top of page

The Skill Mill Newcastle: Older Posts

North Kenton Park

The Skill Mill Newcastle have been busy at North Kenton Park. The park is medium-sized and was developed in the mid 20th century for the benefit of the local residents. The work has received a number of positive comments. Sarah Capes from Urban Green Newcastle has passed on a special thanks!



Elswick Pool 

Following the fantastic work done clearing the Town Moor after the Hoppings came to Newcastle. Elswick Pool are absolutely delighted with the recent work carried out by The Skill Mill team. This is a brilliant outcome for those involved. 


Sandyford's Benton House

The appearance of a local building that is home to community mental health services has enjoyed a trim and tidy up, thanks to the team in Newcastle. The team spent two days in Sandyford cutting down weeds, removing litter and replanting Benton House’s planters. Great work from everyone involved! 

North Kenton Park.jpg
Elsiwck Pool.png
Benton House.jpg

Clearing Culverts 

During the last few weeks the team have been maintaining culverts around Newcastle: clearing them of silt and other blockages. This reduces flood risk and ensures the structures are accessible for inspection by the Newcastle City Council engineers. 

Merchants Wharf

"Skill Mill have done a superb job" in the words of a local resident, as the Newcastle team finish work at Merchants Wharf. The team have replaced all the wooden sides of the flower beds and planters there and the place is looking fabulous. 

Ogle, Northumberland

The Skill Mill cohort started with planting 100 trees of mixed species which were all tubed and staked to protect them from wildlife. These were planted on a banked area of farmland between two fields which are located near to the watercourse.

The next stage involved working on the south bank of the watercourse 700 meters downstream from the road bridge to help reduce bank erosion. Using willow provided, The Skill Mill were shown by members of the Northumberland Rivers Trusts several techniques on how to work the willow to stable the banks. The techniques shown included ‘pinned woody debris’, ‘bundles of willow’ and ‘willow whips’.

The final task was to build and install a fish pass under Ogle bridge. This pass was built using Oak batons which has been bolted into the concrete river bed by using a cordless power drill and fixing it together using 8mm stainless steel anchors.

An oak box was also constructed and placed below the fish pass to hold water to enable the fish to get get up onto the fish pass without running into shallow waters. This box has been bolted also into a concrete bed and lined with clay which had been taken from the bank further upstream.

This piece of work had been the most challenging to date. It required teamwork and new skills to be learned and applied. It gave the cohort an insight into reducing erosion and the advantages of encouraging the local wildlife to thrive.

On site there were four different aspects to the job which gave a variety of work and meant learning new skills which the lads can take into future employment. The cohort took a great sense of pride in the work they have completed and are proud of what they have managed to achieve here.

Devil’s Burn – Town Moor North

Litter pick for the Freemen of Newcastle to clear part of the Town Moor to enable them to graze cattle on the area throughout the summer.

  • 130 bags of rubbish recovered from the site

  • 2 push bikes

  • 10 vacuum cleaners

  • Mattresses

  • Carpets

  • Other fly-tipped junk

41 year old packet of Tudor crisps found.

Plants and trees had started growing through the rubbish such as through milk bottle handles making litter picking somewhat impossible in these areas.

It may require cutting back the first layer of shrubs to be able to get into the greenery to complete the litter pick further.

Plenty of positive feedback from local residents ‘finally clearing the area’ ‘hopefully you’ll be able to clear other areas too’

Freemen staff who came on site were pleased with what the cohort had managed in such a short time.

Lustrum Litter Pick (Brown’s Bridge)

This litter pick was carried out in an identified part of Lustrum Beck; Brown’s Bridge. It was here we carried out our multi-agency clear up after our first commissioned visit to Lustrum Beck.

Hypodermic needles were found and discarded safely.

The Environment Agency had identified a small area containing Japanese Knotweed which the lads were shown and precautions were taken around removing litter from this area, including the supervisor being one of the only people to access this area and the Environment Agency marking off the area so the cohort walked around the area litter picking carefully.

Household waste had been fly tipped over garden fences into this area.

More than 40 bags of litter was collected over the 3 day period.

The Environment Agency included a write up about this piece of week in their newsletter.

Quayside, Newcastle – Flood Defence

Job commissioned by Newcastle City Council to help protect a low lying area of the Quayside from coming Spring Tides.

The job was completed using approximately 5 or 6 tonnes of sand to fill around 40 hessian bags which were then laid to the spec the cohort used to construct the defence in South Tyneside.

A trainee engineer from the council came and visited everyday as they were interested in the way the wall was being constructed.

