Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Friendship - and Lots of Fun to Be Had

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Friendship - and Lots of Fun to Be Had

Article excerpt

Byline: By Robert Brooks

As the club covering the rural heart of Northumberland, the young farmers of Ponteland certainly have a well defined image to live up to.

With the famous Kirkley Hall agricultural college at their centre and the largest geographical spread of any of the county's 11 Young Farmers branches, it's perhaps no surprise that they take countryside issues very seriously indeed.

But it's not all about green wellies, waxed jackets and standing around in muddy fields.

With a history stretching back to 1932, its members - all under the age of 26 - are drawn from an area which covers not only the wide open spaces around Ponteland but also Bedlington, the urban fringes of Newcastle and even the wilds of Gateshead.

And with an eclectic mix of young people coming from all walks of life, there's plenty of fun and friendship to be had at `Pont', as it's affectionately known.

Young Farmers frequently stage a range of social, educational and political events, including barbecues, sports tournaments, debating and public speaking contests and trips abroad.

Its value is none more so apparent than in isolated areas where youngsters are frequently cut off from their friends, with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

Twenty-year-old club secretary Sarah Hepple is one of a growing number of active YF supporters who, although hailing from a heavily agricultural background, is not directly involved in the farming industry as such. While mum Linda and dad Brian manage 100 acres of mixed livestock and arable land at West Farm, just off the A696 towards Belsay, she's a Leeds University student studying resort management.

"Most of our members don't have farming backgrounds, but generally enjoy country pursuits," says Sarah.

"My mum was in YF in Nottingham and my dad is a former Pont member, while my sister Vicki is also currently a member of the branch.

"We are widening our membership base, due to the decline in agriculture, but we still recruit from local farms, schools and Kirkley Hall, and the countryside is still at our heart. …

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