help.

Sedgefield and District U3A

Sedgefield and District U3A covers Sedgefield, Morden and Bradbury, Bishop Middleham, Fishburn and the Trimdons. We currently have 114 members, all retired or semi-retired.

The central premise of the U3A is to Live, Laugh and Learn; all equally important in leading a full, happy and worthwhile retirement. There is really no need to be bored and lonely at home when there are all these wonderful opportunities on the doorstep. You could visit a wide variety of venues across the North through our Lunch Group, our Theatre Group, our Science and Industry Group, our Homes and Gardens Group. You could learn to take superb photographs or to have written work published. Our Wine Appreciation Group regularly samples a selection of wines from around the world. The monthly Speakers cover a wide range of topics - some serious, some humorous, some of local interest, some of wider appeal – but all interesting, entertaining and informative. Do visit our website, for lots more information and particular details about Groups and events. Our monthly meetings are held on the first Friday of each month from 2 - 4pm, usually in the Parish Hall. However, the first meeting of our new Year will be held at Ceddesfeld Hall. Do join us there on September 7th when Ollie Burton will describe ‘How to Build a Cathedral’.

We look forward to welcoming you to Sedgefield and District U3A.

New Head Boy & Head Girl appointed at Sedgefield Community College

Eight students were recently nominated for the role of Head Boy and Head Girl at Sedgefield Community College. Following a formal interview, which mimicked the intensity of a professional job interview, the selection panel, which was made up of the Headteacher Mr Davies, and Assistant Headteacher, Mrs King.

Joshua Wilson was chosen as Head Boy and Anna Haycock as Head Girl, both having demonstrated that they have the qualities that are required to represent the values and ethos of the college.

“It’s still a lovely old church”...

… was the comment when Bill and Jan Blackie from Adelaide, Australia, visited St Edmund’s Church recently. This was a very special trip down memory lane for the couple, being 22 years ago to the weekend when they were married in the church by the Revd. Martin King. Jan had needed special permission for the ceremony from the Bishop because she was Australian.

They have been staying in the district with Bill’s friend, local farmer Robert Elders, and his wife, Anne. The two men worked closely together when Bill lived in Mordon and was chairman of the Parish Council at the same time Robert chaired the Parish Council at Bradbury.

Churchwarden Brian Mutch helped the couple revive their special day memories by showing them around St Edmund’s.


Ferryhill, Sedgefield & District Flower Club held a very successful workshop on 17th July for their Members’ Evening in the Parish Hall. Valerie Guest took the workshop, which was entitled ‘Exotic’. Twenty four ladies took part; some very experienced flower arrangers, some not quite so much and others who were complete novices. Everyone was thrilled with their arrangements! It proved that, with some guidance, anyone can arrange flowers! Val kindly presented Kathleen Edmenson (chairman) with the arrangement that she had demonstrated. Afterwards we had a delicious “faith supper” for our all our members, including those who just wanted to spectate. The committee sends its thanks to Val and everyone who joined us to make it such a memorable night.

Flower club meets on the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in the Parish Hall, Sedgefield. We’d love to welcome along new members .

Paralympian champion supports efforts to tackle Hate Crime in County Durham

Practitioners across County Durham and Darlington were planning their future work together for tackling hate crime at a conference held in Newton Aycliffe earlier this month. Over 100 delegates attended the conference, which was hosted by Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner (PCVC) on 4th July.

Mr Hogg said: "I am pleased that good progress has been made towards tackling hate crime locally. However I recognise that there is still much to do. I note that the number of recorded hate crimes has risen, and am pleased this appears largely to be because victims are increasingly confident to report incidents to the Police. People in this area continue to show higher levels of confidence in policing than in many other parts of the country.” Delegates were delighted to hear from their keynote speaker, the Paralympic Gold Medallist, Stephen Miller, pictured left.

He said, “It was great to be back to address the Hate Crime Conference today, and whilst there is always more to do, it was good to see what has already been achieved. It is so important that we continue to address this big issue. I often remind people that respect is the highest currency we have. I believe events like today help to strengthening the message that hate crime won’t be tolerated.” The conference heard four brave hate crime victims share their stories, to show the positive and negative aspects of their experience. In addition a video was shown which highlighted the prejudice which a Syrian refugee family faced after being housed and settled in the North East. These presentations showed that despite a low number of reported incidents across county Durham and Darlington, hate crime is happening within our communities and that victims need support.