The military past of South Tyneside's Christmas trees - and where you can see our 10 ex-army festive spruces

We're all lit up for the season here in South Tyneside with lights, trees and decorations installed across the borough - but do you know the story of our Chistmas trees?

Sunday, 25th November 2018, 11:32 am
Updated Sunday, 25th November 2018, 11:35 am
Where South Tyneside's Christmas trees come from

The South Shields Christmas lights switch-on took place on Thursday with special guests Jedward, and similar events have taken place across the borough in the past few days, with 10 giant Christmas trees lit up in key locations across the borough.

The council sources its Christmas trees from the Ministry of Defence firing ranges in Otterburn, which are used to train 30,000 soldiers a year with the latest infantry weapons, artillery and helicopters.

Anyone who's ever visited the area in the Northumberland National Park around the defence training estate (DTE) will be familiar with the MOD warning signs, and may have been there at "firing times" when the red flags were flying - and perhaps heard the loud bangs from heavy weaponry being used.

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The training area was set up in 1911 and is the second-largest live-firing range in the UK. The ranges have recently been developed to allow training with the AS-90 artillery system and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), and Otterburn is the only place in the UK where the MLRS can be fired due to the large area needed.

Where do our Christmas trees come into it?

The trees are Sitka Spruce and come from a large forested area of the firing ranges.

The council's supplier is a company which has a licence from the MOD to "thin out" the wooded areas of the ranges to facilitate troop movements through the woods when the trees have become too dense.

The council said the trees are selected on suitability as Christmas trees for their size and shape, rather than them being specifically grown as display trees.

Where are the council's Christmas trees located?

King Street, South Shields

Outside the Town Hall,

Outside the Customs House

Next to The Word in the Market Place

Jarrow Town Hall

Hebburn Central

Cotswold Lane / Hubert Street park, Boldon

Station Road, East Boldon

Next to the memorial in Front Street, Cleadon

Westoe Crown

Why is there only one Christmas tree outside the Town Hall these days?

As with all areas of the council's budget these days, funding reductions have meant the council cutting back on festive decorations.

The two giant Christmas trees standing proudly either side of the main entrance of South Shields Town Hall were a much-loved part of Christmas in the borough, but since 2015 we've had to make do with one.

At the time the council said it had had to "review the number, condition and location of festive displays, including Christmas trees, lights and motifs, across the borough to see where efficiencies could be made".

Related: When is the camel parade in South Shields for Christmas 2018?The number of council-funded Christmas trees in South Tyneside was reduced, and festive displays deemed beyond repair or costly to repair were removed.

Gone were the Christmas trees on roundabouts throughout the borough, gone was the arch of lights and stars over Leam Lane welcoming people to South Tyneside, and gone was the second Christmas tree at the town hall.

However, the council did say it was confident the budget would "create a wonderful festive atmosphere and draw people into our towns and villages".

And while funding has been reduced, the council's budget for "festive lighting and decorations" this year was still £82,500.