Harrogate schoolgirl, 12, publishes first novel

A Harrogate Grammar School student has published her first novel — at the age of 12.

Sula Stanhope wrote the 371-page book before bed each night. It took her four months to finish.

Sula said:

“Mum and dad said I could have some extra screen time if I was working on creative projects.

“They were slightly surprised when I presented them with the first draft of my novel.”

The Alchemist’s Prophecy is a dystopian fantasy about a girl sent on a magical quest in a dangerous world.

The book is almost 150 pages longer than the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Storytelling runs in the family.

Sula’s dad Alex said:

“Sula’s grandmother is a writer.

“When I was growing up I was hopeless at English but I always liked telling stories. I used to tell stories to Sula; the storytelling part stuck.

“She now tells stories way better than me!”

After Sula wrote her manuscript, Alex started the process of self-publishing it.

He said:

“I just wanted to give her a chance to hold her book in her own hands.”

Sula also developed creativity playing games with her twin sister Delphi.

Together they would invent characters, arguing about what they looked and sounded like.

Alex said:

“It didn’t always feel very creative when I heard their arguments, but I love what came out of it!”

Teachers at Oatlands Junior School, where Sula used to study, noticed her talent early.

Year 5 teacher Ms Coyne said:

“When I heard about Sula writing her own book, I was not surprised.

“During her time at Oatlands Junior School, Sula showed such creativity, talent and always had her head in a book — sometimes hidden under the table.

“She was an avid reader who clearly loves books and responds with great maturity to the texts we explore. I cannot wait to read it.”

Sula’s Year 6 English teacher Rosie Doyle said:

 “I would say I am surprised, but I’m actually not.”

Staff are so proud of their former student they have purchased a copy for their school library.

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In the future, Sula would like to continue writing books.

She sees The Alchemist’s Prophecy as a trilogy and is hoping to complete it one day.

Alongside creative writing, Sula also plays the piano and attends acting classes. You can buy The Alchemist’s Prophecy on Amazon.

Young farmers to collect Christmas trees in Harrogate and Knaresborough

A Knaresborough club for young farmers is to collect Christmas trees for charity again.

Knaresborough Young Farmers Club, which celebrates its 75th anniversary next year, will be collecting used trees on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 January.

This is the second year the collection is taking place after the response to the first left chairman Katy Addyman “gobsmacked”.

She said:

“We thought we might get 10 trees, we might get 15.

“Literally within a week we had 200, 250 trees. We had to close the booking form because we were just gobsmacked by the demand for it.”

The Christmas tree collection will take place in Harrogate, Pannal and Starbeck on Saturday 6 January.

Collections in Knaresborough and the surrounding villages of Farnham, Ferrensby, Follifoot, Goldsborough, Kirk Deighton, Lingerfield, Little Ribston, North Deighton, Scotton and Spofforth will take place the following day.

A minimum donation of £5 per tree is required to raise money for their chosen charities.

You can book a collection online.

Once collected, the trees will be put in a wood chipper to make bedding for cows.

The proceeds will go to MS Society and Harrogate charity Saint Michael’s Hospice.

Ms Addyman said:

“One of the biggest supporters of the club suffers with MS.

“We chose the MS Society as a way of giving back to him.”

Knaresborough Young Farmers Club has noticed a rise in young people taking an interest in agriculture. A few years ago, the club had “two or three” junior members, or, members aged between 10 and 16. Today, there are 30.

Ms Addyman credits the documentary series Clarkson’s Farm with the increase in members.

Her own history with the club is less recent: her father was also chairman.

She said:

“When I told my dad I was joining young farmers, he was like ‘Oh my God, you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for!'”

Knaresborough Young Farmers Club accepts members between the ages of 10 and 28. Anyone interested in joining can email yfcknaresborough@gmail.com.

Boroughbridge collection

Boroughbridge Young Farmers Club is offering a similar service on January 7. It will be collecting trees from the town and nearby villages.

Booking isn’t required — people are asked to leave th e tree outside their home or on the street and pay £5 cash when it is collected. The service raises money for Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Further details are here.

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Health leaders warn of potential North Yorkshire measles outbreak

North Yorkshire residents are being encouraged to keep up to date with their MMR vaccines amid fears of a measles outbreak.

The warning comes after rising cases of the disease in England.

A total of 149 cases of measles in England were recorded between 1 January and 30 September this year, a dramatic rise from 54 during the whole of 2022.

(Source: UK Health Security Agency)

Jack Lewis, consultant in public health with the Humber and North Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, said:

“Measles is more than just a rash. It is highly infectious and we’re seeing cases on the rise.

“If you are not protected and you have even a passing contact with someone who has measles, there’s every chance you will become infected too.

“There is no treatment or cure for measles, but the MMR vaccine offers excellent protection against this dangerous disease.”


Measles can feel like a cold at first. The disease is sometimes identified by spots in the mouth or a rash that appears a few days after falling ill.

In severe cases, it can lead to meningitis and pneumonia.

Measles is also particularly dangerous during pregnancy, increasing the likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth.

The MMR vaccine (or, measles, mumps and rubella) is given in two doses.

