Fresh back from a week's camping at Bellingham just over the top of Hadrian's wall in Northumbria, I thought I'd share my holiday heroes.
Determined to avoid Tesco and contribute to the local economy we sought out local food producers (and purveyors of excellent gardening and music in the process).
So here are my local heroes, starting with food:
Kielder Organic Meats: This farm literally next door to the Camping and Caravanning Club site at Bellingham does exactly what it says on the tin. They produce pork, beef and lamb of the highest quality possible, butchering it on site and selling from their farm door shop.
If you have any consideration about animal welfare it's worth going to see their happy rare breed sheep, pigs and cattle contentedly allowed to roam and grow unenhanced by artificial accelerants. They couldn't be happier apart from being offered the unlikely - and unsustainable - option of survival.
Ridley's Fish and Game: We sought out this local dealer tucked away on the uninviting Acomb Industrial Estateindustrial unit, and it was worth the effort. Mr Ridley is knowledgable and passionate about food; and was eager to promote the benefits of local business - I'll bet Terry Leahy's ears were burning when we'd finished our grumpy-old-man-rant that listed the number of small businesses run out of town by Tesco's arrival, including local food producers initially invited in to the Tesco web only to be trapped and forced out of business by the unreasonable demands of the food giant.
The barbecued Mackerel plucked from the sea that morning, and the Rabbit stew the following day were just perfect, and all the better for knowing where they came from.
OK, that's food, now on to music.
All over Bellingham were posters advertising Bellingham All Acoustic Club (or BAA Club - gettit?...Baa, rural England, sheep?). Not only that but during our week away Rod Clements, ace guitarist, ex-Lindisfarne (the group that were so good they named an island after them), was playing their small hotel based venue. It was touch and go whether we got a place - we had to put our names on a list - but went and were welcomed to the sort of folky club that deserves encouragement. On the bill with Rod were Clockwork a group of young adults from a Hexham school playing traditional music with energy and obvious enjoyment that said more about the real future of live music than any of the wannabe celebs queuing to prance before a panel of experts with an eye on a commodity rather than art.
Also on the bill were the club's founders: Landermason. Paul Mason and Fiona Lander are a fairly well known duo who play an impressive range of instruments and styles - Paul's guitar playing is the sort that wants you to stick your guitar on the campfire and not bother again, he's that clever.
Rod Clements himself is one of the UK's, not unsung, but undersung, songwriters. He writes well observed bluesy songs about real life with a lovely turn of phrase that can be both challenging and emotionally charged. His guitar playing is superb ranking him among the UK's best slide guitarists, and his solo performance is warm, witty and a great evening's entertainment - check him out if you can.
(Oh, and just to get geeky for a minute, is one of the very few people to be playing a 1970s Harmony Sovereign guitar like me)
Finally, on to our top tourist destination.
The Garden Station: Another 'does what it says on the tin' highlight. At the former Langley Station on the old disused Hexham rail line is a garden created between station platforms that would have once bustled with local travellers. Now set in mature woodland it is a delightful garden that has that 'nature-just-restrained' feel. But more than that, the whole site breathes peace and oneness (sorry if that's a bit hippy-dippy), but the station has been converted into a vegetarian cafe with excellent meals created by the CordonVert chef and current garden custodian Mike Winstanley.
The station no longer bustles but oozes peace and tranquility, making it the perfect setting for a range of creative courses on gardening, poetry, art and much more.
So eschew Tesco, forget National Trust and their pestering for membership: seek out the small and support them.