Sedgefield, County Durham

PUBLISHED: 15:53 11 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:22 20 February 2013

Hardwick Park Neptune

Hardwick Park Neptune

Retail renewal and a facelift for its ancient country park are setting today's agenda for Sedgefield

As one of those towns that feels very much like a village, Sedgefield is a commuter settlement that has a lot to offer visitors, complete with its relaxed atmosphere and lots of green space.


In addition to a surfeit of pubs and places to eat, there are some energetic independent retailers pulling the stops out to give townsfolk and shoppers compelling reasons to drop by.


Chief among them are Philip Smith and his family, currently developing-by-numbers in Sedgefield High Street.


Philips wife, Linda, has run the jam-packed Number Four Tea Shop & Patisserie for the last 15 years, providing pies, cakes, teas and other edible delicacies - as well as the aforementioned jam, chutneys and pickles. Theres no hope of a seat for me on the day I drop by, but Ill be back.


Along the road at Number Ten, their son Richard Gray embraces customers looking for designer childrens clothing and toys at Abbracciare - Italian for hugs, apparently.


Not content with four and ten, the Smiths have taken on the nearby card shop at Number Two and are currently refurbishing it, with a view to re-opening as Tickety Boo early in the new year. The new shop will sell traditional


sweets, cards, gifts and pocket money toys for children.


Numbers Eight and Nine, High Street, are also being redeveloped under the Smiths stewardship, although Philips keeping his cards to his chest on their future use.


Sedgefield is a beautiful old market town that unfortunately these days only has a farmers market every second Sunday, he says, explaining the up-market ethos behind their businesses. We have consistently traded at the better end of the market, offering quality at a good value price.


We attract customers from all corners of the region, partly because we advertise widely in quality magazines such as North East Life.


Referring to his particular version of redevelopment bingo, he says: Thats a lot of redevelopment in the High Street - but its all going to help keep it buoyant and thriving.


Having taken their fill of fine food and leaving Sedgefield with their full boutique shopping bags, visitors could do worse than head straight to Hardwick Park on its western edge.


Newly-opened is a smart new visitors centre and caf and freshly-restored walkways and follies.


Developed in the 18th century by wealthy landowner John Burdon as pleasure grounds to impress his friends and visitors, the James Paine-designed gardens featured ornamental buildings, lakes and woodland.


After decades of decline, local peoples concerns spurred Durham County Council to head up ten years of restoration, backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


Today, a fully accessible circular walk gives perambulators fresh and interesting views of the park at every turn - just as would have been enjoyed by their Georgian predecessors.


Paul Everson, the parks visitor services officer, is planning a series of events with his team, including drop-in Santas workshops on December 12 and 13, when children can make wooden reindeer, festive cards and decorations, as well as meeting children in the grotto.


Things have gone really well since we opened, he said, amid bustling half-term holiday crowds of families enjoying good autumn weather.


For more details about the park, contact 01740 621505 or email hardwickpark@durham.gov.uk


Back in business


Church Road in Trimdon Village witnessed a remarkable rejuvenation in September. The opening of J Thompson & Son butchers by Keith Thompson has plugged a gap left after the closure of his fathers shop in 1985.


That sad move brought to an end the business started by Keiths grandfather in 1931, which had four mobile shops touring surrounding pit villages during its post-war peak.


My father used to say things would turn full circle, but we didnt really believe it, says Keith. But here we are - people are looking for a more personal service and locally-sourced produce.


Keith, who lives in the village and is a stalwart of its Labour Club - scene of so many election-night broadcasts featuring its former MP, one Tony Blair - has employed butcher Jason Kane to manage the shop. Keiths cousin, experienced baker Lisa Burn, is resurrecting family recipes handed down through three generations and has recently started an outside catering and buffet service from the shop.


Hotel for cats


Aretha Franklin. Thats the first thing I notice on checking in to check out Parkwood Cat Hotel, between Trimdon Village and Trimdon Colliery - the piped music soothingly playing to the comfortable cages that can accommodate up to 40 felines at this, one of only three County Durham catteries approved by the Feline Advisory Bureau as meeting its exacting standards.


The business has been run since 2005 by Lynne Hardy, her husband Bill and sister Ann Dart from their former Catholic village school home.


We are quite a small family-run business, which reassures people, says Lynne, explaining that they can offer continuity of care for their four-footed guests


Back in business


Church Road in Trimdon Village witnessed a remarkable rejuvenation in September. The opening of J Thompson & Son butchers by Keith Thompson has plugged a gap left after the closure of his fathers shop in 1985.



That sad move brought to an end the business started by Keiths grandfather in 1931, which had four mobile shops touring surrounding pit villages during its post-war peak.



My father used to say things would turn full circle, but we didnt really believe it, says Keith. But here we are - people are looking for a more personal service and locally-sourced produce.



Keith, who lives in the village and is a stalwart of its Labour Club - scene of so many election-night broadcasts featuring its former MP, one Tony Blair - has employed butcher Jason Kane to manage the shop. Keiths cousin, experienced baker Lisa Burn, is resurrecting family recipes handed down through three generations and has recently started an outside catering and buffet service from the shop.

Has Sedgefield returned to normality after the Tony Blair years? Was the attention brought by the former Prime Minister helpful or not? Have your say here

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