There was a big sense of achievement by all once the job was completed as they had to do everything themselves from filing the bags, to creating the wall, to making the sandbags less of an eyesore by covering it in black plastic lining.

Cowbridge Beck, Billingham

General litter pick/clean up the watercourse with removal of litter and debris after the banks of the Beck had been strimmed.

Approximately 80 bin liners of litter collected from the beck including a 24 year old packet of Tudor crisps!!!!!.

Two shopping trolleys found in and around Beck and reported to trolley wise.

Three minor blockages cleared.

No issues or concerns throughout the job.

Curiosity Creative

Curiosity Creative have been working with the Skill Mill recently to capture stories about what the Skill Mill means to the young people and project partners that are involved in the work of this North East based social enterprise.

These stories were then shown at our Birthday event in February.

Happy 1st Birthday!

Thursday 12th February saw the Skill Mill celebrate our 1st birthday. We held this event at Discovery Museum, Newcastle.

To see all the photos from the evening click the button below.

The lineup for the evening included;

Complimentary drink on arrival
Look around Discovery Museum (closed to public)
The Skill Mill’s Digital Stories
Association of YOT Managers – John Hawkins Memorial Award Presentation (by Roddy Hawkins)
Chi Onwurah MP
The Champagne Charlies live on stage

We would just like to thank everyone for coming along and we hope to see you all again over the coming months.

Lustrum Beck 4

The team have been ensuring that Lustrum Beck remains free of blockages, litter and environmental hazards.

The Skill Mill is working on the Beck as part of a regular maintenance schedule contract agreed with the Environment Agency.

The team have recently removed six shopping trollies, large amounts of discarded household items and general litter.

In addition to the watercourse clearance work the team have also found and reported illegal fishing nets that were hidden ready for use in the Beck as well as  stolen property that was recovered and reported to the local Police.

A lot of work has been carried out around the Browns Bridge area which is a location the team have cleared on previous occasions.

In recent weeks the team have observed Kingfishers on the bank side although no birds have yet been photographed. Maybe next time!

Fairney Burn – Ponteland

Debris removal which helped identify blockages and potential problems.

Removal of any self-set trees and any regrowth cut down from Clickermin Bridge up stream to the end of houses (complete).

Overgrowth in the stream from the railway bridge to Clickermin Bridge has been cut back to reduce risk of flooding to sports centre/houses. Positive feedback from residents.

Stream cleared of blockages and fallen trees removed and then made into habitats.

One concern with overgrown Willow trees adjacent to stables (potential flood risk to landowner). Photos taken and the supervisor expressed his concerns and asked for permission to walk/work on land which was granted.

E/A Field staff assisted with some blockages and found that some of the trees should be removed from site using a trailer.

Trees removed/trimmed down as low as possible due to water levels rising. This was carried out by E/A staff and Skill Mill staff. E/A staff showed good leadership skills and showed a good interest in our young people.

Sandyford Leaf Sweep 

2 days sweeping leaves/rubbish from identified streets.

Skill Mill employees enjoyed carrying out the prep work they carry out on a day to day basis in a different environment; as vegetation such as leaves are usually removed from streams along with larger items, whereas here it was the main focus.

Area cleared from Dinsdale Road towards to park (and the park footpaths as well) Amble Gove, Brandon Grove, Goldspink Lane, SpringBank Road, Greystoke Avenue. Approximately 70 bin bags of leaves/rubbish were collected and removed.

Positive feedback from the council collection van who all commented positively on the work carried out and good partnership working.

West Auckland 

Removal of litter/debris.

Raking back vegetation after strimming.

Clearing/uncovering outlet pipes

Clearing blockages.

Removal of sapling trees opposite local garage area.

Litter picked the stretch of watercourse 5 bin liners of litter full.

Litter appearing daily thrown over fence from alley to local garage and from school up past the park area.

Debris removed from watercourse.

  • Scrap man wanted the metal

  • Wood was taken by locals for bonfire.

Vegetation raked back from watercourse into overgrowth.

Several small blockages cleared.

Uncovered outlet pipe dug out and cap/hinges were greased.

Positive feedback from garage owner when shown photographs.

Two other overflow pipes cleared/greased.

Newham Beck - Middlesbrough

Litter Pick removing 8 bin liners of rubbish from the dene (Collected as agreed).

Culverts dug out and cleared using sand bags plastic pipes provided by E/A to redirect water flow to enable the Skill Mill to dig it out.

Stream clearance of large timber making habitat piles up the bank from the watercourse.

One habitat made using wooden stakes provided by E/A to ensure branches tree stumps wouldn’t fall back into watercourse and cause future blockages.

