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22 firefighters tackle Teesside grassfires

Young people on Teesside are to be educated about the dangers of starting grassfires.

Cleveland Fire Brigade say a series of grassfires at a Teesside beauty spot at the weekend were started deliberately.

At one point almost a quarter of the service's entire fire engine fleet was called in, with 22 firefighters tackling the blazes on Eston Hills.

The brigade believe the fires were started by youths and so have begun a campaign to educate them about the dangers of grassfires and the economic costs, which is estimated to stretch to thousands of pounds.

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Spring around the corner as venues begin new season

It may still feel very much like winter, but for the National Trust, the 'summer' season is just beginning.

It may be still grey outside but blue skies are just around the corner Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA

Some of the region's favourite tourist attractions open their doors to visitors again after closing for the winter.

The venues include Souter Lighthouse in Whitburn; Wallington, near Morpeth; and Cragside near Rothbury. Between them, they welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors every year from March to November.

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North Yorkshire game farmer fined over 'cruel traps'

A game farmer from Cropton in North Yorkshire has been found guilty of permitting the use of a pole trap on his farm and fined £4000 by Scarborough Magistrates.

Michael Wood, who is 68, was also ordered to pay £750 court costs and a £120 victim surcharge, following the use of covert surveillance by RSPB Investigations Unit staff.

Two members of Mr Wood’s staff had previously been cautioned by North Yorkshire Police for the use of five pole traps on the farm.

Magistrates ruled it was “inconceivable” that Mr Wood would not have seen one of the pole traps being used by his staff. Westfield Farm rears pheasants and partridges for the game shooting industry.

Pole traps are a method of trapping birds that was outlawed over a hundred years ago. They consist of a steel trap placed on top of a pole that crushes the legs of any wild bird that land on them.

RSPB Investigations Officer, Howard Jones, said: “It is time that these cruel traps were consigned to the history books, but as long as they are being used we will continue to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice."

Rural crime: £60k of property stolen in December alone

Northumbria Police officers have stepped up their patrols in one part of Northumberland, after more than £60,000 worth of property was stolen from homes, cars and outbuildings in one month alone.

Quad bikes, jewellery, cash, tools and diesel were all among the items stolen from the West Tynedale area, which includes the villages of Blanchland, Bellingham and Greendale.

Police said a Range Rover vehicle worth £35,000 was stolen from outside one property and canoes worth £5,000 were taken from another.

"Many of the perpetrators will know the areas concerned, they could be in the area during the day and return after dark to steal what they have seen, while others are more opportunist and will walk into a farmyard and steal insecure property.

"As ever the community is our eyes and ears and I'd like to remind people to be vigilant."

– Insp Kevin Oates, Northumbria Police

Have you been a victim of rural crime?

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Fox beheaded in pro-hunting warning

An investigation is underway after an image of a fox's head on a spike was posted on Facebook with this message from a pro-hunting campaigner Credit: SWNS

Police are investigating after an image of a fox's head impaled on a spike was posted on Facebook by a pro-hunting campaigner.

A man from the Hartlepool area reportedly posted the disturbing image, along with the message: "I keep my promises 1 ban = 1 fox."

"You have cost a fox that was not near a farm or any livestock its life," the man wrote, according to The Northern Echo. "Just for you. Any more bans and another fox dies."

A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: "Police have been made aware and are following up inquiries.

"Part of our enquires would be to liaise with the RSPCA. If there has been cruelty involved, it would fall under something we would investigate."

An RSPCA spokeswoman said that it was investigating the "distressing" image, which has since been deleted from Facebook.

Energy company wants to frack in North Yorks

Fracking could be carrie out near a village in North Yorks. Credit: ITV

An energy company is applying to carrying out fracking for gas near a village in the North York Moors.

Third Energy drilled for samples at Kirby Misperton last year, and believes there could be a significant new gas reservoir in the area.

Anti-fracking campaigners say they are concerned about contamination of the water supply.

The next stage will be a high risk assessment, before the full application goes ahead.

20 North East historic sites added to 'at risk' register

Twenty historic sites across the North East have been added to an 'at risk' register due to their condition.

English Heritage publishes an annual report which identifies listed buildings and historic sites most at risk of loss or decay.

Since last year, 27 sites have been removed from the list after investments of £768,000 in the region.

In the North East:

  • 8 buildings or structures have been taken off the Register and 5 have been added.
  • 4 churches and places of worship have been taken off the Register and 9 have been added.
  • 14 archaeological sites have been removed from the Register and 3 have been added.
  • 1 conservation area, Spittal in Berwick upon Tweed, has been removed from the Register this year, 3 conservation areas including Alnwick, Northumberland and Chester-le-Street, County Durham have been added.
St James Church, Benwell Credit: English Heritage
  • The 13th century Church of St Andrew Winston on the banks of the River Tees has been added to the list this year. There are several structural issues in the building and the roof needs repairing. The congregation has agreed a repair project. The work is underway with financial help from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and is due to be completed by 2015.
Hamsterley Hall,Hamsterley Mill,Rowlands Gill,County Durham. Credit: English Heritage
  • Hamsterley Hall has suffered from decades of decline leaving the property with an estimated repair bill of £4m. The hall was already on the Heritage At Risk register but is now classified at the highest level of risk.
Coquet Island, Northumberland Credit: English Heritage
  • Coquet Island is one of a number of remote islands off the Northumberland coast. The remains of a monastic cell and a medieval tower have been removed from the Heritage at Risk register this year after a repair project and grant of £93,000 from English Heritage.
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