Children are typically given their first dose at one years old and their second at three years and four months.

However, Lewis urged adults who are not fully vaccinated to receive a dose too.

The NHS particularly encourages adults to check they’re vaccinated if they’re about to visit another country, begin university, or are hoping to get pregnant.

Patients can find out if they are fully vaccinated by contacting their GP.

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Meet the barbershop chorus promoting older men’s mental health

A Harrogate-based barbershop chorus is promoting wellbeing for older men.

The oldest member of Harrogate Harmony Barbershop Chorus (HHBC) is 92 and the youngest is 66.

Public relations officer Leo Niemiec believes the group can help men’s physical and mental health. He said:

“You cannot worry and sing at the same time.”

Men’s mental health is a pressing concern. In 2021, men made up 74% of suicide victims in England and Wales, according to figures release by the ONS.

report by mental health charity Mind found that 40% of men regularly feel ‘worried or low’, and Age UK has suggested that 22% of older men have depression.

HHBC, who perform acapella in four-part harmony, rehearse every week at St Peter’s Church in Harrogate town centre.

The group will be performing at the Victoria Shopping Centre in Harrogate on Friday, February 2 at 11am.

The chorus is also offering a five-week singing course for men that will begin on Valentine’s Day (February 14). The full course costs £10 and no previous experience of singing is required. Applicants do not have to audition or be able to read music, and can find out more by emailing chairman@harrogateharmony.org.uk.

Harrogate Harmony Barbershop Chorus can be booked by emailing engagements@harrogateharmony.org.uk.

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Ripon CrossFit gym to host 12-hour charity fitness challenge

A CrossFit gym in Ripon will be hosting a 12-hour fitness challenge for charity later this month.

CrossFit Ripon will be running the event on Friday, December 29 in aid of children’s hospice Martin House.

Business owner Michael Meegan, 42, said:

“The charity resonates with quite a lot of people.

“A few of our members have brothers and sisters who have been cared for there.”

The gym will host a CrossFit workout every hour from 8am to 8pm.

A live DJ will be on hand to motivate volunteers, who plan to complete a marathon (42km, or 26 miles) on a rowing or skiing machine and 100km on an exercise bike.

While participants can choose how many workouts they want to attend, 12 people have signed up to do all 12 workouts.

The youngest volunteer is 18 and the oldest is 67. The diverse range of volunteers reflects how everyone is on their own fitness journey.

Ripon CrossFit was opened earlier this year.

Michael said:

“The journey is better than the destination. That’s the magic of it.”

Michael, who currently serves in the Royal Engineers, is a long-time fitness enthusiast.

He opened the gym with his wife Sarah this year and will finish his time in the army next April.

Martin House, in Wetherby, helps children and their families cope with life-limiting conditions and bereavement.

You can support Ripon CrossFit’s fundraiser online.

If you’re interested in attending the gym, email info@crossfitripon.com.

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Villagers concerned about impact of new car park charges at Weeton Station

The introduction of parking charges at Weeton Station is causing concern about the impact on nearby roads.

Weeton is one of 10 stations where Northern Railway announced new parking charges this week.

Motorists now have to pay 50p for up to two hours or £2 per day between 8am and 4pm to park at the station.

This is prompting some drivers to park on streets near the station to avoid the charge.

David Chalmers, the chairman of Weeton Parish Council, said:

“A couple of people have highlighted to the parish council concerns over the likely impact the recent introduction of charges to park at Weeton station will have on the roads in the immediate area.

“Disappointingly Northern Rail did not notify us of the pending changes although given the lack of constructive engagement on other matters such as penalty fares I am unsurprised.”

A Northern spokesperson said:

“We consulted North Yorkshire County Council and rail officers in advance of charges going in and we also advised customers about the changes in advance by using posters at the station, our website and on the National Rail website.

“We’re introducing charges at these locations to ensure that our car parking facilities remain available for rail users only, as well as to align these stations with our other locations that saw the introduction of charges in 2022.”

The spokesperson also said the increase was introduced by the government, not Northern.

Mr Chalmers also said the extra traffic parked on streets could make it difficult for emergency services vehicles to get around the village, and faded yellow lines on the road further exacerbated problems.

He said:

“I am aware that a couple of weeks ago there were access issues for an oil tanker, a vehicle which is of similar size to a fire engine.

“This has been raised to North Yorkshire Council on multiple occasions without any meaningful feedback on whether they plan to have the lines repainted.”

Melisa Burnham, the council’s highways area manager, said:

“The local highways team are aware of the issue and there is an order in place to refresh the yellow lining 55 metres either side of the carriageway.

“We will be liaising with the parish council and local councillors regarding the works and will review all communications about this issue.”

Weeton is situated on the line between Harrogate and Leeds.

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Ripon’s free winter wonderland begins tomorrow

Ripon Spa Gardens will be transformed into a winter wonderland from tomorrow until Sunday.

The free public event will see the trees in Spa Gardens decorated with illuminations to bring the magic of Christmas.

There will also be activities, including Christmas carols and bellringing, from 2pm to 8pm from Friday, December 15 to Sunday, December 17.