Fantastic feedback from the EA ‘Superb work being done here. Good Environmental example of separating the works area from the watercourse using  sandbags and using pipe to take water over the area, so cutting down on silt movement.’ ‘Can you pass my thanks onto the team for a fantastic job. I can’t believe all that material has been excavated by hand, there has been some seriously hard work done there! They must have been silting up for years. This must have saved a lot of time and money by not using excavators to do this work.

Lustrum Beck 3

Work carried out on this  visit mirrored the work carried out in the previous visits, 

  • general tree pruning took place

  • tree felling was again witnessed (carried out by the EA)

  • Large litter pick at Browns Bridge

  • Life jacket activated as one of the Lads slipped hitting water, no injuries sustained.

The cohort claimed to have possible sitings of

  • Water vole (Burnside Close)

  • King Fishers seen everyday all along the Beck, which was reported to the EA.

Lustrum Beck 2

Following from the Big Spring Clean is the next installment of the maintenance of Lustrum Beck.

The 7KM stretch of water has been cleared of rubbish/debris/plant litter which had entered the watercourse since Scheme 1 finished.

Lustrum Beck was generally debris free except from hotspots (Browns Bridge, Primrose estate, North Shore academy areas). Shopping trolleys, plastic barriers, cones etc.

Watercourse of Beck flowing not interrupted by any blockages. There was sections of the Beck where vegetation was overgrowing on the bank side. This was left due to birds nesting and duckling’s swimming and using it as shelter.

Positive feedback from several residents that we had encountered and also a community beat police officer in the Browns Bridge area.

Negative aspect was waste removal. Before attending site the supervisor informed the contact that The Skill Mill were again attending Beck. Staff informing him that debris would be removed that day which it wasn’t.

Had to return to Stockton on two occasions as debris was being thrown back in to Beck.

Rang the original contact and explained the situation with calling ‘care for your area’ and debris not being picked up same day. Situation resolved immediately.

Exhibition Park

The Skill Mill were approached by the Esh Group to help with the redevelopment of Exhibition Park alongside Lumsden and Carroll.

An initial meeting was set up between The Skill Mill and Lumsden and Carroll to see the area in question and arrange the job/time scale.

The Skill Mill Cohort had an induction on site to learn how Lumsden and Carroll work and all their safety procedures.

The planting area was clearly marked out for the team to go in and use the skills they had learnt at college to start the planting.

The job went really well, it was again a great experience for The Skill Mill to work alongside Esh landscaping staff .

They all learnt new skills and gained new and important knowledge with the team.

The cohort also got to experience working on a building site and the rules and regulations that go with being staff on a site.

Seaton Burn - Northumberland

  • Vegetation has been removed from inside the stream, and trimmed down on the banks to prevent any further blockages of this nature.

  • Grass trimmings done by the EA have been cleared on a stretch of the watercourse to prevent blockages at the vents creating high flood risks.

  • Fallen branches of trees were removed from the watercourse and surrounding area. These were then using hand tools only cut into smaller logs for easier removal and bagging.

  • Correct PPE was worn at all times in and out of the watercourse.

Fellgate Sandbag Wall construction – Flood Defence

This commission by South Tyneside Council presented a brand new opportunity for the Skill Mill.

Support and advice was provided by The Environment Agency and Lumsden and Carroll to help with design and planning.

Brief: The Removal of an existing sandbag wall to be replaced with a brand new wall to provide a temporary flood defence solution to mitigate the effects of water coming from the adjacent field onto the road and into the wider Fellgate estate, as had occurred during June 2012.

The work was carried out as follows:

  • Remove a section at a time of the wall which had to be fully replaced by the end of the working day.

  • Filling and tying off of the new hessian sandbags.

  • Positioning and restoring the wall following to the agreed standards.

  •  Using Visqeen membrane to protect the bags and increase the lifespan of the wall

All materials were provided by our partners Lumsden and Carroll at the beginning of the contract and then when extra supplies were needed. These were:

  •  Waste sand

  •  250 sandbags

  • Visqeen plastic membrane

In addition the task included keeping the local residents informed of the work and progress. A good relationship developed between some of the local people and the team.

In addition, the team cleaned out the bus stop of rubbish which was on the working site.

The task was completed on time, to Environment Agency Specifications and before the expected heavy rain on 7th June. The sandbag wall stood up to this test and has been assessed by engineers as having been constructed to a high standard.

Some local residents requested additional sandbags for their homes/garages and some of the sand for their gardens to improve drainage and we were happy to do this for those who asked.’

Wydon Reservoir – Hexham

Working along side the Environment Agency

Trimming the vegetation on the side of the pathways opening them up so visitors can use the paths.

