Alston resident Raymond Miller had the idea to revive the competition which was started 10 years ago as part of the annual Alston Gala. He said he was watching wife Sarah helping their son Jake with his homework during lockdown when he thought local children needed something else to do to combat the boredom as they could not go beyond their front garden.

Raymond said, “I have been blown away with the number of entries and the high standard. People of all ages have put a huge amount of effort into their scarecrows, using only what they already had in the house. Well done and thank you to everyone, you are all winners in my book. Special thanks go to Alix Martin who did a great job of publicity and social media and of course to Sarah for all her help.”

Emily Atherton, Editor of The Cumberland and Westmoreland Herald has the unenviable task of judging the competition. The winners of 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize will be announced on the Alston Moor Scarecrows Facebook group as soon as Emily makes her decision. Alston Gala has generously donated the prize money of £25 for 1st, £15 for 2nd and £10 for 3rd place. Of course it's not about the winning, but the taking part and it's certainly been a lot of fun during a very difficult time for everybody and has brought a smile to many people's faces.

The Alston Moor Federation has offered to print the photographs of all the entries. When enough space is found in the town and at a time when we are all moving around more, these will be put on display for everyone to enjoy.

Raymond has been a very busy man. As well as being one of our key workers, doing a great job delivering coal every day and organising the scarecrow competition he has also been quizmaster for the past several weeks. This now eagerly awaited weekly event takes place each Friday at 7.30pm, live on the Absolutely Alston Facebook group and remains there in case you couldn't join in as it happened. Choosing the questions is shared by Raymond and Alston Postmaster Brian Cooper and on average between 60 and 70 people log on to play, plus of course partners, friends and children.

Raymond admitted he wasn't sure if many people would take part. “The feedback I'm getting is that people are really enjoying it and we'll keep it going until lockdown ends or if the demand isn't there. We've got quizzers playing in Weardale, Penrith, Hull and even Australia and America. When I started it I didn't know it would take off so I'm pleased that it's so popular. Thank you to the Absolutely Alston admin for allowing us to use the group.”

Such has been the success and appreciation of the both the Scarecrow competition and the quiz that Raymond has received several letters of thanks from Alston Moor residents and gets lots of feedback whilst on his delivery rounds.

We're all missing meeting up with friends during the past couple of months and no one knows how long the lockdown will last or how and when it will be relaxed. However there are lots to look forward to. Recently Raymond suggested on Facebook the town coming together for an 'end of lockdown party' on Tyne Willows playing field. This would be a combination of the Gala and Alston Music Live. There would be children's entertainers, possibly a bar and food would be on a 'bring and share' basis. The date is provisionally set for August Bank Holiday weekend but of course that is subject to change. If it happens, this is sure to be a party not to miss and one to remember!

Sadly the annual April pantomime, 'The Wizard of Oz' had to be postponed, but the good news is that the revised dates are Friday 30th and Saturday 31st of October at the Town Hall.

That's just a couple of events in the pipeline for when things get back to as normal as possible. Watch this space for more news as it's confirmed and of course 'Stay Safe'.