Stanner, or Stannar House – gone but not forgotten

Helen McGuinness, a former childhood resident of Clara Vale, got in touch recently to shed some light on Stannar House, long since demolished, which was situated at the eastern edge of the village on what is now the Orchard:

‘I lived in Clara Vale in the mid 1950’s as a child with my siblings and parents (Syd and Grace Walker). My father worked in the pit. We lived in Stannar House (please note that is how we always knew it as, StannAR and not StannER). We moved out in 1964 shortly before it was demolished. It was a fantastic big old house. At the start of it’s life it was one large farmhouse but over time it was turned into two semi detached houses – each house was very large. We were lucky to have the barns at our side and as children we loved to play in them. We used to hang onto the mesh fence waving to the trains as they went past. I still have dreams about Stannar House. I often go back to have a look around Clara Vale but always hang around where Stannar House used to be. I have very many happy memories of there.’

Helen has kindly found some old photos that her father Sydney Walker took in the mid-50’s, reproduced with her kind permission below. And below that, are two map sections, the first is from the late 1800’s, showing ‘Stanner House’ was in place before the Maryside and Tyne View houses were built, and another section from 1962, just a few years before the pit closed and the house was demolished. It is also interesting to see the development of the pit and village in the mapping detail, over a period of around 60 years.

Click on any image to enlarge:

Apple Day – A Sweet Success

The Conservation Group were delighted with the turnout and support for Apple Day on Sunday 15th October, which this year saw an extended range of activities aimed to broaden the appeal of our community orchard.  Having secured funding for new equipment including an apple crusher/press from the Community Foundation, this was our first opportunity to engage the community by taking part in making apple juice.

In the Orchard, the steady production of juice proved to be great fun, with lots of participants collecting, chopping, mashing, pressing and bottling!  Children especially loved turning the masher wheel and seeing the apple pieces drop into the bucket below, while those a little stronger could turn the press to extract the juice.  

We were also fortunate to have on hand local experts Tom and Peter from Wylam Community Orchard and Jon from the 69 Orchard, who shared their expertise in identification of varieties, tree husbandry and apple juice production.

In the autumn sunshine, families with younger children enjoyed interactive storytelling and apple art activities, while at the Village Hall, tree rents were paid and delicious homemade cakes devoured alongside refreshments.

The Conservation Group would sincerely like to thank everyone who contributed to make the event such a success, including the cake bakers, kitchen volunteers, tree rent takers, John and Tom who gave their time, expertise and loaned equipment, Malcolm the storyteller, Veronika for childrens’ art, Karen for the silk painting. Special mention to Steve ‘Scrumpy’ Hilton, who put in hours of preparation work behind the scenes, which included making the successful grant funding application for the apple press and new equipment.

Below is a gallery of photos taken from the event to enjoy, just click to enlarge:


Summer Pruning Day

There was a great turnout at the summer pruning day on 3rd September.

Local fruit tree expert Tom Gledhill from Wylam shared his expertise and advised us on the summer pruning method to increase next year’s crop. After a morning’s work we all enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch.

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Our community orchard events this year have gone from strength to strength and when our apple press arrives soon, we expect even more folk will be keen to get involved.

Our community orchard Apple Day event is scheduled for Sunday 15th October, when the Conservation Group will be putting on a range of apple-themed activities and taking tree rents for 2017/18.

September Update

It’s all go at the Conservation Group, with two individual grant aided projects to be completed in the Reserve and Orchard.

Reserve Pathway Improvements

Contractors begin work in the next few weeks, cutting pathways and dredging the pond. New bridges and a small pond jetty are also planned. Please take note of redirection signs, keep dogs on a lead and stay a safe distance from machinery while this is carried out. Grant funding only pays for part of this large project and there will be at least one Community Day when we’ll invite everyone in Clara to join with us completing the groundworks, which will be of lasting benefit to all visitors.  

Orchard Equipment and Apple Day

The Conservation Group have secured funding to buy a community apple crusher/press, a juice pasteuriser, educational equipment and tools. The hardware will be purchased in time for Apple Day which is planned for Sunday 15th October, when rents are due. Activities planned include making your own apple juice, tree-tagging, apple bobbing and apple-themed story-telling .

New Reserve Leaflet

A new version has been produced and can be downloaded here.

Bird Feeding

This will start again from around mid-October at the hides. Don’t forget that a hide key is required, available from Thornley Woodland Centre 01207 545 212.


Orchard Task Day

Volunteers got to grips with a giant privet hedge along the southern boundary of the Orchard last weekend. The hedge had become overgrown and was taking too much light from nearby apple trees.  The hedge has been cropped but not taken out, as you can see from the photos.

Some time was also spent tasting different apple varieties in the orchard and drinking tea!

Orchard News


Orchard Update

Annual Tree Allocation
After 16 years Granny Smith (Jenny) has finally handed over responsibility for overseeing the annual tree allocation to Scrumpy Steve (Hilton). Thanks to Jenny for all the hard work she has put in over that time, from the founding of the orchard at the Millennium until now.

Orchard Action Day – Saturday 9th October
A working party will be at the orchard to strim grass, cut hedges and generally tidy the orchard ahead of Apple Day. Everyone is welcome. The orchard only works by people working together, so please come down and help, even if you can only spare a short time. We start at 10.30am and there will be tea, coffee and cake aplenty.
(Note that we are not pruning any apple trees, pruning day will be in March next year.)

Apple Day – Sunday 16th October
This takes place in the village hall from 2-4.30pm. There will be an opportunity to pay rents, discuss orchard matters and of course sample apple related products with afternoon tea/coffee. Another great social occasion in the village calendar.