The whole way around the reservoir was given a ‘trim’ by the Skill Mill cohort.

The EA followed the lads with a small dumper truck to collect the rubbish cut / collected by The Skill Mill.

Relationships between the lads and members of the EA were formed with the Skill Mill lads looked up to them as role models.

As the edges were getting trimmed small nesting birds such as Robins and Blackbirds followed the work to retrieve worms and insects disrupted by the trimming.

The Skill Mill young people were very made a strong link with one of the EA workers who made very detailed walking sticks in his shed.

Mixed weather throughout this contract making some days more challenging than others.

The EA ‘red carded’ strimming at Wydon due to the amount of dog fouling which has taken place in this area. This then restricted the amount of work which could be carried out by The Skill Mill.

Calfclose Burn

Two stretches of the watercourse had been outlined for work. Approx. 900m and 500m

  • Contract formed with South Tyneside Council

  •  Method statement put in place for litter picking in this area along with a thorough risk assessment.

  • Full PPE for all employees was provided.

  • Blockage removal on the watercourse of litter and vegetation which was stopping the flow creating a flood risk.

  • Cutting back vegetation away from the edge of the watercourse to allow growth with enough space not to block the water path.

  • Tudor crisp packets have been found in this area which once included a collectable Trendy (1973)

  • The young people gained knowledge from this area about history of products before their time and how Tudor crisps stopped being in the early 2000s.

  • Found traffic signs blocking the course. (A stop sign and roadwork sign)


Work was started at the Strawberry Terrace end of the site.

Encountered a small patch of Japanese Knotweed.

Cleared a large amount of rubbish that had been fly tipped (lawn mower).

Worked from the stream cutting back brambles and bushes to make better access.

This stretch down by the allotments was very heavy with mud 1 meter deep in some places.

Lots of broken glass embedded in the mud making dredging hard using the rakes. Almost impossible to do due to the amount of mud.

Appears that people who use the allotments use the stream as a refuge point.

At the end of the allotments there has been found to be some bridging points made over the stream with small pieces of timber. These had been removed but always seem to be rebuilt.

Carried on downstream dredging and trimming.

South Newsham Burn

The Skill Mill has been working alongside the Environment Agency clearing grass cuttings from the side of the water’s edge.

Collection of these cuttings prevents them from reaching the grid at the end of the water way causing blockages which create flooding opportunities to the main road.

Lustrum Beck – Stockton-on-Tees

The Skill Mill staff observed the removal of trees by The Environment Agency

The Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger undertook a Site visit to witness the work being carried out with some local media coverage.

The young people have been educated outside of the classroom, including habitat awareness and species life cycles.

Gaining local knowledge of the different areas along the Lustrum Beck

  • New links to the local neighbourhood police

  • Good links with the local council waste removal

Community engagement with residents and passers-by

  • Positive feedback from the Burnside Grove area

  • Positive feedback from the Bowling Green about politeness of The Skill Mill staff

Danby Road has been identified as a risk area

  • There is large area of fly tipped household waste which poses as a health and safety risk for all parties involved.  Alcohol consumption by residents and threating behaviour towards members of staff

  • A resident Primrose Grove/ Primrose Hill passed on their knowledge to the supervisor about frequent drug use in the area but no evidence of this was found

  • Following identification of problems surrounding Danby Road a multi-agency meeting has been arranged by The Skill Mill on 3rd April to discuss these issues

The Skill Mill

Environment Agency

Stockton Borough Council

Stockton Youth Offending Service

Cleveland Police

North Shore Academy

Your Tees partnership

Tees Rivers Trust

A Spring Clean event to deal with the issue and raise awareness is organised for 1st May and there will be media/press interest.

  • The locating of shopping trolleys has been reported via Trolleywise for retrieval

  • Reporting of findings such as possible weapons and a goat’s leg

  • No habitats could be formed here as the area is prone to high water levels which would wash the debris back into the beck.

Primrose Nature Reserve & Monkton Burn

Phase 1 was completed on 10th April with Phase 2 due to be started on 29th April 2014.

Heavy rainfall at the start of the contract meant that there had been a limited amount of work which could be completed in the first couple of days.

Contact has been made with South Tyneside YOT for supplementary work to be carried out alongside The Skill Mill.

The Skill Mill has a method statement in place for water voles, which have been spotted by team members.

It has also been made clear to the cohort that they stay away from nesting birds and have awareness of nature and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The Skill Mill also has a comprehensive risk assessment and method statement in place

Japanese Knotweed is found on this site in large quantities which is to be mapped and recorded. Supervisor has made the team aware that the area which is surrounded by litter is a sensitive area and Shaun has done the litter pick here.

