ORGANISERS of an appeal to help hard pressed farmers in rural County Durham say they have been inundated with offers of support.

The Helping Hands project aims to fund a pool of experienced and qualified agricultural workers who can provide practical assistance on farms in upper Teesdale.

The appeal was launched by Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Services (Utass) and the County Durham Community Foundation after remote hill farmers were hit by a severe spring cold snap immediately after one of the wettest summers on record.

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This has resulted in a difficult lambing season and with farmers forced to concentrate full time on their flocks, many have been unable to keep up with the day-to-day tasks associated with running their business.

Jane Robson, development manager at the community foundation, said £10,000 had been raised in just seven days.

“We have had a great response so far,” she said.

Diane Spark, project manager at Utass, said eight upper dale farmers had come forward asking for support via the Helping Hands appeal.

She added: “We have also had an unbelievable response from qualified and experienced farm workers offering to help.

“That has been heartwarming and reassuring - the help is available to any farmers who are thinking about the scheme.”

Among those supporting the appeal are Andrew and Liz Charles, from Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland, who are getting on their tandem to cycle from Land's End to John o'Groats.

Liz, 59, said her work as a rural development officer with Durham Rural Community Council had convinced her the Helping Hands appeal was well worth supporting.

“My main role is bringing people together to develop a local food strategy, so I am a keen supporter of local food and that's why I wanted to support our farmers.”

Liz and Andrew, 60, have set up an online charity account at where anyone wishing to sponsor them can make a donation.

Meanhile, any suitably qualified people willing to join the pool of farm workers should contact Diane Spark at Utass on 01833-641010.

Anyone wishing to donate directly to the Helping Hands fund can do through the County Durham Community Foundation by the following methods: BACS: Account number 23670894; sort code 52-30-44; Ref FCCA.

Cheques: Payable to County Durham Community Foundation, with reference FCCA on the back.

Online: Go to Text: Text FCCA99 with the amount £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 to 70070.