Since attaining Cittaslow accreditation in 2007, the historic Northumberland market town of Berwick-upon-Tweed has continued in its mission to excel against Cittaslow’s stringent criteria. Never one to rest on their laurels Berwick’s Cittaslow volunteers are heading a number of community projects throughout 2012 that could benefit residents and visitors for years to come.
A strong contender in this year’s Northumbria in Bloom competition, Cittaslow’s Berwick in Bloom team are optimistic for further success. In 2011 the town was delighted to achieve its best ever result by gaining an overall Silver Award. Additionally, the Grove School Tweedmouth and the Tweedmouth West First School both received Gold Medal Certificates in the Growing Together Category. The Garden House Care Home in Spittal won a Silver Award in the Ron Grubb Memorial Trophy for best kept grounds of a care home, residential or convalescent home, while St. John the Evangelist Church in Spittal won a Gold Award in the Ellis Wood Trophy for best kept grounds of a religious establishment to be maintained by the parishioners.
This Spring, stringent two-and-a-half-hour judging covering a creative and diverse itinerary was undertaken in April; second stage inspections are expected to be equally demanding on the 10th July when the group will need to develop their initial entries and present a detailed portfolio.
Past achievements set the bar high but the Berwick in Bloom partnership is represented by a host of committed community members, as well as the Town and County Councils who are collectively putting in a substantial amount of time digging, planting and weeding, making the town hopeful of obtaining an even better result in this year..
The Cittaslow Berwick in Bloom committee are also coordinating Berwick’s annual ‘Blooming Good Tidy Up’ over two consecutive weekends of June 30th-July 1st and July 7th-8th this year. Comprising of three residents’ associations: Spittal Improvement Trust, West End Residents’ Association (Tweedmouth) and Castlegate Area Residents’ Association (CARA), this project also receives generous support from the Town and County councils. Traditionally, Cittaslow UK’s Spring Cleans take place earlier in the year, but with each town being unique, events are planned that take into account the particular dynamics of individual places.
Cittaslow Berwick has also been instrumental in the reinstatement of the town’s membership of the European Walled Towns (EWT) an international association that promotes the sustainable development of walled towns in Europe. During the World Heritage Site seminar late in 2011 it was discovered that the town’s membership had lapsed; the benefits of membership are however, considered to be many, and consequently the County Council has offered generous support in the manner of paying subscription fees for two years on the proviso that another body continues this into the future. A magnanimous community member has agreed to pay for one further year with Cittaslow Berwick continuing subscription for a two more years to ensure the town is able to fully reap the benefits of membership that include being part of an exclusive European community of towns that work to promote and support each other. Information about Berwick-upon-Tweed can also be found on the EWT website.
May will see an executive EWT meeting in Malta where Berwick will be represented by Cittaslow’s Margaret Shaw at a series of workshops for developing educational links with other member towns and to study and promote sustainable tourism. This follows on from a two-day sustainable tourism conference held in Berwick in March this year where it was announced that the Northumbrian Sustainable Tourism initiative is to partner with CoaST (Cornwall Sustainable Tourism Network) to share knowledge, information and resources on the subject.
These projects are being run against the backdrop of ever-bustling activity in this colourful town where a number of events are set to inject additional life into a place already bursting with creative energy.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will not go unmarked in Berwick. Not only will there be shop window displays, floral displays and street parties on June 2nd but there is also an Antique and Collectors Fair in the Town Hall. On June 4th those who have no neighbourhood party can join the Berwick Rotary Jubilee fun; entertainment with a 50’s theme to suit the occasion. The evening’s musical entertainment will culminate in the lighting of a beacon one of the nationwide chain to be lit at 10.30pm.
On Thursday 14th June the Olympic Flame will be in Berwick-upon-Tweed on its journey from Greece towards the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The Olympic Torch Relay will pass through Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal between 4.30pm and 5.30pm. A host of activities are being planned to mark this exciting and exceptional event from early afternoon until late, including children’s fun activities on Tweedmouth Green from 2 pm, live music along the route, zumba, a special celebratory Town Wall run, and a festive feast focusing on the Granary and Quayside during the evening.
September will prove to be a busy month of activity with the annual Food Festival, organised by Berwick’s Slow Food Group and based in the Barracks. Numerous buildings not normally open to the public such as an ‘Ice House’ the Masonic Hall and the Old Gaol can be explored during Heritage Open Day weekend. This same weekend, September 8th/9th will also see the advent of another of the ever-popular Antique and Collectors Fairs in the Town Hall.
Thousands are also expected to flock to the Berwick Film Festival again in September this year to celebrate the art of film. Held at The Maltings Theatre and Cinema and sprawling out into other heritage locations throughout Berwick this festival promises to illuminate the town through premier screenings, interactive installations and specially commissioned projections.
Finally, an article celebrating some of Berwick’s notable achievements cannot finish without mentioning the sterling work undertaken by the Berwick-upon-Tweed Preservation Trust to restore the award winning Dewar’s Lane Granary. Built in 1769, the Granary is a six-storey Grade 2 listed building that lies between Bridge Street and the Quayside. The Trust led a £5 million project to restore the building and secure its future as a multi-use facility. It now incorporates the only MLA Grade 1 exhibition space between Edinburgh and Newcastle and has interpretation facilities, seminar/meeting rooms, a bistro, and thanks to the YMCA, a youth hostel. It’s this level of determination to see a project reach fruition, after years of setbacks, that marks Berwick’s community as true crusaders.
Once a hotly contested prize, passing from English to Scottish rule and back again no less than thirteen times between 1147 and 1482, the market town of Berwick has a strength forged through this long history of battle survival. Issues of an ageing population and limited employment opportunities are met with a robust community spirit and a can-do attitude that ensures Berwick-upon-Tweed remains firmly on the map – and will do for generations to come.