Houghall College have undertaken a site visit with the team to observe the skills which are carried out fit the educational day checklist.

Preliminary outing with South Tyneside Council, then again with Peter Glaves and a final visit by Sean Kelly, Shaun Breeze the team and Northumbria University students

Feedback from the community

  • Staff at the stables behind Primrose Nature reserve commented about how ‘it was about time something was done here’

  • Property which had been washed in the river had also been returned to the stables

  • Regular scrap man comes to collect the tires

  • Most items pulled out of The Don have been recyclable so far

A handbag was pulled out of the nature reserve which was found to belong to an elderly lady and included many personal and valuable belongings. This handbag was handed into the local police and returned to the owner.

Forrest Hall

There is a small stream which runs behind the school which was known to flood regularly.

This made the playground and wildlife garden unusable by the children for most of the year.

By building a raised walkway around a small ponded area in the wildlife garden it can still be used by the children even when the area is flooded.

The stream was also cleared to reduce the flood risk.

Percy Hedley

The garden of the residential home has become overgrown and unusable.

A stream which runs behind this garden had become blocked with littler and vegetation litter causing flooding when ever there was heavy rain.

The stream had been cleared along with the garden being cleared, a platform being built and flagging was put down for easier accessibility.

Comments received;

From the Staff : "It will be used for residents and families in the summer, for BBQ’s and general entertainment. It is already used for bird watching as we have a great natural habitat for birds and wildlife and previous to the decking being built this area of woodland was inaccessible to our wheelchair uses."


From the main contact : I was initially apprehensive about taking on the work as I have to consider the vulnerability of the service users on site but I though the staff who supported the group were very good and the workers did a great job, we would be happy to support this type of working collaboration again.


Rising Sun, Wallsend

  • Rising Sun country park suffered flooding from a stream that ran alongside the park. This stream had become blocked by litter and dead vegetation.This flooding was causing damage to personal property (both houses and gardens) as well as the park itself.The stream as cleared of rubbish and trimmed away all the plant litter and vegetation which had overgrown into the stream. The water flow was then able to flow past these properties without blockages reducing the flood risk to the area.


Fairway Estate

This contract consisted of two sections of work

  • Road to the bridge

  • The bridge onwards

The first job was to clear a dry ditch of growing vegetation and plant litter so it could be used by the watercourse.

The cohort encountered several mature trees growing in the ditch, which highlighted potential problems with the water flow in the area.

Further down the stream there was a small amount of water but it was only very slow flowing and very thick with mud.

The vegetation was cut  back and the watercourse dredged with rakes as the team moved along the stream.

Removal of some event fencing and two mini bus seats from the stream.

There were also concerns about Japanese Knotweed 50meters from bordering fences (UNN).

Positive feedback from residents about the work which was being carried out reducing flood risk to local houses.

Packet of Tudor Crisps dating 1992

Work had to be stopped here as the quality of the water was questioned and is pending investigation.


Annitsford Bridge

This bridge connects a housing estate to an area of green public land.

It had become a hazard for anyone crossing as much of the sides and flooring had fallen away.

The stream below was also blocked which caused the bridge to be underwater making it impassable and causing the surrounding land to flood.

The litter and dead vegetation was cleared allowing water flow underneath the bridge.

The bridge was then taken apart, rebuilt and painted using new materials making it a safer, usable bridge.


The Ouseburn

A trench was created running parallel to the river to help reduce flood risk in the Ouseburn area.

When the water levels in this watercourse rise this trench takes the water as an overflow.

Silt is also deposited in this stream reducing the amount in the main watercourse reducing flooding downstream.

Canterbury Avenue

Stream clearance and rubbish removal to allow a normal flow of a water throughout the watercourse and to reduce flood risk in the local community.

There had been heavy vegetation clearance on this site to enable the creation of an access track for maintenance.

The cohort took part in building habitats out of the vegetation litter they had cleared; but there was worry that this would cause a fire risk so breaks were added into these hedges.


A stream clearance took place to remove litter, overgrown vegetation and household/commercial waste which was causing blockages and build ups which could lead to a higher flood risk.

lustrum beck.jpg
fairney burn.jpg
west auck.jpg
lustrum beck 3.jpg
Lustrum Beck 2.jpg
Exhibition Park.jpg
Seaton Burn.jpg
Calfclose Burn.jpg
South Newsham.png
Forest Hall.jpg
Percy Hedley.png
Rising Sun.jpg
Fairway Estate.jpg
Annitsford Bridge.jpg
The Ouseburn.png
Canterbury Av.jpg
clearing culverts.jpg
merchants wharf.jpg
devils burn.jpg
bottom of page