Organiser Caroline Bentham hopes the event will ease financial pressure on families in the run up to Christmas as there is no charge to enter.

She said:

“When it gets to Christmastime everything gets so expensive.”

The event, which costs around £7,000 a year to organise, is made possible by donations, grants and volunteers.

Ripon City Council, North Yorkshire Council, the Ripon Inn, and Ripon’s community scrap fund have all given money.

All those involved are volunteers and all the crafts are made by local people.

The winter wonderland will host local performers, including Yorkshire Voices, Masham Hand Bell Ringers, Jolly Wassailers, and Brackenfield School.

Ms Bentham said:

“It really is a community event.”

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While the event is free, visitors are encouraged to make a donation or buy refreshments. The Sun Parlour cafe in Spa Gardens will be open.

This is the fourth year the wonderland has taken place.

Other free attractions in Ripon this week include a giant snow globe display.

The snow globe, which even has biodegradable snow, is popular for social media images.

The Greenhouse’s Christmas window entry.

There is also a Christmas window competition in town this week.

Visitors can vote for their favourite display among 34 entries.

Voting is open until Sunday, December 17.

Nearby 17th century house Grantley Hall will also be hosting jazz nights throughout the Christmas period.

Harrogate charity warns young people’s mental health crisis reaching ‘epidemic proportions’

A Harrogate charity has warned young people are facing a mental health crisis of “epidemic proportions”.

Wellspring Therapy and Training, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in November, offers affordable counselling to local people.

The charity said it faced the highest demand ever for services from young people.

Emily Fullarton, Wellspring’s executive director, said:

“There are a number of reasons, some interlinked, for this increase in demand.

“The pandemic is one, of course, as is the relentless pressure of social media and exams.

“The cost-of-living crisis has meant that many families are struggling to make ends meet and this has a knock-on effect on family dynamics and the atmosphere at home.”

Just over a third of children with a diagnosable mental health condition receive NHS treatment.

Fullarton commented:

“If this was the case for child cancer treatment there would be outrage.

“As suicide is the leading cause of death after cancer and accidental injury in children and young people, we should be taking this statistic far more seriously.”

The charity has found it difficult to increase the number of sessions on offer because of staff and funding shortages.

However, Wellspring plans to double the number of available sessions by starting a professional training course next year.

Counsellors on the course will learn how to specialise their services for young people.

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Wellspring was founded in 2003 and operates in Starbeck.

The weekly session fee depends on how much you can afford.

Wellspring executive director Emily Fullarton with patron Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds.

Information on applying for counselling at Wellspring can also be found on their website.

If you are going through a hard time, you can call Samaritans for free 24 hours a day on 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org.

Children going through a difficult time can call Childline for free on 0800 1111.

Another Harrogate retail unit could be converted to flats

A Harrogate retailer has submitted plans to convert its top floor into flats.

Documents filed with North Yorkshire Council reveal Shuropody on Oxford Street would convert its top floor into two flats, while retaining the first two floors for retail.

The application was submitted by Edward Ake, of Harrogate firm Sandtoft Properties.

The trend towards town centre living has increased in Harrogate in recent years, with numerous planning applications to convert retail space.

The Stray Ferret wrote about some of the units affected here.

Shuropody is a foot care chain. The top two floors of the Harrogate business are currently occupied by its in-store podiatrist, which advises on footcare issues.

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The public consultation on the plans is open until December 29. The council will then decide whether to accept the application.

Residents can have their say online, or by writing to North Yorkshire Council, PO Box 787, Harrogate HG1 9RW, quoting the reference number ZC23/04286/FUL.

Shuropody has been approached for comment.

Boroughbridge out-of-school club receives glowing Ofsted report

A Boroughbridge breakfast and after-school club has received a glowing Ofsted report.

Roboodles, which operates at Roecliffe Church of England Primary School, was described as “wonderful” by inspectors.

An inspection was carried out at the club in November this year.

Ofsted inspector Jan Batchelor said in a report just published:

“Leaders create a wonderful out-of-school club.

“[Children] chat together as they make jewellery, they concentrate as they paint Diwali pictures, and they use their imagination as they create imaginary worlds with dinosaurs.”

The inspection report found Roboodles consulted a nutritionist in providing healthy food for club members.

Ms Batchelor said:

“Children confidently explain to the inspector that they are allowed a drizzle of honey on their toast, not a river.”

Meanwhile, the report found that children were well behaved.

Ms Batchelor said:

“They know they must not run around outside ‘like headless chickens’, but they also know that the most important club rule is to have fun.”

Claire Bennett and Lianne Conroy, Roboodles business partners, said in a statement:

“Our recent Ofsted visit was our first.

“We are delighted with the inspectors report, which captures perfectly how Roboodles operates everyday.

We love what we do and feel very privileged to be able to share our time with the children in our care.”

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Roboodles is based in Roecliffe, near Boroughbridge, and accepts children from reception to year 6.

The breakfast club runs weekday mornings between 7.30am to 8.50am.

The afterschool club runs Monday-Thursday between 3.30pm and 5.30pm, and on Fridays between 3.30pm and 5pm.